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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 ?
t'ang-hua simply means "Chinese. When Chinese wish to talk about themselves as a unified people belonging to a unifiedculture.1 one of being Han-ized (han-hua). the historical metaphor cannot be carried too far. Southern Chinese. natureas serves to emphasize its nonpolitical means "thelanguage of ethnic Chinese. and the ethnic minoritieswithinterritorial China are likewise set apart as being non-Han." if imperial which literally to stress its universality among citizens."has and existed since antiquity. in contrast. sity it to 2. given the speaker's intended usage. thus. which is itselfa substitutefor kuan-hua. "thecommonlanguage."thelanguageof officials" Republican as became p'u-t'ung times. 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)."which. When speakers refer to t'ang-shan. Nonetheless. See Steven Sage.they referto themselves as "people of the Han (dynasty)"(han-jen).Chinatown is called "street of the T'ang people" (tangjen chieh). well--that is to say. Inthe PRC. the authority of language can be understood not only as a function of a speaker's implicitinterpretationbut also as a purposive strategic act. is interesting note the evolutionof Chinese functionsof language in the nationalimagiterms.foran analysisof the cultural originsof the Hanempire. some of which are historicallyor regionally specific.2 The point of the matter is that terms are important. 1992). typicallythose from Fukien and Kwangtungwho constitute the vast majorityof "overseas Chinese" in places such as Southeast Asia.not only for what as they mean semantically but for what they mean pragmatically. suggest other kinds of associations. AncientSichuanand the Unification China(Albany: of New York Press. Chinese terms for China and Chinese.Mandarin called kuo-yj. kuo-yOj hua. Perhaps not coincidentally. The Chinese may State Univerof 1. . Moreover. does not sit well with Mandarinspeakers who claim to speak chung-wen." a mode of communication. "the nationallanguage.meanings change in spite of the fixed character of the words themselves.2 112 boundary / Summer 1996 centuate the unity of a civilizationbrought about by the Ch'in empire. As for standardcolloquialMandarin. however.the use of hua-yOj. In Taiwan. In Singapore. because it can referto any Chinese. on the other hand. the term chung-kuojen is commonly used nowato denote Chinese people who speak chung-kuo hua or some form of days Chinese language. as belonging to a Han culture The process of sinicization is that originated in the region of the Han River. it usually means the China of one's home village and not that of the imperialcourt. The term chung-kuo. for it reflectsthe changingpragmatic is nation. likewise. China's rendition of itself as "the middle kingdom."followingearly in usage.
ch'u(Taipei: Lien-ching that and pan shih-yehkung-ssu.1985). as well as the concurrent notion of Chineseness as hua-hsia.5 Until the mid-nineteenth century.Thus. Hu Hou-hs0an."Min-tsu yen-chiu2 (1984):36-43." Chung-hua 5.in "Lunwu-fangkuan-nienchi chung-kuoch'eng-weichih ch'i-yoan in (On the concept of wu-fangand originof the term 'middlekingdom').139-40. Ts'ai Hs(eh-hai."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).3If we. it was unnaturalfor Chinese to call other ethnic 3.Chun/ FuckChineseness 113 attributetheir ethnic unityto the Han. yijeh-k'an no.or periphery. 5. Priorto the Nationalist Revolution of 1911. 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). argues that although chung-kuowas a term coined by the Chou.there was no cognate notion in Chinese of society or nation as a politywhose boundary was synonymous with that of an ethnic group. Likewise. it originatedfrom chung-shangto denote the alliance of states that traced theircultural to foundations the Shang dynasty. Many terms were transplanted directly from Japanese. in origin. theirworld. the peoples consolidated by the Han empire were certainly not ethnically homogeneous. HsingI-t'ien ed. in "Wan-min min-tsute kou-ch'eng rung-ho(Backto the kuei-tsung: yO roots:The constitution amalgamation [Chinese]ethnicity). This explains the persistent imagination of an unbroken historical continuitydespite repeated barbarianinvasions. and practices-in short. See Han Chin-ch'un LiYi-fu. The implicit sinocentrismof this middlekingdomstemmed fromtheirown perceived situatedon the outside. different ethnic cultures. if not national.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.See of separationfromthe barbarians WangErh-min. 368. view China as an unambiguous politicalentity and Chineseness as a feature shared by ethnic Chinese on the basis of discrete traits and traditions. but. on the other hand. 4.1981). and the absorption of alien religions. foran extendeddiscussion. beliefs. in fact. maintains bothchung-kuo hua-hsiawere interchangeable. the rise and fall of dynasties.it is really because we are influenced by a homogeneous notion of culturethat is essentially modern. 8 (1985):2. predates the Chinese empire. "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)." Chung-kuo and of in wen-hua hsin lun(New perspectiveson Chinese culture)." Chia-ku hsjeh shang-shih lun-ts'ung(Shanghai:Shanghai Shu-tien.
