Gwen Williams Prize 2013–2014 Recipient

Cauldron of Revolution: Visual Art, Literary Culture and Business Enterprise in Shanghai, China 1932-1986

Dr. Greg Lewis, Department of History

From its days as the cosmopolitan “Paris of the East” in the 1930s to the egalitarianism of the Maoist era (1949-1976), and on to the late 1970s Communist-era market socialism, Shanghai served as the socio-political, economic and cultural center of China. Through visual and documentary art, literature, business and economic history, six guests from Shanghai and the U.S. promise to recreate what it was like to live in a vibrant, revolutionary cauldron over these four decades.

Conducted as part of the program Cauldron of Revolution, the lectures, exhibitions and workshops will be held at the following venues in addition to Weber State University: the Weber County Library (Pleasant Valley branch), the Bountiful Davis Art Center, Union Station and, perhaps, the Salt Lake City Main Library auditorium. Each guest will have a minimum of two activities away from Weber State University, and there will be a total of 10 for the entire program. Besides lectures, these activities will include the screening of a documentary film, the exhibition of fine art and the reading of prose.

Four of the six guests are natives of Shanghai, and each guest’s work and knowledge of metropolitan Shanghai and its history extends well beyond the academic setting. Collectively, the guests have and will address the following issues: (1) subject portrayal in the Shanghai visual arts during times of war, revolution and peace; (2) the post-1949 encounter between communist guerrilla documentary makers from the Chinese hinterlands and bourgeois Shanghai culture; (3) the fear and terror of Shanghai citizens, expressed in words and pictures, who endured bombing (of civilian population centers) and invasion from Japan, in 1932, 1937 and throughout the Pacific War years (1941-1945); (4) a general collapse in morality and ethical standards in Shanghai 1937-1949 due to the inflationary spiral, war, government malfeasance and ineptitude and failing nationalism; (5) collaboration between Shanghai residents from all walks of life and their Japanese occupiers; (6) the persistence of the bourgeoisie and bourgeois culture in Shanghai after the Communist takeover; and (7) the development of native entrepreneurship and industry in Shanghai during consecutive periods of peacetime imperial occupation (the International Settlement), the “orphan island,” wartime occupation, civil war, the communist planned economy, the revolutionary “high tides” of the Great Leap Forward (1958-1960) and Cultural Revolution (1966-76) and, finally, with market socialism after 1978.

A similar program (dealing with Chinese cinema) organized by the applicant between 2004 and 2006 attracted audiences of 20 to 100 at several of the venues we have proposed. In nearly every case, both the dissemination and discussion generated by the activities (lectures and film screenings) exceeded expectations; the Utah Humanities Council recognized it as one of two outstanding programs in Northern Utah for 2006. As conceived, Cauldron of Revolution promises to bring local, national and international attention to Weber State University. It is hoped and expected that the Standard-Examiner, the Salt Lake Tribune and National Public Radio will give attention to this program as they did our earlier project. It is also anticipated that there will be contact with our sister institutions in Northern Utah, especially those with large Asian Studies programs (the University of Utah and BYU). Our guests are internationally recognized for their achievements. Their participation in this event and other cooperating entities will make Weber State’s and the Ogden community’s name known to others abroad including Shanghai University, the Shanghai Theater Academy, Fudan University (Shanghai), the Shanghai Association of Art and Literature and the University of Nebraska—Lincoln.