Who Speaks for the Past? Social Media, Social Memory, and the Production of Historical Knowledge in Contemporary China
This study explores the influence of social media on the (re)formation of social memory and the production of historical knowledge in society. It takes several contested debates over historical events and figures on Weibo, one of the most widely used social media, as the case to investigate how social media enable people to articulate previously unspoken experiences and memories, question the authenticity and accuracy of official history, and shape social recollection in China. This study argues that social media embrace a wide variety of diverse individuals as subjects who contribute to various mnemonic practices, facilitate the crowdsourcing and aggregation of alternative or counternarratives of the past, and cultivate the production of historical knowledge as a retrievable and reactivatable process. The contestation facilitated by social media over mnemonic knowledge transcends what happened in history and memory and sheds light on the complex political and cultural contentions in contemporary China.