" 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). homogeneous social space of the nation in ways that could not have existed in a hierarchical.and BenedictAnderson's (Oxford: in ImaginedCommunities: Reflectionson the Originsand Spread of Nationalism (Lonof don:Verso. criticizedthe traditionalChinese polity as being "a dish of loose sand" (i p'an san-sha). no. they conform to a new kind of boundedness in order to create bonds of horizontalsolidarity between equal. Ernest Gellner'sargumentconcerningthe novel role of culturein the nation-state. culture is not just imagined but authorized and institutionalized well. Wu. This is similarto what RichardG.in BasilBlackwell. Fox. Nationsand Nationalism focus. 2 (1991):162. by by such as those of Joseph Stalin. H. 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.6This association was meant to consolidate the diverse constellation of people within territorialChina into a single nation. autonomous individuals constitutive of the empty.8This point was reiteratedearly on hero and father of the Republic.on the ramifications a commoncolloquial language in the promotion of radically time-space notionsin an emergingnationalism. any notions of culture invoked in this regard. ethnicity.1983). calls "ideologiesof peoplehood. of Dae7. Discourse throughexplicitacts of writing as is one of the prime vehicles for conveying the imaginative nature of culin 6. have to be constructions by nature. to the purely institutional features of the nation-state). "TheConstruction Chinese and Non-ChineseIdentities. to 8. "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).or residence was never clearly defined.114 boundary / Summer 2 1996 groups by any name other than "barbarians. Accordingto P'eng Ying-min. no matter how faithfullythey are grounded in the past. the revolutionary famous phrase. Moreover.7 Thus. Since the very idea of (a national) identity is new. 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." dalus 120.9 Because it is constructed.cosmological past.who. . in a by Sun Yat-sen. in his introduction NationalIdeologiesand the Production NationalCultures(Washington: of American Association. 1983). Anthropological 1990)." 9.3. See DavidY." tsu yen-chiu2 (1985):9-12. for example. Chineseness in terms of material culture. especiallyrelevantin new are this regard. In the end.
such discoursesrarely emanatedirectly fromthe and peoplethemselvesbutare articulated the state. other by vested interests." TheFoucaultEffect: and in Studies in Governmentality.10 icons of patriotic fervorand otherthings. such as history. ColinGordon(Chicago:University ChicagoPress." The self-effacing characterof cultural discourse. of 11.transportation.in spite of its obviousauthorial is preciselywhatmakes identity nature. The factualsubstance of cultureis. are produced disseminated. makeseparations spheres. when in actuality is quitethe opposite. In the contextof the state. of State and Its Formsof Knowledge" of (paper presented at the WennerGren Conferenceentitled"Tensions Empire.as wellas sharedmythsenand coded as genres of knowledge. 1991). ideology." (as is Cultural discoursein this regardincludesnot nationality) constructed. . The GreatArch:EnglishState Formation Cultural Revolution Basil Blackwell. Spain.eduand The cation. trade. Inthe Chineseworld.such as finance.all of whomclaimnaturally speak on behalfof "society to as a whole. as they part or."TheAnthropology a Colonial S.12 need of the state to knowand document formsthe basis of its capacity govern. in the finalanalysis. appearto be a value-freeconstruct. onlysymbolsof national identity.howstatements to itself.and. behindthe message it is moreimportant knowwho is reallyspeaking. moreimportantly. licensethe legitiand frontiers.Chun Fuck / Chineseness115 turalconstructions.ethnicity. ed. and statisticsrelating the accountability its citizensin various domains. cultural discourseconstitutesan appropriate "spaceof disin MichelFoucault's how terms. Bernard Cohnhas arguedalso that putit. language 10.it is important understand how cultural a discourseserves to rationalize particular utopianvisionof the polity. to and. for understanding ethnicity persion. (Oxford: 1985).3." Mijas. agriculture.demography.55.less importantthanthe rhetorical formsit takes. how if finally. custom. Bernard Cohn. state neverstops talking. 12. Thatis to say.demarcate standardize and personalidentity.health. MichelFoucault. 5-12 May1988). they become systematizedand institutionalized."1 S.Thewillof knowledge to to the powerultimately provides state a basis on whichto defineand classify betweenpublic private and spaces.As Philip it and of noted. and howthey relateto otherdiscourses.Philip and as Corrigan DerekSayer. itinvolves authority statementsaboutsharedvalues the of embodiedin language."the the rise of the state brought aboutformsof knowledge that necessitated incessant documentation the genre of reports. in commisto of sions. intellectuals. in this regard.at all.the production disCorrigan DerekSayer have perceptively course is an integral of the state's exercisein legitimation. crime.and beliefs.investigations.industry. "Politics the Studyof Discourse.
