Skip to content

February 2019

The Politics of Smell: Language, Olfactory Metaphor, and the Chinese Revolution11:15 am - 12:45 pm. St Mary's CollegeThursday 21 February 2019

Event type: AcademicSeminarAudience: Staff and studentsAcademic Schools and Departments: Divinity
This event has been created by: Mario Aguilar

Event Details

Dr Xuelei Huang 黄雪蕾 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 “the emotional roots of political power”. 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 “the political sense of smell” (政治嗅覺), a range of scatological utterances (fart 屁, shit 屎, muck 糞), “to struggle against/condemn somebody until s/he stinks” (鬥臭, 批臭), “fragrant breeze” (香風), and “fragrant blossoms/poisonous weeds” (香花/毒草). 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


(Thursday) 11:15 am - 12:45 pm