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Fuck Chineseness: On the Ambiguities of Ethnicity as Culture as Identity
Allen Chun Nationalityat the Core, or, The Meaningof Modernity
It is said that China is the oldest extant civilizationin the world and that its populationconstitutes one-quarter of humanity.Something so well entrenched demographically,territorially, politically,and historicallyshould be anything but an uncertain entity. It is easy, thus, to identify something called "Chinese culture and society." Its political presence in the modern worldsystem is incontestable, and the amount of intellectualdiscourse devoted to the study of China continues to filllibraries.In short, there is much to suggest that the very idea of China is an unambiguous or unquestionable entity. But what is so unambiguous about China that makes it an unquestioned object of gazing? What is the nature of Chineseness, and who are the Chinese? Finally,who is reallyspeaking here? Something called "China"unquestionably exists, but, more importantly, there is a multitude of expressions to denote different aspects of China and Chineseness. While the Western term for China appears to acChinese terms have been provided the Wade-Giles in system of romanization. 2 Press. boundary 23:2, 1996.Copyright 1996by DukeUniversity ?
AncientSichuanand the Unification China(Albany: of New York Press.they referto themselves as "people of the Han (dynasty)"(han-jen). the historical metaphor cannot be carried too far. In Singapore. natureas serves to emphasize its nonpolitical means "thelanguage of ethnic Chinese. and the ethnic minoritieswithinterritorial China are likewise set apart as being non-Han.not only for what as they mean semantically but for what they mean pragmatically. As for standardcolloquialMandarin. In Taiwan.2 The point of the matter is that terms are important. is interesting note the evolutionof Chinese functionsof language in the nationalimagiterms. which is itselfa substitutefor kuan-hua. The term chung-kuo. Chinese terms for China and Chinese. The Chinese may State Univerof 1."followingearly in usage. well--that is to say. Southern Chinese.Chinatown is called "street of the T'ang people" (tangjen chieh). as belonging to a Han culture The process of sinicization is that originated in the region of the Han River. the authority of language can be understood not only as a function of a speaker's implicitinterpretationbut also as a purposive strategic act. suggest other kinds of associations. 1992). some of which are historicallyor regionally specific."which. Perhaps not coincidentally. "the nationallanguage."has and existed since antiquity. When speakers refer to t'ang-shan. for it reflectsthe changingpragmatic is nation. kuo-yOj hua. Moreover. See Steven Sage. given the speaker's intended usage."thelanguageof officials" Republican as became p'u-t'ung times. does not sit well with Mandarinspeakers who claim to speak chung-wen. "thecommonlanguage. however. because it can referto any Chinese." a mode of communication. it usually means the China of one's home village and not that of the imperialcourt.meanings change in spite of the fixed character of the words themselves. likewise. sity it to 2. express their Chineseness by saying that they are "people of the T'ang (dynasty)" (t'ang-jen)who speak "T'anglanguage" (t'ang-hua)and have deep attachments toward a homeland called "the land of T'ang"(t'ang-shan). . thus.2 112 boundary / Summer 1996 centuate the unity of a civilizationbrought about by the Ch'in empire. China's rendition of itself as "the middle kingdom. in contrast.1 one of being Han-ized (han-hua).the use of hua-yOj. on the other hand. Inthe PRC. the term chung-kuojen is commonly used nowato denote Chinese people who speak chung-kuo hua or some form of days Chinese language. typicallythose from Fukien and Kwangtungwho constitute the vast majorityof "overseas Chinese" in places such as Southeast Asia. When Chinese wish to talk about themselves as a unified people belonging to a unifiedculture.Mandarin called kuo-yj." if imperial which literally to stress its universality among citizens. Nonetheless.foran analysisof the cultural originsof the Hanempire. t'ang-hua simply means "Chinese.
Likewise.or periphery. and the absorption of alien religions.5 Until the mid-nineteenth century." Chung-kuo and of in wen-hua hsin lun(New perspectiveson Chinese culture)." Chung-hua 5.139-40. it was unnaturalfor Chinese to call other ethnic 3. and practices-in short. in fact."Han-wen and 'min-tsu' i-tz'ute ch'u-hsienchi ch'i shihyung ch'ing-k'uang (The appearanceof the Chinese term min-tsuand its circumstances of usage). in "Wan-min min-tsute kou-ch'eng rung-ho(Backto the kuei-tsung: yO roots:The constitution amalgamation [Chinese]ethnicity). Ts'ai Hs(eh-hai. view China as an unambiguous politicalentity and Chineseness as a feature shared by ethnic Chinese on the basis of discrete traits and traditions. This explains the persistent imagination of an unbroken historical continuitydespite repeated barbarianinvasions.3If we. 8 (1985):2. in origin. but the centripetal unityemanating fromthis civilizingcenter was something that in predynastic times actually united differentpolities occupied by diverse peoples who had inherentlydifferentlanguages. the term chung-kuo (middle kingdom). Many terms were transplanted directly from Japanese.there was no cognate notion in Chinese of society or nation as a politywhose boundary was synonymous with that of an ethnic group." Chia-ku hsjeh shang-shih lun-ts'ung(Shanghai:Shanghai Shu-tien.1981). 5. ch'u(Taipei: Lien-ching that and pan shih-yehkung-ssu. if not national. it originatedfrom chung-shangto denote the alliance of states that traced theircultural to foundations the Shang dynasty. Priorto the Nationalist Revolution of 1911.it is really because we are influenced by a homogeneous notion of culturethat is essentially modern. 368. 4. See Han Chin-ch'un LiYi-fu. the rise and fall of dynasties.See of separationfromthe barbarians WangErh-min. as well as the concurrent notion of Chineseness as hua-hsia. yijeh-k'an no. on the other hand.Chun/ FuckChineseness 113 attributetheir ethnic unityto the Han. "Chung-kuo ming-ch'eng su-y(an chi ch'ichin-taich'Oan-shih (Theorigin of the term'middle and wen-huafu-hsing kingdom' its moderninterpretation).4 The state of mind characteristic of Chinese ethnicity and civilization in the past often transcended the hard and fast boundaries that we usually associate with the standardized dominion and sovereign totalityof the nation-state. The implicit sinocentrismof this middlekingdomstemmed fromtheirown perceived situatedon the outside. argues that although chung-kuowas a term coined by the Chou."Min-tsu yen-chiu2 (1984):36-43. foran extendeddiscussion. Hu Hou-hs0an. different ethnic cultures. maintains bothchung-kuo hua-hsiawere interchangeable.in "Lunwu-fangkuan-nienchi chung-kuoch'eng-weichih ch'i-yoan in (On the concept of wu-fangand originof the term 'middlekingdom'). predates the Chinese empire. beliefs.Thus. the peoples consolidated by the Han empire were certainly not ethnically homogeneous. HsingI-t'ien ed.1985). . but. theirworld.
" 9. Anthropological 1990). ethnicity.and BenedictAnderson's (Oxford: in ImaginedCommunities: Reflectionson the Originsand Spread of Nationalism (Lonof don:Verso. in a by Sun Yat-sen. the Chinese renditionof nationalismas the "principle a common people" of (min-tsu chu-i) implicitlyunderscored the novelty of a bounded citizenryas the distinctivefeature of nationhood (in contrast. See DavidY.1983).6This association was meant to consolidate the diverse constellation of people within territorialChina into a single nation. to 8. 2 (1991):162.in BasilBlackwell. the revolutionary famous phrase. of Dae7. no matter how faithfullythey are grounded in the past.on the ramifications a commoncolloquial language in the promotion of radically time-space notionsin an emergingnationalism. Nationsand Nationalism focus. Ernest Gellner'sargumentconcerningthe novel role of culturein the nation-state. they conform to a new kind of boundedness in order to create bonds of horizontalsolidarity between equal. "TheConstruction Chinese and Non-ChineseIdentities. Moreover. Since the very idea of (a national) identity is new.114 boundary / Summer 2 1996 groups by any name other than "barbarians. Wu. autonomous individuals constitutive of the empty. H. Chineseness in terms of material culture. to the purely institutional features of the nation-state). especiallyrelevantin new are this regard.cosmological past." tsu yen-chiu2 (1985):9-12.or residence was never clearly defined. have to be constructions by nature. Fox.7 Thus. full-fledged definitions the nationas people (min-tsu) of and of nationalism the principle a commonpeople (min-tsuchu-i)were spelled out exas of and plicitly LiangCh'i-ch'ao Sun Yat-senand were laterinfluenced foreignwritings. homogeneous social space of the nation in ways that could not have existed in a hierarchical. This is similarto what RichardG. . 1983)." Only in the early years of the Republic did intellectuals begin to associate chung-hua min-tsu (Chinese as an ethnic category) with chung-kuojen (citizens of China)." dalus 120. Discourse throughexplicitacts of writing as is one of the prime vehicles for conveying the imaginative nature of culin 6.8This point was reiteratedearly on hero and father of the Republic. any notions of culture invoked in this regard. by by such as those of Joseph Stalin. in his introduction NationalIdeologiesand the Production NationalCultures(Washington: of American Association. calls "ideologiesof peoplehood. Accordingto P'eng Ying-min.who. culture is not just imagined but authorized and institutionalized well. no. "Kuan-yiwo-kuo min-tsukai-nienli-shihte ch'u-pu k'ao-ch'a(A preliminary Minanalysis of the historyof the Chinese concept of min-tsu).9 Because it is constructed. In the end.3. criticizedthe traditionalChinese polity as being "a dish of loose sand" (i p'an san-sha). for example.
