Yaowen Dong

Email: dong8@wisc.edu

Advisor: Viren Murthy

Yaowen Dong


My primary research interests revolve around the intellectual and political history of China’s socialist era. I seek to examine the role of traditional literature, philosophy, and popular religion in China’s revolutionary politics. My dissertation, entitled “Constructing the Revolutionary Past: Mass Movements, Traditional Literature, and Cultural Memory in Mao’s China, 1956-1976”, investigates the institutionalization of knowledge production and the popularization of traditional knowledge in Mao’s China through mass movements. I examine how socialist China uneasily reconfigured and incorporated cultural and philosophical conventions from China’s past into a newly constructed revolutionary tradition. I argue that by salvaging and constructing the traditions that were at the margin of Confucian hierarchy, such as Legalist philosophy, peasant uprisings, ghost stories, etc., the Communist Party imagined an alternative past that challenged the orthodox Marxist temporality and increasingly built the Maoist cause upon a Chinese, instead of a global, past.

The second book-length project that I am working on investigates the translation, publication, and circulation of “Internal Readings” in socialist China, mainly from the Soviet Union, in the background of Sino-Soviet Split from 1959 to 1976. the project explores the intricate ways “revisionist” Soviet literature helped in the creation and negotiation of distinct political identities in China in the Cold War context.


M.A., History, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2016
B.A., Political Science, Philosophy, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2013


  • East Asian History

M.A. Title

  • “Mao’s Revolutionary Ghost Stories: Socialist Imagination and Ideological Contestation in ‘Stories about Not Being Afraid of Ghosts'”

Working Dissertation Title

  • Constructing the Revolutionary Past: Mass Movements, Traditional Literature, and Cultural Memory in Mao’s China


  • Pantzer Fellowship, 2018
  • UW-Madison Department of History Research Scholarship, 2018
  • Early Excellence in Teaching Award, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2017

Professional Affiliations

  • Association for Asian Studies
  • Chinese Studies Association of Australia

Courses Taught as TA

  • History/Asian American Studies/East Asian Studies 276: Chinese Migrations since 1500
  • History/East Asian Studies 341: History of Modern China, 1800-1949
  • History/East Asian Studies 342: History of Modern China, 1949-Present
  • Sociology 125: American Society
  • Sociology 134: American Racial and Ethnic Minorities
  • Sociology 496: Supranational Governance: Eating, Drinking, Gambling, and Prostitution

Courses Taught as Instructor

  • History 225: 20th Century China
  • History 225: The Chinese Cultural Revolution
  • History 255: Introduction to East Asian Civilizations
  • English 100: Introduction to College Composition