The Politics of Smell: Language, Olfactory Metaphor, and the Chinese Revolution
Dr Xuelei Huang é»éªè¾ of the University of Edinburgh will be leading the weekly seminar of the Centre for the Study of Religion and Politics (CSRP).
Language, rhetoric and discourse played a pivotal role in the Chinese Communist revolution. A wide range of techniques and strategies of revolutionary linguistic engineering were developed during the Mao era, and a common foundation of such techniques was what may be called âthe emotional roots of political powerâ. This paper provides a case study of the largely overlooked sensory dimension of political language and discourse in Mao China. It will demonstrate the ways in which rhetoric references to stench and fragrance engaged with emotions, forging the bond between members of the discourse community of Communist China at the biological/corporal level.
How was sensory perception employed by propaganda to internalise political doctrines? How did the imageries of the fragrant and the foul serve to stimulate admiration and worship, and to instigate agitation and hatred? Adopting the keywords approach initiated by Raymond Williams, this paper studies such smell-related keywords and phrases as âthe political sense of smellâ (æ¿æ²»å è¦º), a range of scatological utterances (fart å±, shit å±, muck ç³), âto struggle against/condemn somebody until s/he stinksâ (é¬¥è, æ¹è), âfragrant breezeâ (é¦é¢¨), and âfragrant blossoms/poisonous weedsâ (é¦è±/æ¯è). In doing so, the paper explores the themes of revolutionary neurosis, rudeness, ruthlessness, the polarization of love and hatred as the necessary ingredients of revolutionary emotions and discourses.
Location: St Mary’s College Hall