Yi Ren

My dissertation, "Regulating the Rural Leisure: Propaganda, Popular Entertainment, and Everyday Life in Mao's China" investigates how the Chinese Communist Party brought the communist revolution into ordinary people’s daily lives by organizing leisure and entertainment activities in rural areas during the Mao era (1949-1976). More importantly, it examines how local people simultaneously reacted to and interacted with such initiatives. Going beyond discovering diversified life experiences at the grassroots level, this dissertation draws connections between individuals’ lived experience to broader issues of contemporary relevance, including social mobility, the rural-urban divide, and Chinese citizenship. It observes trends in Chinese society in the Mao era drawing evidence from the study of popular entertainment in rural China.

 In addition to demonstrating the power of culture in shaping Chinese politics, this dissertation understands popular entertainment as total social phenomena. Popular entertainment was utilized by the party to gain the support of rural citizens, and permeated into the daily life as cultural, emotional, religious, and spiritual self-expressions of local people. It also mattered as a means of livelihood, which provided financial security, stability, and even opportunity of upward mobility for its local practitioners. In sum, political propaganda, habit and custom, aesthetics, popular religion, local economics, and the social dimensions of rural life were all intertwined in the production and performance of popular entertainment. This perspective on the multi-functional totality of popular entertainment opens up an expansive grassroots society which connected to its own historical ecology in the Mao era.


B.A. History, Sichuan University China (2011)
M.A. American History, Chinese-American Relations, Peking University, China (2014)

Research Interests

Popular Entertainment during the Mao Era, Popular Culture in the Cultural Revolution, Information Studies, China in the First World War, East Asian International Relations, Trans-Pacific Relations, World History.

Courses Taught

Teaching assistant for courses "East Asian Diplomacy" and "Making of a Modern World".

Selected Publications

“‘Relying on America’: The CPI’s Propaganda in China and Its Influence on China’s Pursuit of a New National Identity before the May Fourth Movement,” Frontiers of History in China, Vol.14, No.3, 2019, pp.427-457. 

CV (file)