"the the rise of the state brought aboutformsof knowledge that necessitated incessant documentation the genre of reports. of State and Its Formsof Knowledge" of (paper presented at the WennerGren Conferenceentitled"Tensions Empire.less importantthanthe rhetorical formsit takes. moreimportantly.Philip and as Corrigan DerekSayer. how if finally." (as is Cultural discoursein this regardincludesnot nationality) constructed." TheFoucaultEffect: and in Studies in Governmentality. ColinGordon(Chicago:University ChicagoPress.Thewillof knowledge to to the powerultimately provides state a basis on whichto defineand classify betweenpublic private and spaces. intellectuals. such as history. custom.demarcate standardize and personalidentity. licensethe legitiand frontiers." The self-effacing characterof cultural discourse.12 need of the state to knowand document formsthe basis of its capacity govern. other by vested interests. are produced disseminated. cultural discourseconstitutesan appropriate "spaceof disin MichelFoucault's how terms."1 S. MichelFoucault.howstatements to itself.all of whomclaimnaturally speak on behalfof "society to as a whole. . in commisto of sions. Spain.and beliefs.investigations.eduand The cation. (Oxford: 1985). 12. appearto be a value-freeconstruct.3. Thatis to say. 1991).transportation. onlysymbolsof national identity. behindthe message it is moreimportant knowwho is reallyspeaking. and statisticsrelating the accountability its citizensin various domains.it is important understand how cultural a discourseserves to rationalize particular utopianvisionof the polity. agriculture. trade. they become systematizedand institutionalized.10 icons of patriotic fervorand otherthings. language 10.such as finance.industry.55. itinvolves authority statementsaboutsharedvalues the of embodiedin language.in spite of its obviousauthorial is preciselywhatmakes identity nature. Bernard Cohn. ideology. as they part or.at all. such discoursesrarely emanatedirectly fromthe and peoplethemselvesbutare articulated the state. In the contextof the state. 5-12 May1988).Chun Fuck / Chineseness115 turalconstructions. Inthe Chineseworld.demography. when in actuality is quitethe opposite.ethnicity. ed. Bernard Cohnhas arguedalso that putit." Mijas. in this regard. crime."TheAnthropology a Colonial S. to and. state neverstops talking. of 11. in the finalanalysis.As Philip it and of noted. for understanding ethnicity persion.as wellas sharedmythsenand coded as genres of knowledge. "Politics the Studyof Discourse.and.the production disCorrigan DerekSayer have perceptively course is an integral of the state's exercisein legitimation. and howthey relateto otherdiscourses. The GreatArch:EnglishState Formation Cultural Revolution Basil Blackwell. The factualsubstance of cultureis.health. makeseparations spheres.
The Kuomintang (KMT).1977). For a fullerdiscussion of these issues in postwarTaiwan. and resistanceto Westernimperialism. Australian wan. and in essence. the core of this traditional a cept of hua-hsia."From and in est': EnglishState Formation Comparative Historical Perspective(An Argument (paper presented at the Symposiumon OrganizedSubjection)" ConcerningPolitically of Institute of Powerand Resistance. officially Finally.hua-hsiaserves to anchorTaiwaneseregional Republic as within Chinesenation-state a whole. 100. by institutionalizing to 'TheBody Politic' 'TheNationalInterand 13." narratives differin different The fact that cultural Chinese political of and contexts is a testamentto the possibility different interpretations reor uses of Chineseness. The authorspointto the state as an explicit and the locus of regulatory Foucault.. in "Confucianism PostwarTaiwan. the extremeradicalism a communist modernworldsystem.depicteditselfas the guardian "tragime on Taiwan This notionof guardianship been reflected has ditional Chinese culture. hua-hsiais. California Cultureand Colonialism: Deployments Technology.following insightsof Michel The Birthof the Prison(New York: Pantheon. to ture. of China(ROC). See PhilipCorrigan DerekSayer. Nationalist. As Huang Ch(n-chieh. hua-hsiabecomes an icon of cultural uniqueness termed in Taiwan.1987).and civilization of treasures" whichincludeartifacts highculvarious"national (kuo-pao). "From in and Cultural to Nationalism Nationalizing: Imagination State Formation PostwarTai31 Journalof Chinese Affairs (1994):49-69.thought. classictexts.Pasadena.by narrating ideology.such as those belonging the National of that or and objectsof (historical archaeological) antiquity were products is At Chinese identity the conthis civilization.By invoking sense of Chineseness (hua)that is rooted of in the sharedcivilization the first(mythical) dynasty(hsia). Calif. Discipline Punish: power. 14. political of has." of not only in its conservativeattitudetowardthe preservation Chinese of also in its proprietary but ownership language." in 15.hua-hsia to Specifically defense of a traditional thatcontrastswith past representsa metaphorical Within setting of a the of worldview.2 1996 116 boundary / Summer link institutional to power macy of certainactivitiesover others.see Allen Chun.Culture's of to then makes all formsof knowledgethat contribute the construction toolswithin state'sregimeof "disinterested the potential hegemonic identity 13 domination. on the whole. PalaceMuseum.15 political history.14 the tradition of a of Thedetermination the KMT regimeto promote culture the Nacultural in is tionalist policy polity reflected the greatlengthsto whichexplicit Confudefine Chinese tradition invoking to systematically by attempted and cianvalues. legitimacy historical of inopposition the People'sRepublic China(PRC). a code wordforbothpolitical destiny." Proceedings of the .
.Cultural centers were created in each of some twenty-odd townto and of ships to organizeactivitiespertaining the dissemination protection localculture. Confucianacademic discourse in postwarTaiwanwas fundamentally a search for cultural withfactualinvestigation identity.18Duringthe period leading up to. for an officialrecordof activitiespertaining the cultural to renaissance movement(wen-huafu-hsing yijn-tung). relevance of abstract formulationsof identityto state formation and national survival as a whole. such as Sun Yat-senand LuHsOnused the GreatWallas patriotic rallying points.social value. Chung-hua chi-nienchuan-chi(Commemorative of reessays on the tenth anniversary the cultural naissance movement)(Taipei: Committee the Promotion the Chinese Cultural for of Renaissance Movement. notes that the elevationof the GreatWallto 2."17 On the mainland.and ethics in the practiceof everyday life. and culminatingin. being a secondary concern.politicalcorrectness and ideoNationalScience Council. and life routine. See TaiwanProvincial wen-huafu-hsingyon-tungshih nien Government.the continual politicizationof culture reflects. "TheGreatWallMyth: Originsand Role in Modern Yale China. see Allen Chun. While icons such as the panda and the Great Wall serve to epitomize in superficial terms China's uniqueness and the existence of potentially strong rallyingpoints for collective solidarity. 1 (1989):67-90. when ethnic consciousness In is used to construct culturaldiscourses that in turn function as the basis for inculcatingnational identityin both thought and practice. no." Journalof Criticism no.but with significantnuances.The era of cultural renaissance. one can find essentially the same degree of obsession with the promotionof a national consciousness constructed on a synonymity between the same kinds of cultural ingredients. 1 (1995):1-30. History Anthropology no.language. 2 (1992):218and 20.it was a phenomenonusuallyassociated withthe excesses of despotic emperors. 17. Arthur in Its Waldron. the status of de facto national Beforenationalists symbolinthe PRCwas a late invention.whichbegan in 1967to counterthe cultural revolution on the mainland. the CulturalRevolution. namely ethnicity.Chun/ FuckChineseness 117 The fact that the government felt compelled to orchestrate social sentiment through mass movements suggests that culture was hardlysomething that could be taken for granted. to east and west. 16. it is difficultto distinguish the various dimensions of politicalorthodoxy. a reconstruction createdat the national Moreover. committeeforcultural was levelto deal withactivitiespertaining the finearts and otheraspects of expressiveor hauteculture.16 the long run.1978)." 9. "AnOrientalOrientalism: The Paradoxof Tradition Modernity and in Nationalist and Taiwan.all of which serve to engender "Chineseness. whichwas the last of twelve areas of nationaldevelopmentcited by ChiangChing-kuo on 23 September1977. has noted. Foran of interpretation the constant metamorphosisof "Nationalist" ideology that involveda of sophisticated rewriting culture. followedby a phase of cultural was reconstruction (wen-huachien-she).PartC: Humanities Social Sciences 2. more the importantly. 18. and history.thought.