" of not only in its conservativeattitudetowardthe preservation Chinese of also in its proprietary but ownership language.15 political history.such as those belonging the National of that or and objectsof (historical archaeological) antiquity were products is At Chinese identity the conthis civilization. and in essence. hua-hsiais.see Allen Chun.Pasadena.thought.hua-hsia to Specifically defense of a traditional thatcontrastswith past representsa metaphorical Within setting of a the of worldview. Australian wan. the extremeradicalism a communist modernworldsystem. in "Confucianism PostwarTaiwan. of China(ROC).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. Discipline Punish: power." narratives differin different The fact that cultural Chinese political of and contexts is a testamentto the possibility different interpretations reor uses of Chineseness."From and in est': EnglishState Formation Comparative Historical Perspective(An Argument (paper presented at the Symposiumon OrganizedSubjection)" ConcerningPolitically of Institute of Powerand Resistance.following insightsof Michel The Birthof the Prison(New York: Pantheon. on the whole.By invoking sense of Chineseness (hua)that is rooted of in the sharedcivilization the first(mythical) dynasty(hsia). officially Finally. Nationalist. the core of this traditional a cept of hua-hsia.by narrating ideology. legitimacy historical of inopposition the People'sRepublic China(PRC). by institutionalizing to 'TheBody Politic' 'TheNationalInterand 13. a code wordforbothpolitical destiny. The authorspointto the state as an explicit and the locus of regulatory Foucault.Culture's of to then makes all formsof knowledgethat contribute the construction toolswithin state'sregimeof "disinterested the potential hegemonic identity 13 domination.and civilization of treasures" whichincludeartifacts highculvarious"national (kuo-pao). to ture. "From in and Cultural to Nationalism Nationalizing: Imagination State Formation PostwarTai31 Journalof Chinese Affairs (1994):49-69.1987). See PhilipCorrigan DerekSayer. The Kuomintang (KMT)." Proceedings of the . 100.1977).2 1996 116 boundary / Summer link institutional to power macy of certainactivitiesover others. Calif.hua-hsiaserves to anchorTaiwaneseregional Republic as within Chinesenation-state a whole. California Cultureand Colonialism: Deployments Technology. and resistanceto Westernimperialism. hua-hsiabecomes an icon of cultural uniqueness termed in Taiwan. 14.. political of has." in 15. PalaceMuseum. classictexts.depicteditselfas the guardian "tragime on Taiwan This notionof guardianship been reflected has ditional Chinese culture. For a fullerdiscussion of these issues in postwarTaiwan. As Huang Ch(n-chieh.
