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Access Type

Open Access Thesis

Document Type


Degree Program


Degree Type

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



This thesis explores how traumatic memories of the Tangshan earthquake have been constructed in literature, documentary works, and films. Through analyzing the narrative construction of the Tangshan earthquake in the form of film and literature, this thesis studies the relationship between state power and individual agency in the representation of this natural disaster. It argues that the cultural representation of this natural disaster reflects a subtle shift: one from the dominant nationalistic narrative to the narrative centering on individuals’ psychological trauma. It suggests the high degree of state control and politicization is what is similar between a natural disaster such as the Tangshan earthquake and other political events. To some extent, the Tangshan earthquake has become a political event to promote the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) propaganda. Therefore, this thesis engages existing scholarship on political traumas to research the Tangshan earthquake. It is indicating a subtle shift because it is a slow-changing process and there is no mark to signal a radical departure from the earlier nationalism accounts. There also exists more interlaces and interconnections between the state and individual in the range of sources I have examined. And the overlay of the different narratives reflects the complexity of reality and history.


First Advisor

Enhua Zhang

Second Advisor

Lei Ying

Third Advisor

Briankle Chang