New WorldPress. created particularproblems for reconciling notions of ethnicity in relation to national identity. Wu. RobertaMartin. Fei Hsiao-t'ung. while at the same time made culturalobjectification a normativepractice in the state's institutionalroutine.20 The criteriaof traditionalpractices and material customs applied to distinguish ethnic groups. Fei Hsiao-t'ung (Bejing: Culture: 21. in fact. the People's Republichas opted to subordinate prescribed. made the very notion of ethnic identitywithin a culturaltaxonomy problematic." Toward People's Anthropology. how differencesin politicalideology between the mainlandand Taiwanhave been systo and fables. "TheSocialization Children Chinaand on Taiwan: AnalyChinaQuarterly no. the need to define ethnicity according to the kind of hardand-fast rules characteristic of the boundedness of a modern nation-state ultimatelyfabricatedethnic divisions that did not exist in the minds and lives of the people themselves.19 subsequent periods. nothing more than imagined constructions by the state to define the ethos of its own modernity. conscious efforts by the state to define the nature of Chinese national identity made the archivalization of historical knowledge and ethnic classification prioritiescompatible with socialist orthodoxy. China.More than in the case of Taiwan. would appear out of proportionin contrast to other modernizingcountries. In fact. The Exampleof Bai in Yunnan. 20.archaeology became an importanttool in China's search for its culturalroots and in politicallegitimacy as a nation. with the Han ethnic majoritypositioned at the core of a familyof nations. however. ed. 1 (1990):1-13. 49. In the broader intellectual debates over national identityduring the post-Cultural Revolutionera.the government adopted a Stalinist policy of multiculturalism. however.As in the case of Taiwan.as ideologically in in a "Ethnic Identification China.historyand ethnicitythus combined to produce (a national) identity in which they were." 62. The existence of ethnic minorities withinChina's national borders. familyto the greatergood of society.2 118 boundary / Summer 1996 promptedwholesale rejections of traditional logical purification thought and In practices. Contrary the textbooknarratives writteninto school children's tematically traditional Nationalist ethics have been used to legitimize ideologythrough way Confucian the metaphorsof a family-basedstate. 1981).especially in cases of historicallyknown minoritygroups that had been undergoing a long process of sinicization. H. on the other hand.21 In this regard. ideological positions often vacillated between attempts to revive societal consciousness through metaphoricalappeals to An in of in 19. the massive energy devoted to archivalizationof the past. "ChineseMinority Policyand the Meaningof Minority HumanOrganization no. See DavidY." . as evidenced by the growth of government bureaus dealing with culturalartifacts and historicalresearch.For the most part. shows sis of ElementarySchool Textbooks. 2 (1975):244-49.
I believe that the modern nation-state offers a more useful pointof departurefor understandingthe nature of identityconstructions than prevailingnotions of cultureper se.22 The government's campaign against spiritualpollutionin the mid-1980s sparked intellectual debates over the nature of culture. Su Wei. the firstfrom 1977 to 1982.usually referredto in the literature 23 as "culture fever.largelythroughappeal to the voices of the colonized.it would that culture's intrinsicsubstance has been less importantthan its appear extrinsic politicalrelevance. L. By criticizingthe backwardness of Chinese civilizationbased on the YellowRivervalley. are really reactions to the homogeneous threat of identity imposed by the nation22." These discourses broughtforthdiverse viewpoints concerning the relevance of various aspects of Chinese and Western culture to the construction of a Chinese socialist state that became polarized in 1988 with the airing of the controversialTV documentary River Elegy (heshang). characterizedby a general of tendencytowardrestoration an earliergoldenera of socialism.Chun/ FuckChineseness 119 roots and countercampaigns to ground nationalist senhistorical-cultural timent withinthe context of a renewed socialist humanism. ed. . no. Challenges to the authorityof culture.evenand 1988.' 1976-89. 1993). S.By invokingChineseness. China Decolonizing Chineseness: FromDiasporato Cultural I raise the examples of Taiwanand mainlandChina to show that discourses of culture are really attempts by the state to grasp and rationalize the natureof its own modernity.The authorsarguethatthis intellectual sition comprisedthree stages. they have not only redefined it but also given it a new kindof boundedness.whichled directly by to the democracymovementof 1989 and its bloodysuppression. tuallyprompting campaignagainst spiritual pollution and the thirdprecipitated the documentary RiverElegy (he-shang).in "TheChinese VelvetPrison:Culture the 'NewAge." Culture and Modernization: Reviewof the General A WangHe's "Traditional Situation Cultural of Studies in Chinain RecentYears. and silent others.the second from1982to withChinesetradition Westernideologies."in China'sQuest forNationalIdentity. GeremieBarme."China's and Intellectuals the Deng Era:Loss in of Identity withthe State.Fromthe rhetoric. marginalized." in Issues and Studies 25. Inthis regard. providesan overviewof the literature during period. 23. River Elegy was a call for the construction of a new identitybased on the progressive values of an emerging Pacific region and the rejection of a traditionally based modernity. Dittmer S. 8 (1989): 54-79. MerleGoldman. and Kim(Ithaca: CornellUniversity tranPress.PerryLink. instead." Social Sciences in China4 (1986): this 9-30. translates wen-hua re. as "culture mania. whichwitnessed experiments a and the "culture fever"debates.
Before 1950. which was rooted in Chinese tradition. See AmbroseKing's Absorption Politics HongKong: Asian Survey15." Emphasis politicalculture in quite relevantto the common perceptionof an innately"apathetic" Hong Kong. which is on the Grass Roots Level. Butto what extent do disenfranchised voices fromthe peripheryoffer alternativeconceptions of identityor of "Chineseness"? Hong Kong represents a distinctive variationon the theme of "Chineseness. most people just called themselves Chinese. the colonial government took an active role in promoting economic growth in Hong Kong during the early postwar era. there was no notion of being Hong Kongers. A separate Hong Kong identitybegan to emerge only withthe widenriftbetween Nationalistand CommunistChina. especially in the absence of direct political control by the state. The border between Hong Kong and China was open. which had a profoundimpacton the rise of popular culture in Hong Kong in later decades.Social intercourse was segregated along ethnic lines. These cold initiallyinto a battlegroundfor contesting "national" war tensions eventually catalyzed Hong Kong'stransformationinto a freemarket port. the ROC.120 boundary / Summer 2 1996 state. and the government did littleto cultivate among the populace any sense of national affinityto Britain. There was a strict separation between official culture. A majorconsequence of this change in social terms was the evolution of a class-based society. which was a deliberate policy initiativeby the colonial government. and indigenous culture.which turned Hong Kong ing identities. 5 (1975):422-39. ." The formationof culture in the postwar era was. a functionof the way in which the British demarcated the public and private spheres. the productof its liminality vis-a-vis the PRC.towardwhichthe government adopted a policy of noninterference. and there was littleto differentiateHong Kong from foreign enclaves in other treaty ports. then. The dualistic nature of Hong Kong'scolonial society was. the predominantlyChinese populationof Hong Kong had no independent national identityto speak of. the Britishadministered Hong Kong in accordance with Western judicialconventions. and Western mainstreams. which was carried out in the medium of English. there was no question as to the culturalidentity of its inhabitants. in several ways. As inhabitantsof a Britishcolony ceded by China in 1860. no. Consistent with its colonial status.The rest was a matterof local custom and lifestyle. by deliberately in of discussionin "Administrative 24.especially duringthe 1970s. Yet. not just for the sake of modernization itself.24 In effect. in spite of its colonial status.
