Ryan Chartrand

University of California at San Diego professor Paul Pickowicz will come to Cal Poly today to speak about Mao Zedong-era propaganda posters and how they look 40 years later. The lecture will be held from 11 a.m. to noon in the Cyde P. Fischer Science building, room 286.

Pickowicz has been a professor of history and Chinese studies at UCSD since 1973. He recently co-wrote a book called “Revolution, Resistance, and Reform in Village China.” He is also considered to be the foremost expert on Chinese underground film in the West and he was one of the first American scholars to go to China both before and after the Cultural Revolution.

Cal Poly history professor Andrew Morris is the one who coordinated the event. He brought Pickowicz to Cal Poly to speak on Mao-era China to some of his Chinese history and film classes and to the community, which has shown interest in the subject.

“The U.S. is still fascinated with that period in time,” said Morris, who specializes in modern Chinese and Taiwanese history. “There are many bestselling books and memoirs about people who lived in that period coming out right now.”

Morris became interested in Chinese history when he took a class on Communist China while a physics major at Harvey Mudd College in Claremont. He then went on to graduate school at UCSD where he met Pickowicz.

“It amazed me to think about the revolution and the chaos in China and the promises of China in general because of their emphasis on education after they got pushed around by Japan and the West,” Morris said.

The posters are the modern version of a Chinese tradition of enforcing correct social behavior through the arts. Posters were first printed in 1937 and continued to be printed after the establishment of the People’s Republic of China and up until the present.

Painted in a style called “Socialist Realism,” the posters portrayed images made to inspire people by showing the “way things really were,” according to Maoist thought. Those portrayed in the posters are often in aggressive poses looking out “to the future.”

In 1998, Pickowicz won the UCSD Alumni Association Distinguished Teaching Award and in 2003, the UCSD Chancellor’s Associates Faculty Award for Excellence in Graduate Teaching. He recently returned from England where he was a visiting professor at the University of Oxford.

The lecture is open to the public and is sponsored by the history department and the College of Liberal Arts.

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