The era of cultural renaissance. See TaiwanProvincial wen-huafu-hsingyon-tungshih nien Government.18Duringthe period leading up to.but with significantnuances. 1 (1989):67-90. for an officialrecordof activitiespertaining the cultural to renaissance movement(wen-huafu-hsing yijn-tung). to east and west. 16. and history. . relevance of abstract formulationsof identityto state formation and national survival as a whole. a reconstruction createdat the national Moreover. 1 (1995):1-30.thought." 9.and ethics in the practiceof everyday life. notes that the elevationof the GreatWallto 2.language.whichbegan in 1967to counterthe cultural revolution on the mainland. 2 (1992):218and 20. being a secondary concern. 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. and life routine. Arthur in Its Waldron. Foran of interpretation the constant metamorphosisof "Nationalist" ideology that involveda of sophisticated rewriting culture. it is difficultto distinguish the various dimensions of politicalorthodoxy. 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."17 On the mainland. "TheGreatWallMyth: Originsand Role in Modern Yale China.politicalcorrectness and ideoNationalScience Council. such as Sun Yat-senand LuHsOnused the GreatWallas patriotic rallying points. the CulturalRevolution.Cultural centers were created in each of some twenty-odd townto and of ships to organizeactivitiespertaining the dissemination protection localculture. when ethnic consciousness In is used to construct culturaldiscourses that in turn function as the basis for inculcatingnational identityin both thought and practice.the continual politicizationof culture reflects. namely ethnicity.it was a phenomenonusuallyassociated withthe excesses of despotic emperors. "AnOrientalOrientalism: The Paradoxof Tradition Modernity and in Nationalist and Taiwan. and culminatingin. 18. 17." Journalof Criticism no.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. see Allen Chun.16 the long run.all of which serve to engender "Chineseness. History Anthropology no. followedby a phase of cultural was reconstruction (wen-huachien-she). committeeforcultural was levelto deal withactivitiespertaining the finearts and otheraspects of expressiveor hauteculture. Confucianacademic discourse in postwarTaiwanwas fundamentally a search for cultural withfactualinvestigation identity. the status of de facto national Beforenationalists symbolinthe PRCwas a late invention. 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. whichwas the last of twelve areas of nationaldevelopmentcited by ChiangChing-kuo on 23 September1977.1978). no. more the importantly.social value.PartC: Humanities Social Sciences 2. has noted.
shows sis of ElementarySchool Textbooks. created particularproblems for reconciling notions of ethnicity in relation to national identity. 1981). RobertaMartin.19 subsequent periods. 1 (1990):1-13.the government adopted a Stalinist policy of multiculturalism.archaeology became an importanttool in China's search for its culturalroots and in politicallegitimacy as a nation. 20. "TheSocialization Children Chinaand on Taiwan: AnalyChinaQuarterly no.For the most part. 2 (1975):244-49. Fei Hsiao-t'ung.as ideologically in in a "Ethnic Identification China. ideological positions often vacillated between attempts to revive societal consciousness through metaphoricalappeals to An in of in 19. Contrary the textbooknarratives writteninto school children's tematically traditional Nationalist ethics have been used to legitimize ideologythrough way Confucian the metaphorsof a family-basedstate. would appear out of proportionin contrast to other modernizingcountries. In the broader intellectual debates over national identityduring the post-Cultural Revolutionera. See DavidY. familyto the greatergood of society." 62. China. the massive energy devoted to archivalizationof the past.especially in cases of historicallyknown minoritygroups that had been undergoing a long process of sinicization. H. New WorldPress.More than in the case of Taiwan.historyand ethnicitythus combined to produce (a national) identity in which they were. how differencesin politicalideology between the mainlandand Taiwanhave been systo and fables.20 The criteriaof traditionalpractices and material customs applied to distinguish ethnic groups. The Exampleof Bai in Yunnan." . however. in fact. nothing more than imagined constructions by the state to define the ethos of its own modernity. while at the same time made culturalobjectification a normativepractice in the state's institutionalroutine. 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.As in the case of Taiwan. Wu.2 118 boundary / Summer 1996 promptedwholesale rejections of traditional logical purification thought and In practices. "ChineseMinority Policyand the Meaningof Minority HumanOrganization no. as evidenced by the growth of government bureaus dealing with culturalartifacts and historicalresearch.21 In this regard. the People's Republichas opted to subordinate prescribed. The existence of ethnic minorities withinChina's national borders. ed." Toward People's Anthropology. on the other hand. with the Han ethnic majoritypositioned at the core of a familyof nations. 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. made the very notion of ethnic identitywithin a culturaltaxonomy problematic. however. 49. Fei Hsiao-t'ung (Bejing: Culture: 21. In fact.