ChanHoiman. Gerald R." 26. 1992). and indifferent to.see Rey Chow. contributedto the rise of a distinctlyapoliticalHong Kongculture.27 promotionof utilitarianism ethos and The as life routinealso brokedown rigiddistinctionsbetween Chinese and Western culture. "Discourseof Crisis and Stability: The Possibility/Impossibility of and Community Democracyin HongKong" (paperpresentedat the Conferenceon CulturalCriticism of 1992.29 Dec.26 produced the utilitarian artisticgenres such as kungfu movies and absurdist comedies all had roots in this self-propelled cultureindustry. 27." In short.which seemed effortlessly to fuse East and West. 5. HongKong'sPostcolonial Self-Writing the 1990s.1972). Max Horkheimer and TheodorW.25 From 1967 to 1984."The CultureIndustry. Law Wing-sang. 2 (1992):151-70."Diaspora no. designed to minimizenationalistsentiment. no. Max Horkheimer TheodorW.which was insulatedfrom. Adorno.Thus. Chinese University HongKong.-9 Jan. Fora different of perspectiveon the predicament colonialand postcolonialrepresentation HongKong. 28. 1992). The authorattributes government's the economic growththrough policyof promoting administrative of efficiencyand autocraticcontrolto a strategyor rhetoric "managerialcorporatism. not unlike Max Horkheimerand Theodor Adorno's culture industry."BetweenColonizers: in in 2. Adorno(New York:Coned.HongKong." of Cultural Studies 9. which was financed by large capitalist interests.One obvious consequence of this development was the advent of a media-oriented popularculture." The Dialecin tic of Enlightenment. (paper presented at the Conferenceon Cultural Kong. Hong Kong'sisolationfromthe nationalculture invokedon both sides of the straits allowed for a peculiarsense of Chineseness to emerge that radicallydifferedfromthe assumed synonymityof one 25. even to the point of politicalindifference.HongKong. and tinuum. 1 (1995):74-90. was broughtabout by unrestrainedcapitalism's wholesale demystificationof those culturalbarriersfostered by an earlier"colonialism.-9 Jan. McMaster would call a zone of "in-betweenness.which neatly reThe emergence of values of a free-marketsociety. this atmosphere of utilitarian growth. Hong Kong'shybridculture. ."Border Zones: The 'Injun-uity' Aesthetic Tricks.'28 It occupied the vacuous social space made possible by its displacement fromthe Chinese politicalmainstreamas well as by its caste-like status inthe colonial system. McMaster. the politics of identity.29 Dec. and the of "Comedy Mediation: Charting Cultural Mentality HongKong" Chinese University Hong of Criticism. the emergence of postwar Hong Kong "culture" was the product of what Gerald R.Chun/ FuckChineseness 121 steering Hong Kong away from ongoing nationalistconflicts that potentially destabilized the colonial regime.
122 boundary / Summer 2 1996 family. were sojourners who had intentions of eventually returningto China. And even though the term itself is modern. their role as com29. Forexample. Strictly speaking. each speaking mutually unrelated dialects. such as t'ang-jen." The Chinese diaspora. bounded groups but also because most Chinese who lived abroad.Its very "Chineseness" underlines the semantic arbitrarinessof national "culture. there was probablylittleelse to unite them as Chinese. of being Chinese and of becoming felt un-Chinese."TheStudy of Chinese Identitiesin Southeast Asia." Chineseness here refersto the attachmentthat individuals to theirown fromthe identity belongingto a groupby of ethnichomelandand shouldbe distinguished sharinga commonhistoryor tradition. as well as a familiarity toms. Despite their obvious attachment to a Chinese homeland. strictlyspeaking.29 Before the twentiethcentury. invoked to show one's sentimental attachment to a homeland. it does not detract fromthe fact that there have always been Chinese living overseas in premodern times who have had particularnotions of theirChineseness. this term has nothing to do with one's nationality and does not conflict with the usual terms for Chinese.Success in one's occupation and in the exigencies of everyday social intercourse demanded fluency with native cusin several dialects and languages. but it is necessary to understandhow ethnicityhas been constituted and deployed as identity. 1.and one polity cultivated elsewhere by rejectingany intrinsicrelationshipbetween ethnicityand nationality. In all other regards. only a concept of Chineseness. Their degree of contact with other Chinese and non-Chinese was.Wangremarks University a concept of identity."in Changing Attitudesof the Southeast Asian Chinese Since WorldWarII(Hong Kong:Hong Kong that "theChinese have neverhad Press. one civilization. a strategic consideration based on occupational and political necessity that did not involvesacrificingtheir own sense of identity.one people.The term overseas Chinese (hua-ch'iao) is a modern phrase that refers to the ethnic Chinese who live outside the national borders of China. 1988). or what has been usually referredto in the literatureas overseas Chinese. usually in speaking to homeland Chinese or foreigners. Chinese tended to form regional communities. represents an alternative to a sinocentric view of things. The best examples of this come from the generations of Chinese traders in Southeast Asia. Especially in colonial times. are essentially identifyingthemselves as ethnic Chinese who reside abroad. . Wang Gungwu. except in contrast to non-Chinese. not just because there was no concept of Chinese nationhood to galvanize ethnicity into marked. Chinese abroad who use this term to characterize themselves. with some majorexceptions.there was little need for a concept of overseas Chinese.
"Journalof the South Seas Society 16 (1960):86100. Tan Chee-beng. in "Changeand Persistence in Chinese CultureOverseas: A Comparisonof Thailandand Java. Bijdragen de Taal-.have intermarried of local custom. he is reallytalkingabout "identity. and have adopted many aspects Malay. 32." whereinassimilationreflectsa willingnessby Chinese to shed theirsense of difference. deals with actual beliefs and practices. WangGungwu.in "Among Daedalus120. . At face value. quite correctly. they still identifythemselves as Chinese and as practicing I heterodox customs that are essentially Chinese in culturaloutlook. such as the Indiansand Arabs. The sojourningnature of the Chinese in premodern times is an extreme example wherein Chineseness represents both ethnicity and identity. On the other hand. 2-3 (1988):297-314.and those who benefited from continued interactionwith people from China. William Skinner's concern withchange and persistence in Chinese culturein Southeast Asia.Land-en Volkenkunde no. "for being Chinese had nothingto do withbecomingcloser to China. G. of people who are heavily indigenized in terms of ethnic lifestyle but still themselves as Chinese. Tan "identify" Chee-beng argues that although the Baba speak a Creolized version of with the natives. in the form of increased immigration duringthe nineteenth century. 2 (1991): Non-Chinese. the multicultural nese in this context served a functional role that was no differentfrom that of other foreign traders. and persistence of Chinese identityis a productof a rigidsystem of social stratification that perpetuatesethnicseparation.in fact. by way of contrast.were able skills of Chito maintainChinese culturaltraits. their degree of penetrationinto local society in terms of this interactionhad littleto do with an innate sense of identityor separateness as a group and was instead a functionof their politicalaccommodation by the host society. regardless of how deeply they were actually assimilated into indigenous society.The Peranakan Chinese of Malaysiaand Indonesia are an example.30In short. that most of these merchantsand entrepreneurs. essentially nationalistic 30." 31. In his study of the Baba of Melaka." 139. no.32 think there is much to justifyagreeing with the Peranakans that they are essentiallyChinese as long as we can reject our modern. "Structure Change: Cultural and Identityof the Baba of Melaka." tot 144.Itwas a privateand domestic matteronly manifestedwhen needed to strengthena business contactorto followan approved public convention.31 The difference between their ethnic disposition as characterized by custom or language and their sense of identity as a bounded community vis-a-vis others is importantfor understandingwhy Chinese overseas could continue to claim to have a sense of ethnic Chineseness. pointsout.Chun/ FuckChineseness 123 pradorstended to enhance theirseparateness as an ethnic community.
