Life Histories and Collective Memory of Deaf People in a Chinese Social Welfare Factory

Visiting Scholar Talks

Dec 5, 2023 | 11:30 AM - 1:00 PM

Common Room (#136), 2 Divinity Avenue, Cambridge, MA,


Xiaoyan Xiao | Professor, College of Foreign Languages and Cultures, Xiamen University; HYI Visiting Scholar, 2023-24


Kathryn Davidson | Professor of Linguistics, Harvard University

Co-sponsored by the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies

This talk reports an on-going project attempting to record the life histories and construct the collective memory of the Deaf workers in Chinese social welfare factories since 1958. After 1949, as part of the reform in social welfare and relief system, the Chinese government established state-owned social welfare factories to provide its disabled citizens with a stable job. The presenter has interviewed Deaf employees who have retired from or are still working for one of such factories, Sanlu, one of the very first two welfare factories built in Beijing in 1958 to provide concentrated employment for Deaf and Hard of Hearing people. While most earlier built welfare factories in China went bankrupt, Sanlu still survives,after dramatic reforms and restructuring. Over 800 Deaf people have been employed there. Some of the older Deaf workers were hired since 1958, while younger employees were outsourced to the Johnson & Johnson-bought Dabao Cosmetics Co. Ltd, the most successful subsidiary and top selling brand of Sanlu. Together, life histories of these Deaf workers provide a glimpse into the lives of the world’s biggest Deaf population. Their collective memory of the factory forms a contrast with that of the larger social environment in China.

This talk will be sign language interpreted