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Knowing What Not to Know in Contemporary China

Margaret seminar

CMCI’s 2018-19 research seminar series got off to an excellent start with a controversial and well-attended presentation on secrecy and historic photographs in post-Mao China.

Our speaker was Margaret Hillenbrand, Associate Professor of Modern Chinese Literature and Culture and Tutorial Fellow in Chinese at Wadham College, University of Oxford.

Under the title “Knowing What Not to Know in Contemporary China”, Professor Hillenbrand discussed the “missing histories” of contemporary China, and argued that conventional narratives of amnesia and censorship do not adequately explain why certain events have failed to gain commemorative traction in the present.

Her research into this area focuses aesthetic objects that she calls photo-forms – works which “riff” on well-known historical photographs (such as of Tiananmen Square in June 1989) and serve as spaces in which public secrecy emerges.

Questions and discussion followed between the speaker, graduate students and academic staff. Our next research seminar speaker is Annette Hill, Professor of Media and Communication at Lund University, Sweden. Details of the series are at:




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