that might serve as models for a declining center. Ina changing global environmentthat has witnessed once patriotic overseas Chinese becoming more permanently settled in their adopted countries and massive migrationof Chinese professionals to the West. "Cultural China: Periphery Center. an expansion of Chinese nationalism abroad that attempted to galvanize Chinese identityfrom what was once kin-centered." culturalChina consists of three cultural universes-the first enAlthough compassing societies populated predominantlyby ethnic Chinese. whether there is a basis for a renewed sense of "Chineseness. due to the efforts of Tu.2 (1991): 33. In recent years. followed by the decline of the sinocentric core as a sphere of influence. Hong Kong.For Chinese who had not severed ties with their homeland.no. the second covering overseas Chinese communities.33Nonetheless. instead. a new kind of Chinese diaspora has appeared."Tu Wei-ming notes that the term culturalChina was probablycoined in the past decade by concerned Chinese intellectuals who were writing in overseas journals. invoking the banner of "culturalChina. such as mainland China. The experiences of the Chinese diaspora represent a wide spectrum 22. the question Tu ultimatelywishes to raise is not just whether it is possible to conceive of the periphery as displacing the center but. this new sense of identity could be seen as an extension of a primordialChineseness.124 boundary / Summer 2 1996 notions of identitybased on definitions of ethnicityauthorized by a cultural mainstream. . then. Being Chinese Today. this new kindof identitywas. Taiwan. In contrast to the strategy of multipleidentities generally characteristic of Chinese overseas.and the thirdconsisting of intellectuals and professionals generally concerned with the Chinese world-in practice. who organized two special issues in Daeprimarily dalus in 1991 and 1993 devoted to the theme of "TheChanging Meaning of "cultural China"has become a key phrase of sorts. to be advocating a kind of pan-national Islamic fundamentalism in the imagined community of exiled Chinese intellectuals. The transformationof Chinese overseas into "overseas Chinese" (hua-ch'iao) was. more specifically. instead." as prompted by the rise of Asia's four dragons and the success of Chinese abroad. a source of alienation. and Singapore." The as Daedalus120. dialect groups into a radically new "imagined community"reeducated in standard Mandarinand the orthodox teachings of Chinese civilization. Tu appears. it refers to a single universe whose common interest in China transcends national boundaries and discourses. TuWei-ming. For those whose culturallifestyles had become largely assimilated or syncretic in nature.
Culture is generally considered to be a larger category of such traits and traditions that may include those of ethnic origin but does not. Clifford Revolution: Primordial Sentiments and CivilPoliGeertz. on the other hand.that these experiences are mutually compatible. at least. however. on the other hand. On the contrary. .Chun/ FuckChineseness 125 of what may constitute possible reconstructions of Chineseness. at the same time. Minorities along China's frontierno doubt may have been ethnicallyautonomous. ed.have to. such as China."While the diversityof "voices" from the periphery can contribute to the decentering of the essentialism and hegemony of culture. Identity in the Politics and Semiotics of Self Despite the fact that ethnicity and culture are often used as metaphorical constructs for identity. identity is essentially a tie that binds people to communities throughwebs of power and meaning.these three concepts are analyticallyquite distinct. not all of which has as its aim a reflection on "the changing meaning of being Chinese today. that one can hope to effectively decolonize the fiction of ethnicities authorized and institutionalizedby the center only by questioning. more than just a corpus of traits made conscious by ethnicity or rhetoricallyinvoked by culturaldiscourse.in many premodern societies. culturally.each is a local response to differenthistoricopoliticalcircumstances. insofar as Chineseness has been traditionally shaped by the authorityof a sinocentric core.they belonged to a single sinocentric universe. Clifford Geertz (Chicago: Aldine. In other words. Culture. was a kind of imagined ideal that could transcend ethnic and politicalboundaries. by definition. has been engendered largely by the paradox that culture needs to draw on ethnic traditionsas a source of its legitimacy while simultaneously transcending the "primordial sentiments" (in Clifford Geertz's terms) associated withthose same traditions. who in Chinese eyes.to say the least. The uneasy marriage between ethnic consciousness and nationalcultureindicativeof many countries today. This is not to say. Ethniccharacteristics can be described in terms of the beliefs and practices of everyday people.1963). the legitimacy of existing identities to bind people to prevailinginstitutions and groups."in Old Societies and New States. but. I would argue more strongly.34 Cases such as the formerSoviet Union and Yugoslaviaappear to suggest the inevitability a of 34. "came to be transformed"(lai-hua). "The Integrative tics in the New States. but the choice of what traits and traditions should be included here are still problematic.
For example. By choosing to identify.role in how Singaporean culture is defined.or subjective. At the level of popular discourse.they are just claims.but always. In contrast to both ethnicity and culture."35 order to deconstruct these local to 35.individualsare dealing. In the service of the modern nation-state. when. of who we are as a group.if not insignificant.2 126 boundary / Summer 1996 synonymity between ethnicity and nationhood. Thus.therefore I am. in the first instance. people in Hong Kong have discovered that they are Chinese and not Hongkongese. that they are selective and strategic by nature.despite appearances to the contrary. while cases such as Indonesia and Papua New Guinea tend to suggest otherwise. while other Chinese overseas have discovered that they have multiple identities. especially in matters of social and politicalsignificance. in actuality. relationship: I identify. There are even cases where notions of ethnic and national culture coexist. ethnicity plays a minor. Because we are dealing with perceptions. but I would argue that. Chinese in Singapore have discovered that Chineseness means speaking Mandarin(hua-yO) and practicing government-sanctioned customs. we should emphasize. or representations. In premodern China. Itis interesting note the increaseduse of hua among Chinese to denote a depolitito cized notionof Chineseness. that need to be constantly legitimized. Thus. it is not surprising to learn that people have generally been more concerned with discovering who they are "really" and less with questioning the existing categories and the way in which these categories have framed the discourse. Chinese are increasingly referring themselves as . as well. identityis essentially a pragmatic. in the long run. albeit in somewhat uncertain terms. Singapore has gone to great lengths generally to ensure equality between the races and preservation of ethnic culture. identificationwith culture meant submission to the spectacle of kingshipand its cosmology of rites. Identityis also less about the fact of who one is than about the perception of those facts. Each of these transformationsis rooted in local contexts of power-in-meaningand meaning-in-powerthat cannot be encompassed by In universaldefinitionsof "Chineseness. with a prioricategories about who they are supposed to be as persons and how they should relate to others in the group. identity is rarelya question of who one is as an individual. This imagined communion with autonomous others is assumed and easily explains the attention culturaldiscourses devote to shared values and common lifestyles. however. Discourses of identity produced by the state or culturalmainstream always make claims about the nature of identity as though they are based on naturalfacts. people in Taiwan have recently discovered that they are Taiwanese and not just Chinese. then.
the silent others. "GowithYourFeelings:Hong and TaiwanPopularCulturein GreaterChina. an act of political decentering but. Hong Kong. Variations and Reservations.Chun/ FuckChineseness 127 struggles for power and meaning. and China. Singapore'sterm for Mandarin. Kim CornellUniversity of (Ithaca: Press.37 a comparative perspective. LowellDittmerand Samuel S. and filmmedia on the mainlandmay serve as potentialgrounds forthe conwhich is." China'sQuest for NationalIdentity.National. a process of making concrete the reality of identities represented by a possible multiplicity of interests and positions. Multivocality brought about by empowering the marginal. not simply is. Given the a prioriembeddedness of discourse in the institutionsof legitimation. just as other movements to recognize the rightof native peoples everywhere to narrate represents an attempt to decolonize the authorityof the state and the scientific enterprise to speak on their behalf. See. Gold. one must question these constructions of Chineseness and locate their source in the practice of social groups and politicalinstitutions. 37. forexample.economic. I wish to suggest here that the reason why popular culture in Hong Kong. in hua-jenspeaking hua-yuj. incidentally. moral education in Taiwan. as 36. I would also add that such permission to narrate becomes effective only when accompanied by changes in the structureof power. and culturalfactors prompted by the transnational flow of capital and goods between Taiwan.and in ed.Harry "TheConceptof GreaterChina: Harding. more precisely. the phenomenon itself is a coalescence of many complex political. Empowermentthrough multivocality in this sense. and Kwangtung.however. The emergence of a "Greater China" is a noteworthy example wherein the broad dissemination of youth and informationcounterculture of followingthe liberalization the media has contributedto the erosion of the state's authorityto define culturaluniformity multiplying by points of resistance. 136 .36Needless to say. See Thomas B. 1993).fora comparison regionaland globalidentities in HongKong. 136 as well as LynnWhiteand Li Cheng. Global. Themes. ifto accent its purelyethnicnature.Taiwan. however. fora discussionof the concept. contrast to kuo-yQj (nationallanguage) in Taiwanand p'u-t'unghua (commonlanguage)on the mainland." ChinaQuarterly (1993):907-25." ChinaQuarterly (1993):660-86. The emerof challenging the traditional gence of Taiwanese nationalismcan be seen in this regard more accurately as a resistance to KMTChinese hegemony than as a sudden rediscovery of an indigenous consciousness. and the dispossessed represents one obvious avenue for directly authoritarianism culturaldiscourse. withinwhich the spread of transnationalChinese popularculture is only one In such commodity. "ChinaCoast Identities:Regional.
