Christian Sorace Publishes Article on "The Chinese Communist Party's Nervous System"


In its one hundred years of existence, the Communist Party of China has experimented with how to connect its narratives of legitimacy to peoples affects. In this essay, I trace the conceptualization of gratitude, from its repudiation in the Mao era as a vestige of feudalism and imperialism to its return in the reform era as a re-verticalization of Party sovereignty. The paper addresses four examples of gratitude work: Politburo Standing Committee member Wang Yangs short-lived critique of gratitude in the name of a different conception of popular sovereignty; the celebration of the tenth anniversary of the Sichuan earthquake as a day of gratitude; the detention of Uyghurs in Xinjiang who are taught to be grateful to the Communist Party in a campaign of religious de-radicalization; and the refusal of gratitude in quarantined Wuhan during the COVID-19 pandemic. In these cases, the Communist Partys sovereignty stands at the threshold between bio- and necro-politics, promising life and salvation in the midst of death and destruction.

Keywords: affect; sovereignty; gratitude; 2008 Sichuan earthquake; Xinjiang; COVID-19

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