Please activate JavaScript!
Please install Adobe Flash Player, click here for download

uni'wissen 01-2016_ENG

Prof. Dr. Daniel Leese studied early modern and modern history, Sinology, and economics in Marburg, Munich, and Beijing. After earning his PhD in Bremen, he returned to the University of Munich as a research as- sistant. In 2010 he accepted a deputy professorship at the University of Freiburg’s Institute of Sinology, where he went on to be appointed as junior professor in 2012 and as full professor in 2015. His research interests in- clude the political, social, and cultural history of China in the 20th century, Chinese legal and environmental his- tory, and the history of the Qing dynasty. Photo: Tristan Vostry written Chinese documents. “It’s important for me to show that the Chinese society of the time wasn’t just a conformist mass, but that the case files reflect individual lives caught up in a conflict between conformity, resistance, and also the knowledge of having committed an offence.” A Difficult Situation for Researchers All of the sources are being collected in a digital archive that will be made available to other researchers after the project ends, for instance for comparative studies on transitional justice. This is a theoretical concept Leese believes should be extended to include different forms of transition from one social order to another, even when – as in the case of China – the old system is not overthrown altogether. In addition, the most important documents will be translated into English. The plan is to compile the first compre- hensive database to document both the original atrocities of Maoism and how China dealt with its victims, because Leese is also interested in taking stock of the offenders. “Essentially, we are dealing with two topics at once. We can’t just concentrate on the rehabilitation but must also take a look at who was responsible for the vio- lence.” However, research on the offenders is precisely what has been missing in China so far. It is particularly dangerous for those currently in power and is therefore frowned upon. The situation for researchers has become more difficult since Xi Jinping assumed office as party leader and head of state in 2012, says Leese. Under Xi’s leadership, the CPC passed a directive stipulating that the history of the first 30 years of the People’s Republic must not be negated on the basis of the political reforms of the second 30 years. By the same token, Mao’s politics must be not be idealized and this posi- tion used as a basis for distancing oneself from the party’s current course. This put a stop to what little research into the Maoist era had been conducted so far. Leese was forced to discon- tinue existing partnerships – such as that with the Chinese Academy Of Sciences, which the CPC alleged had been partially infiltrated by foreign powers. Nevertheless, Leese continues to conduct his research openly. “We are highly dependent on maintaining good relations with our Chinese colleagues, but at the moment this is only possible in an unofficial context and at a personal level. We are observing the politics very closely so that we don’t place our Chinese project members and dialogue partners in any danger.” He has yet to be prohibited explicitly from either conducting his research or entering the country, but expects that he could very well experience more opposition in the future. In Europe, on the other hand, Leese’s research has met with a decidedly positive response. The European Research Council is providing him a Starting Grant worth 1.44 million euros for his project. uni wissen 01 2016 Further Reading Leese, D. (2016): Die chinesische Kulturrevolution. 1966–1976. Munich. Leese, D. (2015): Revising verdicts in Post-Mao China. The case of Beijing’s Fengtai District. In: Brown, J. / Johnson, M. (Eds.) (2015): Maoism at the Grassroots. Everyday Life in China’s Era of High Socialism. Cambridge (Massachusetts/USA), pp. 102–128. Leese, D. (2014): A single spark: origins and spread of the Little Red Book in China. In: Cook, A. (Ed.)(2014): Mao’s Little Red Book: A Global History. Cambridge, pp. 23–42. Watch a video interview with Prof. Dr. Daniel Leese on the research portal Surprising Science for more information about his project on the legacy of Maoism: In 1969, children in a people’s commune are coerced into finding local class enemies. 31 uni wissen 012016