2.42Or. created a web of complex relationships. in the form of deterritorialization. as James in 38.for instance. Ulf Hannerz. Arjun Economy. 2 (1990):1-24. has noted that.on the bounded ideology of the modern nation and its perceived homogeneity of culturalidentity. in addition to the constant tension between cultural homogenization and cultural heterogenization intrinsicto globalization. LindaBasch. and not just because they happen to be sites for the colonially oppressed. 42. and Taiwan. mediascapes." Theory.culture. and ideoscapes. finanscapes. capital. as unstable points of identification or suture.40 while Ulf Hannerz has noted that the same globalizing trends have contributedelsewhere to the increasing demise of the modern nation-state. Nations Unbound: Nation-States Transnational Projects. homogeneous societies. Nina Glick Schiller. there have been significantdisjuncturesbetween ethnoscapes.1994). and ideologies withinthe late capitalist cultural economy has."TheWithering Awayof the Nation:An Afterword. in effect.they are usually routinized withthe fullforce of dissemination throughthe media. have emphasized the disruptiveconsequences of mass migrations.1990). the dynamism of an unregulated market is perhaps a direct threat to the abilityof monolithic regimes to maintaintotalizing. In a decentered global culturaleconomy. globalization has brought about radical changes in how we perceive boundaries of community and place in ways that have profoundlyaffected the politics and semiotics of self. Stuart Hall. technoscapes. ArjunAppadurai. technology. (1993): in and Diaspora. See AllenChun. Public in and 39.39 The flow of people. changing ethnoscapes.Hong Kongand Singapore. 225."Discoursesof Identity the ChangingSpaces of PublicCulturein Culture Society 13.DifferIdentity and Lawrence Wishart. 40.38 In other words. ence. Rutherford (London: ." "Disjuncture Difference the GlobalCultural Appadurai. Different societies are thus characterized by different sorts of flows and disjunctures. education. and power ratherthan grounded in the recovery of a past. and diasporic identification. cultural discourses and identities are not simply written. PostcolonialPredicamentsand Deterritorialized Gordonand Breach. and other public domains. 1 (1996):51-75. Culture no. no.and CristinaSzanton Blanc. In recent years. 3-4 41." 377-91. ed. J.41 Stuart Hall emphasizes quite rightlythat cultural identity is less a matter of "being"than of "becoming"and that.2 128 boundary / Summer 1996 struction of alternative identities has to do mostly with their traditionalrole in the state's dissemination of culturaldiscourse. LindaBasch et al." IdentityCommunity. no. they are subject to the continuous play of history. (Amsterdam: Ethnos58. images."Cultural Culture.
acts of relationshiprather than pre-given forms: this traditionis a network of partiallyconnected histories. PaulE. no." of Ethos22.Thomas A. as well as an acceptance of disempowerment. to borrowAkhilGupta's terms. 44.in his study of Taiwanese youth counterculture. James Clifford. . I argue that if ethnic identities and cultural discourses are all constructions anyway.it is equally importantin my opinionto ask what all these positionings really mean. "TheSong of the NonalignedWorld: Transnational Identitiesand the of Cultural Reinscription Space in LateCapitalism. under other globalizing contexts.and culturalsyncretism. 47. a persistently displaced and reinvented time/space of crossings. 1 (1994):83-119.44 While it is clear that these multipleidentities and other reinscriptions of postcolonial space.Learningto Labor (Westhead:Saxon House. "Onthe Edge of Empires:FlexibleCitizenship among Chinese in DiasPositions1.46 Similarly. AihwaOng." 7."TheSemioticMediation Identity. constitute positionings in an ongoing politics of identity. 1 (1992):63-79." Anthropology no. in the long run. pan-nationalfundamentalism.47 The notion of identityor subjectivityas positionalityand interpretation has importantramificationsfor how one understands the arbitrariness and function of culturaldiscourses.45 Just as multivocality itself by does not insure the deconstruction of culturalhegemonies (in the absence of deinstitutionalizationof those cultural forms). one should not assume that all instances of decentering constitute active moments in a contest of power. pora. why bother to ask how true they reallyare? A historicalview of things easily shows that nationalidentity coded in terms of "Chineseness" was created in the span of a few decades and can be shown. Willis'sclassic study of "ear'oles"and "lads"in the making of working-class culture can be read in this regard as an attempt to create an identity of resistance.such as the new class of "astronauts"in Hong Kong. Anthropology no.Chun/ FuckChineseness 129 Clifford not phrases it. Shaw has found it more appropriateto view identities of resistance as a process of semiotic mediation in the construction of separate local moralworlds ratherthan just a political contest. identities. 3 (1993):745-78. the evolutionof multipleidentities. 46. 1977). AkhilGupta. where they continue to conduct business as usual. Cultural 9. "Diasporas." 45. ThomasA. no."43 Especially against the background of transnational interventions and new cosmopolitanisms. The notion of a cul43. who shuttle from their naturalizedhavens in Canada and Australiaback to Hong Kong. in the imagination of an alternative life-world. 3 (1994):321. to be ephemeral. Paul E. has led to a resurgence of ethnic nationalism. "identifications. is just one of many possible examples of decolonizing that. Shaw. Willis.
the widening diversitythat characterizes the disposition of "Chinese" overseas. Inquiry no. one cannot have it both ways. Indeed.260. The semantic arbitrarinessof culturesuggests. it is largely due to the syncretic nature of Hong Kong culture cultivated in this period and an indifference to the politics of identity that Hong Kong's imminent returnto China followingthe Sino-British Declaration of 1984 has caused another crisis of identity. Hong Kong identity was a similar postwar invention. 4 (1990). most of whom are ethnic Taiwanese. Multivocality been suppressed by the fictiveauthorityof culture.49 The 48.then it maynot onlybe thoughtof as praxisbutit is praxis" (756). whose realityor attempted legitimationcannot be separated from its relationship to existing political institutionsand This is a line that effectively divides EdwardW. nor would it be easy to translate the various notions of boundedness invokedby them. in Harvard of 49. . as well as the changing international division of labor that has seen the inflow of Chinese professionals back from overseas and the outflow of "astronauts"seeking permanent residence elsewhere.2 130 boundary / Summer 1996 turallybased national identity in Taiwan is mostly a postwar creation. howassumes the potentialrealityof identitiesthat have simply ever."I would argue that the very nature of identityas a selective process in the mind of individualsubject-actors grounded in local contexts of power and meaning makes the possibilityof "Chinese"identifyingwith a common discourse a hopelessly impossible task. has made the notion of hua-ch'iao anachronistic and rendered traditionaldualisms between East and West meaningless.48 Michel Foucault. moreover.The consequences of each are quite different.while polysemy assumes a constant fiction of identities.1978) that Said differsfromFoucaultby suggesting that there is a real Orient to that is distortedand that is denied the authority speak. and. James Clifford. Contraryto Tu'sneo-essentialist idealism of "cultural China. in my opinion.in "Presenceand Representation: Otherand Anthropological has Critical 16. ThePredicament Culture Press. the rootedness of "culture" local contexts of power and meaning its diversityof expression in a comparative perspecthat have given rise to tive suggests that these metaphors are not easily transportablefrom one location to another. (NewYork: pointsout in his discussionof Edward Said's Orientalism 1988). University (Cambridge: W. and despite recognition of the oppression of authoritarianrule. the illusion of Chineseness forcibly inculcated in these brief decades is still deeply ingrained in the minds of the people. Johannes Fabian. makes a similarpoint:"Ifrepresentation to Writing.Likewise. Inthis to regard.that it may be just as easy to invent discursive imaginations as to create a multiplicity of identity-positions. rightly Pantheon. Said from social groups." do above all withpower.
