Realms of Chinese Nostalgia
Cultural theorist Svetlana Boym famously distinguished two types of nostalgia: a restorative one that ‘manifests itself in total reconstructions of monuments of the past’; and a reflective one that ‘lingers on ruins, the patina of time and history, in the dreams of another place and another time’. But nostalgia is not necessarily only backward-looking. Rather, it can represent a feeling of longing for a future yet to be lost or even realised. For the historian Roxanne Panchasi, nostalgia may originate in the ways in which people anticipate and plan their lives around an expected future. This anticipated future, Panchasi intimates in her 2009 book Future Tense, ‘can tell us a great deal about the cultural preoccupations and political perspectives of the present doing the anticipating’. In these and other ways, nostalgia can actualise in cultural expression and performance within communities of nostalgia and as immersive environments that shine a light on past trauma to move closer to reconciliation. Contributors to this issue of the Made in China Journal explore the workings of nostalgia in people’s memories and spaces in China and beyond from a variety of perspectives to uncover how and why admirers of the Maoist and post-socialist eras express their longings for pasts real, imagined, and somewhere in between.