Revolution in pain(t): a semiotic reading of Chinese Cultural Revolution propaganda posters and female motivated violence (1966-1968)
Item statusRestricted Access
Embargo end date29/06/2021
Avina, Avital Zuk
This thesis focuses on visual imagery and culture from Maoist China by exploring new methods for interpreting the propaganda posters from the Chinese Cultural Revolution (CR) through a linguistic-based methodology. In addition, this methodology is used to examine the previously understudied phenomenon of female perpetrated violence during the CR and the motivation and encouragement of women to participate within the realm of violence and factional infighting. Because propaganda poster images can be ‘read’ like any other text through distinct visual grammatical rules, these grammar rules aid in the exploration of the posters beyond the mere descriptive levels. In order to examine the imagery and the inherent communicative functions of the posters, this research combines propaganda theories, visual grammar, and semiotics to consider more closely the posters as a communication tool. The components adapted from linguistics that apply to visual analysis rely on identification of common meaningful elements and regularities which can be formally described. This work specifically focuses on iconographic symbols, semantic metaphors, and pragmatic deixis to analyse the different elements of the imagery to build a comprehensive analytical tool. Following the in-depth deconstruction of the posters and their internal meaning mechanisms, key components are identified and classed into the three types of grammar. By applying the visual grammar rules and methods developed for the propaganda posters, the female violence incitement imagery and their role within the violent posters is explored. Through the use of this new methodology for breaking down the posters and analysing them as communication devices that both give information and reflect contemporary society, this thesis takes a closer look at the role of women during the first few years of the CR. It establishes that despite the public participation in violent episodes chronicled in memoirs and historical accounts, the portrayal of female initiated and perpetrated violence within the propaganda poster art of the time does not reflect this trend.