was pushed five months back to facilitate Melbourne.it is possible to show how notions of "Chineseness" have changed throughout history as reflections from a sinocentric core to the evolution of the nation-state.there is much reason to believe that these communities represent differentdiscursive universes precisely because they are grounded in locally specific contexts of meaning and power. internalas well as external. In this regard. In my opinion. the notion of "Chineseness" suffers less from its intrinsic"absence" (as though denied by an Orientalist authority)than from the presence of too many discourses. it is a much hardertask to uncover what these indigenous voices are or reallyshould be. How are these identities constituted. there is much to learn from their se50. Identities. one may then ask. The usage of ethnicity as a marker of culture. albeit within the narrow context of "Chineseness."Ethnicities. appears to represent a problem of a differentorder. A recent international held conference. Having successfully decolonized these silent voices of the oppressed. who are "we"and how do we "identify"? While it is easy for one to dichotomize East and West in orderto empower and authorize indigenous voices. on the other hand." in 1994 at La TrobeUniversity. and on How does one invokethe the basis of what do they attributetheir "reality"? "real"consciousness of ethnic realities that are the imaginative creations and deliberate distortions of local. and these notions contrast with the way they may be conceived by differentcommunities of Chinese as a functionof their geographical removal (Hong Kong." The recent discovery by anthropologists that many societies do not have a bounded notion of themselves as ethnic "groups"practicing "discrete"customs-hence that the very concept of ethnicity may be "Orientalist" nature-was enough in to incite a minor revolutionin the field. At the level of discourse (ethnicityas culture). Nationalities. First. overseas) or sociopolitical disposition (class. Said's participation keynotespeaker. gender).Chun/ FuckChineseness 131 So.50Moreinteresting.perhaps. which in turn serves as a marker of identity. Who Are "We"? Said's publicationssince Orientalismhave influenced tremendously the course of culturalstudies in recent decades. than Said's overcharge that Western scholars had exoticized the Orientas an object of gazing is his assumption that there is a "real"Orient whose identityhad been distorted by virtue of its having been denied the authority to speak. Although not totally immune from ambiguities of this kind. as .is a highly problematicone that has consistently been challenged in this paper. China. Australia. institutionalnexuses of power? Lastly.He nevercame.
perhaps more interesting than knowingthat people have identities is the problem of why people have crises of perception that give rise to new identities. IndigenousCantonese tend as to indiscriminately "Shanghainese.That is to say. increasinglyalienating those older refugees firmlytied to a previous homeland. one should also ask when and why identityis invoked. The contrasting direction of culturaldiscourse in contemporary Taiwan and Hong Kong is in a clear illustrationof how ethnic "reality" itself serves as an inaccurate for understandingidentity. a number of differentfactors contributingto its liminalstatus vis-a-vis the two Chinas can be seen as renderingthe kind The of ethnic dualism found in Taiwanless meaningful. Instead of simply asking how identityis constituted. is he/she reallyspeaking as a Hong Konger. In other words.Inobjective terms.an exiled sojourneryearning for home. This is not to say that ethnic categories do not exist.insofaras they can criticallyreflect back on the authorityof a hegemonic center.2 132 boundary / Summer 1996 mantic diversity. the problem of uncovering real indigenous voices inevitablyposes questions about the role of academics in this entire enterprise. At the level of identity (culture as pragmaticchoice).the semantic nature of ethnicityis probablyless importantthan the recognitionof speech contexts wherein ethnicitycan be seen as a relevantvariableamong many possible constituents of identity.and hostility along ethnic lines has been a staple feature of social relations. following the Sino-BritishDeclarationof 1984. however. but that also tended to divide culturalsentiment along generational lines. regardless of regional origin.a Chinese man/woman.an alienated laborer. the postwar population gauge of both Taiwanand Hong Kong is made up of roughlythe same percentage of mainlanders to resident locals. In the final analysis. In Hong Kong. however. The recent emergence of a Taiwanese consciousness that sees itself as a resistance to Chinese culturalhegemony can be seen as a direct consequence of a cluster of discursive spaces that has served to reifysuch dualistic conceptions.51 postwar construction of a Hong Kong consciousness was one that effectively incorporated all ethnic Chinese there. InTaiwan. the uses to which ethnicity is put to engender a conscious sense of community invoke a ratherdifferentnotion of politics. Ironically. local sentiments of "place"have most recently given way to a new imagination of "Chineseness" in a way that contrasts sharply with developments in Taiwan. The polarization invoked both by subaltern studies 51." typically referto all northerners .this dualism is clearly marked by the terms pen-sheng (indigenous) and wai-sheng (outsider). or just a member of the human race? Inthis regard. however.
their role may be quite different. develop native models forthe social. through the productionof knowledge. 10 (Nankang: AcademiaSinica. She-hui chi hsing-weik'e-hsijehyen-chiu te chungkuo hua (The sinicizationof the social and behavioral of sciences). in particular. and psychologists. Institute Ethnology Series B.the use of social scientific models to explain Chinese culturalconcepts." Moreover. but within these circles. of and Pao-taopien-yfian1 (1991): 103-25. and the synthesis of Chinese and Western experience to assess diverse phenomena such as modernization and globalization. has galvanized "identities"to such an extent that all writing invariablybegins in the first person. it was rather difficultto recognize a definite thematic 52.to speak on their own behalf is as much a function of the way academia at the metropole has relegated to them a "local"role as the way native academia is embedded in the discourse of local society and politics. their label as "Chinese"intellectuals becomes replaced by "postmodern. See Fu Ta-wei. volume of essays dealing with this subject is Yang Kuo-shuand Wen Ch'ung-i.52Theoretically..eds. it is easy to assume that such local experts are representatives of their respective academic circles. and most influential. contrary to the way cultural discourse may be construed at the popular level.sociologists.pien-ts'ueicheng-ts'e yQ 'chung-kuo k'e-hsieh chung-kuo te hua't'i-fa ssu-hsiangshihyen-chiu" marconstruction. fora criticalreviewof the literature.the various approaches invoked covered a wide range of interests. and behavioral study of Chinese society. culto tural. then.Chun/ FuckChineseness 133 and post-Orientaliststudies. such local intellectual contestation most usually revolves around ideological issues that have littleto do with the authenticity of indigenous voices." simply "radior cal. sparkingefforts by anthropologists. One may ask."Li-shih Monograph hua': tui t'ai-wan'hsing-weichi she-hui chien-kou.Needless to say. (Historical An historical the ginal practicesand "sinicization": intellectual analysis regarding idea of "sinicization the behavioral social sciences" inTaiwan). at what point do native academics cease to become "local"within the ongoing dialectics of local and global? Inan "international" context. The first. . A curious consequence of asking who speaks for Indianpasts and indigenous cultures. InTaiwanand Hong Kong. no. is that the role of native vis-a-vis metropolitan academics (or is it scholars of differentethnicities?) becomes even more pronounced. from the use of indigenous concepts to study Chinese society and history.a movement to sinicize the social sciences began in the early eighties. But do native academics really speak on behalf of natives? I suggest that the ability of natives and of native scholars. 1982). in particular. also. albeit from differentdirections. Given the random melange of disciplines and interests.
in parcontinuedto cultivateinterestin nativeconcepts of behaviorby organizingreguticular. which represents a loose code word for counterhegemonic discourse of various sorts. 53.That is to say. Marx'sfamous dictum that "men make history." . and resistance in themselves mean little. the movement drew popularappeal from the broader reading public. more important than the notion of multiple identities. This does not mean. there was very littlecriticalreflection on basic concepts in one's own discipline.but not of their own free will"is equally applicable to culture. what kinds of contexts demand that one speak from laterbecame replacedby the term indigenization. Yet. Multiplying points of resistance to dominant ideologies represents only a point of departure for meaningfulconstitutionof those identities and is not the productof identifyingalone. diaspora. imagined communities. I have begun to extol the virtues of being Peranakan. In short. despite claims of "identity" the contrary. What appears at the global level to be a contest of identities inevitablybecomes transformedat the local level into a contest of meaning that pits the desirabilityof one set of values over another. Only by demystifying (not just decolonizing) the authorityof interests that have deemed it necessary to define culture in a particularway and to make people identify with prevailingcommunities would one then be free to choose. more criticalscholars of various persuasions refused to acknowledge any of it as being indigenous to or postcolonial. most of whom were major figures in mainstream academia. Although the participants in this movement. Itwas probablyfor this reason that later. either as science or as cultural construct. believed that the very idea of sinicizing the social sciences was promptedprimarily the aim of reassessing the applicability by of Western models to Chinese society and by the possibilityof discovering similarindigenous scientific concepts. in my opinion. decolonization. Sinicization Psychologists. On the basis of this experience. is the need to articulatethe various contexts (of speech or practice) wherein facets of identity(such as ethnicity)are deemed to be relevant."53 Nonetheless. however. of lar seminars on such themes and by establishinga journalon "the indigenization psychology. in light of the prevailingatmosphere and nature of culturaldiscourse.2 134 boundary / Summer 1996 orientation except for a common interest in "sinicization. making the idea of multipleidentities a meaningful reality. Effectivedecentering of authoritytakes place only when one operates within given frameworks of meaning to create the possibility of new. that one is free to invent culture as one pleases.
