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Different Rewrite of the Same Page: A Comparison of the Representations of Collective Memories of 20th Century Trauma in China and the Czech Republic – Mgr. Runya Qiaoan, BA

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Mgr. Runya Qiaoan, BA

Master's thesis

Different Rewrite of the Same Page: A Comparison of the Representations of Collective Memories of 20th Century Trauma in China and the Czech Republic

Different Rewrite of the Same Page: A Comparison of the Representations of Collective Memories of 20th Century Trauma in China and the Czech Republic

Abstract: Although Czech and Chinese people experienced similar traumatizing events in WWII and their fledgling communist regimes, it seems they remember these two events differently. This thesis examines how 20th century trauma is remembered by Chinese and Czech societies and. Since films play important roles in both Chinese and Czech collective memory, I compare Czech and Chinese movies using a structural hermeneutics approach. Upon examining the films, it becomes clear that there are significant differences in the representations of Chinese and Czech collective memories. Generally speaking, while Chinese are more traumatized than Czechs by WWII, Czechs are more traumatized than Chinese by the socialist period. This divergence is reflected in the following two facts. Firstly, in the Chinese WWII films, the term “Japanese” is a negatively fixed signifier, and the term “German” in the Czech films is a floating signifier. Further, the Chinese WWII films have high mimesis fiction mode and the Czech WWII films have low mimesis. Secondly, in the socialist-era films, though both Chinese and Czech narratives are low mimesis and both “CCP” in Chinese films and “Russian” in Czech films are floating signifiers, the “CCP” is floating on the positive side, and the “Russian”—representative of communism in Czech society—is floating on the negative side. Through interpreting the differences of Chinese and Czech traumatic collective memories of the 20th century, I develop a two-stage mechanism that highlights both the manipulation of the present and the significance of tradition in shaping the collective memory of past traumatizing events.

Abstract: Although Czech and Chinese people experienced similar traumatizing events in WWII and their fledgling communist regimes, it seems they remember these two events differently. This thesis examines how 20th century trauma is remembered by Chinese and Czech societies and. Since films play important roles in both Chinese and Czech collective memory, I compare Czech and Chinese movies using a structural hermeneutics approach. Upon examining the films, it becomes clear that there are significant differences in the representations of Chinese and Czech collective memories. Generally speaking, while Chinese are more traumatized than Czechs by WWII, Czechs are more traumatized than Chinese by the socialist period. This divergence is reflected in the following two facts. Firstly, in the Chinese WWII films, the term “Japanese” is a negatively fixed signifier, and the term “German” in the Czech films is a floating signifier. Further, the Chinese WWII films have high mimesis fiction mode and the Czech WWII films have low mimesis. Secondly, in the socialist-era films, though both Chinese and Czech narratives are low mimesis and both “CCP” in Chinese films and “Russian” in Czech films are floating signifiers, the “CCP” is floating on the positive side, and the “Russian”—representative of communism in Czech society—is floating on the negative side. Through interpreting the differences of Chinese and Czech traumatic collective memories of the 20th century, I develop a two-stage mechanism that highlights both the manipulation of the present and the significance of tradition in shaping the collective memory of past traumatizing events.

Keywords: Collective memory, the Czech Republic, China, the Second World War, the socialist era, films

Language used: English

Thesis defence

  • Date of defence: 10. 6. 2014
  • Supervisor: doc. Bernadette Nadya Jaworsky, Ph.D.
  • Reader: Mgr. Benjamin Jeremiah Vail, Ph.D.

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