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27-31 August 2019
Poznań, Poland
Europe/Warsaw timezone
programme last update: 23 August 2019
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Contribution Paper

Poznań, Poland - Morasko Kampus, room: 3.19

Emotions on Display: colonial history and visitors’ emotional response in the Shanghai History Museum


  • Dr. Laura POZZI

Primary authors


This paper analyses visitors’ emotional response to the Shanghai History Museum’s (SHM) representation of colonial past. Chinese historiography refers to the years between the First Opium War and the establishment of the People’s Republic (roughly 1839-1949) as China’s “century of humiliation” due to the country semi-colonial status. By juxtaposing images of colonial violence and the heroic fight of the local population against the usurpers, the exhibition is designed to rise nationalist feelings among local visitors, but is it always the case? What do visitors think about the SHM’s representation of the city colonial history? Do foreign tourists show a similar understanding of the exhibition? Based on interviews and visitors’ comments, this paper sought to analyse how visitors’ national background influence their understanding of the exhibition and their emotional reaction to it. This paper also attempts to analyse how Chinese museums’ representation of the country past does (or does not) influence Chinese citizens’ emotional response of their country neo-colonial expansion in Asia. Under Mao Zedong, the People’s Republic was one the supporter of the process of decolonization of third world countries, but now it is seen by many as a neo-colonial power. Are the feelings of disdain and anger against Western/Japanese colonial projects promoted by Chinese institutions still valid when looking at China’s own neo-colonial practices? How do Chinese museums tackle these questions?