e. to distinguish oneself in terms of presumed cultural origins. one has also been led to believe that postcolonial theory had finally liberated the multipleidentities in us all. Indeed. ethnicityis simply . leaves open the possibility that there may be instances in which ethnicity is totally irrelevantor in which there is no necessity to identify. Its emergence in intellectual and political discourse is less a sudden prise de conscience than the consequence of subtle sociological changes that have given rise to crises of perception.it entails a relationshipwith a given communityof people whose existence is meaningful only in relationto similar bounded communities. in consideration of intellectual orientation. what causes people to identify in the first instance is the way in which the context of practice is framed. in this regard. be cases in which one wishes is simply to be taken for what one "really" (i. in which the ethnic factor is deemed irrelevant). it might be possible for one to identify as Cantonese.the need to recognize multiple identities is. Finally. Identificationwith the first may be relevant in consideration of personal lifestyle. Ifthe power of identity is such that it can invent its own traditions.as well as cases in which an explicit claim of identityis not deemed necessary (in which case. Chinese. why identifyif the act of identificationimplies boundedness to a given community? The recognition of multiplecontexts of speech is not itself the same as speaking on the basis of multipleidentities.and what contexts do not? The question of relevance. in consideration of politicalinterest. In essence. simply as a person.and the third.there will. In no case is facticity a relevant issue.only to be subjected to temporary erasure by the imagined homogeneity of the nation-state. Similarly. in the first instance. Moreover. depending on whether the frame of reference is meant to accent feelings of intimacyamong a small circle of kinsmen. Thus. or to mark one's solidarity in contrast with non-Asians. In other words. the second.Chun/ FuckChineseness 135 a position of identity. the substance of any particular identity matters less than the problematic nature of identity as a conceptual entity.. To Identifyor Not to Identify Just as one has been led to believe that multiculturalism been has invented by the advent of postmodern theory. the recognition of an empire of mind that subordinates and negates difference.then it is less a matter of content than of form. or Asian. whereby certain strategic choices are seen as relevant or desirable. Identification is problematic. Most human societies fromtime immemorialhave been multicultural or multiethnic. no doubt.
Although identity is not exclusively a national concept. spelling out what might be shared assumptions about Hawaiianess. The notion of multiple identities.as it has evolved from the past. while serving to decenter the authority of cultural hegemony does not in itself destroy the boundedness of identityand.54 content. as subjects. identifywith culture.to qualifyas a bona fide native? While the anthropologistcan continue to remain aloof by his refusal to "identify. he fails to define precisely who has the rightto identifyor stipulate to what extent this rightto identifyentails the assumption of authenticity in culture. may even heighten it by making resistance inherentlypolitical. But what justifies the existence of character of nationalistidentityitself? these categories. if not the arbitrary and Construction NativeNationalism: 54. even if one's identification to "identify" vulgar and most fetishized attributes. at the same time. While Tobin rightlycontextualizes constructionist discourse in relationto an earlier anthropologicalromanticism and criticizes the lack of empathy that enables the anthropologist to be aloof. no. mask an even deeper irreconcilabledifference in the way natives and anthropologists.In effect. 'we.2 136 boundary / Summer 1996 seen as matter-of-fact).as objects of both appropriationand discourse. While it is easy to facetiously distance the anthropologist with Tonto-likeclaims of "whatdo you mean.one mightask equally facetiously. 1 (1994):111-33. however."Cultural Reportfromthe Hawai2 ian Front. thus immunefromthe colonial situationthat gives rise to the politicsof resistance. JeffreyTobin. is it enough simply to empathize? Is it acceptable for anyone who claims with culture is with its with the land." the native's obligationto empathize likewise reinforces the boundaries that continue to separate the self from others. has already undergone considerable change and reconstitution. identificationis a function both of how the context is defined and of how one might perceive the strategic nature of available choices." boundary 21. the heated rhetoricsurroundingcurrentdebates regardingthe politics of identityhave largely been prompted by assumptions of boundedness and totality intrinsic to the nation-state.'white man?"it seems equally to difficult justifywithsemantic preciseness who exactly qualifies as a native without. . Especially in lightof an admittedlymulticultural society in which ethnic Hawaiians now constitute a small minorityand in which indigenous tradition.The dualism dividingethnic nationalists and culturalconstructionists neatly mapped out by JeffreyTobinclearly shows certain irreconcilabledifferences concerning the interpretation auof The factual debates over thenticity in the content of traditionalculture. in some cases.
their "identity" predicated on the assumed real existence of such discourse ratherthan on any a priori discussion of what distinguishes indigenous truth from Orientalistfictions (in this regard. 343. ArifDirlik. there is no reason to believe that the same globalizing forces in one context could not lead to a hardening of existing boundaries. some argue. Aura." . The global order that has contributedto the constitutionand reconstitution of local identity is not unlike the "imperialcontest" that aspires to link the project of postcolonial theorists in the metropole to the emergence of postcolonial identity among the silent others. "ThePostcolonial 56. is perhaps an inaccurate term to cover the diversity of intellectualpositions in any indigenous context. remains inadequately is defined. Like Tobin. Dirlikcriticizes postcolonialists in the metropole by attributingtheir tendency to resort to aesthetic phraseology in theoretical discourse as a sign of their aloof removalfrom the context of power relationships that prompteda sociology of power in the first place. Any resultant identity is really the consequence of deeper processes of a sociological nature than of identificationitself. contribute inevitably to the overall demise of the modern nationstate. forthe most part. culturalconstructionism represents an attempt to show that politics (rather than knowledge itself) is the prime condition for the production of knowledge). it is clear that ethnic nationalismis only one of many possible forms of postcolonial identityand that. As Arif Dirlikhas it rightlypointed out. while in another context lead to their very dissolution. is participationin postcolonial discourse that characterizes one as a postcolonial intellectual ratherthan the content of postcolonial discourse itself. no matter how unambiguous it may seem or how well grounded it may be in relationto factual authenticity.55Perhaps like native nationalists.however. Withinsuch a context.and diasporic identification--thatwill. "ThePostcolonial Third Aura: World in Criticism the Age of GlobalCapital20 ism.Chun/ FuckChineseness 137 The phenomenon of globalizationin the late capitalist culturaleconomy has created a web of complex relationships that has introducedfundamental disruptivechanges in the fabricof society--in the form of deterritorialization.mass migrations. The distancing that "native" thirdworld evolving from a "colonial" intellectuals feel vis-a-vis "diasporic" comrades in the metropole is a case 55. Dirlik.56 The term postcolonial (as defined by identity). given the diversityof local discourse and institutionalregimes. ironically. which."Critical Inquiry (1994):332. not to mention those contexts not strictlycharacterizable as situation.
pan-nationalfundamentalism. while postcoloniality appears to privilege the local by inIronically.all of which impingeon notions of identity. cult fanaticism.Is Chineseness important?How can one not give a fuck? . What needs urgent clarification.and culturalcreolization.2 1996 138 boundary / Summer in point. with its intrinsicconcern with homogenization and heterogeneity. with the diverse ways in which the same threats from the "outside"are locally synthesized in order to produce reactions as varied as ethnic nationalism. I argue. the revival of Confucianism in modern East Asia is as much a product of resistance to Western imperialism(in terms of identity)as an appropriationor mimicking(in terms of native content) of a Western narrativeof modernization. cores and peripheries. there is. but even in an indigenous context. there are positions that crosscut a wide politicalspectrum. The sociology of power relationships that give rise to identities cannot be reduced to any one magical theory of postcoloniality. There tends to be relatively less concern. one which can be easily vision of the "world" translated into a series of knee-jerk reactions. To be sure. however. is the sociological context that produces a range of strategic choices as well as the pragmaticframework by which subject-actors make sense of a given situation of practice and rationalize their own interests in relation to it. Similarly. vokingthe realityof multipleidentitiesand make sacred indigenous truthsto counter Orientalistfictions.then. world system. reflects a ratherskewed from the center of things. or pushes and pulls.The poverty of the "postcolonial"is most evident when it is used in its most vulgar sense-as a statement of identityalone.supranationalism. because there are many colonialisms that are rooted in historically specific contexts. Both assume an ongoing linkage between ideology and practice ratherthan the inherent privileging of one over the other. a huge gap in our understandthat produces local cultural ing of the local historical-sociologicalframework The very language of postcolonialityinheritedfrom the modern discourse.a pragmatic frameworkcentered on the interpretation of culturalmeaning cannot be divorcedfroma preexisting networkof power relationships that influences the desirabilityof one choice over another. not all of which can be rightlycharacterized as postcolonial. each of which is cloaked in locally defined systems of meaning.
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