. as "culture mania."China's and Intellectuals the Deng Era:Loss in of Identity withthe State. ed. Dittmer S.Fromthe rhetoric. 1993). the firstfrom 1977 to 1982.Chun/ FuckChineseness 119 roots and countercampaigns to ground nationalist senhistorical-cultural timent withinthe context of a renewed socialist humanism. whichwitnessed experiments a and the "culture fever"debates.evenand 1988. and Kim(Ithaca: CornellUniversity tranPress. Su Wei. 23."in China'sQuest forNationalIdentity. MerleGoldman.The authorsarguethatthis intellectual sition comprisedthree stages. S. GeremieBarme.By invokingChineseness. I believe that the modern nation-state offers a more useful pointof departurefor understandingthe nature of identityconstructions than prevailingnotions of cultureper se. translates wen-hua re. 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.largelythroughappeal to the voices of the colonized. Challenges to the authorityof culture.in "TheChinese VelvetPrison:Culture the 'NewAge.whichled directly by to the democracymovementof 1989 and its bloodysuppression." Social Sciences in China4 (1986): this 9-30. 8 (1989): 54-79. tuallyprompting campaignagainst spiritual pollution and the thirdprecipitated the documentary RiverElegy (he-shang). Inthis regard.PerryLink. and silent others." Culture and Modernization: Reviewof the General A WangHe's "Traditional Situation Cultural of Studies in Chinain RecentYears." in Issues and Studies 25.it would that culture's intrinsicsubstance has been less importantthan its appear extrinsic politicalrelevance. providesan overviewof the literature during period.' 1976-89.the second from1982to withChinesetradition Westernideologies. 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. are really reactions to the homogeneous threat of identity imposed by the nation22. no.22 The government's campaign against spiritualpollutionin the mid-1980s sparked intellectual debates over the nature of culture." 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). they have not only redefined it but also given it a new kindof boundedness. marginalized. L.usually referredto in the literature 23 as "culture fever. By criticizingthe backwardness of Chinese civilizationbased on the YellowRivervalley. instead. characterizedby a general of tendencytowardrestoration an earliergoldenera of socialism.
the colonial government took an active role in promoting economic growth in Hong Kong during the early postwar era. A majorconsequence of this change in social terms was the evolution of a class-based society." Emphasis politicalculture in quite relevantto the common perceptionof an innately"apathetic" Hong Kong. Consistent with its colonial status. not just for the sake of modernization itself. especially in the absence of direct political control by the state. . there was no notion of being Hong Kongers. the ROC. which had a profoundimpacton the rise of popular culture in Hong Kong in later decades. There was a strict separation between official culture. then. which is on the Grass Roots Level. which was a deliberate policy initiativeby the colonial government. As inhabitantsof a Britishcolony ceded by China in 1860. which was carried out in the medium of English. The border between Hong Kong and China was open. which was rooted in Chinese tradition. These cold initiallyinto a battlegroundfor contesting "national" war tensions eventually catalyzed Hong Kong'stransformationinto a freemarket port. no. A separate Hong Kong identitybegan to emerge only withthe widenriftbetween Nationalistand CommunistChina.especially duringthe 1970s. 5 (1975):422-39. The dualistic nature of Hong Kong'scolonial society was.Social intercourse was segregated along ethnic lines. a functionof the way in which the British demarcated the public and private spheres. and indigenous culture.24 In effect. there was no question as to the culturalidentity of its inhabitants.The rest was a matterof local custom and lifestyle. and there was littleto differentiateHong Kong from foreign enclaves in other treaty ports. See AmbroseKing's Absorption Politics HongKong: Asian Survey15. the productof its liminality vis-a-vis the PRC." The formationof culture in the postwar era was.which turned Hong Kong ing identities. the Britishadministered Hong Kong in accordance with Western judicialconventions. in several ways. in spite of its colonial status. most people just called themselves Chinese. and the government did littleto cultivate among the populace any sense of national affinityto Britain. Butto what extent do disenfranchised voices fromthe peripheryoffer alternativeconceptions of identityor of "Chineseness"? Hong Kong represents a distinctive variationon the theme of "Chineseness.120 boundary / Summer 2 1996 state. the predominantlyChinese populationof Hong Kong had no independent national identityto speak of. Yet. by deliberately in of discussionin "Administrative 24.towardwhichthe government adopted a policy of noninterference. and Western mainstreams.Before 1950.
"Discourseof Crisis and Stability: The Possibility/Impossibility of and Community Democracyin HongKong" (paperpresentedat the Conferenceon CulturalCriticism of 1992. Adorno. 27. which was financed by large capitalist interests. designed to minimizenationalistsentiment. 1992). Law Wing-sang.-9 Jan."The CultureIndustry.'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."BetweenColonizers: in in 2. The authorattributes government's the economic growththrough policyof promoting administrative of efficiencyand autocraticcontrolto a strategyor rhetoric "managerialcorporatism. 28. contributedto the rise of a distinctlyapoliticalHong Kongculture. Chinese University HongKong. (paper presented at the Conferenceon Cultural Kong. and the of "Comedy Mediation: Charting Cultural Mentality HongKong" Chinese University Hong of Criticism. 1992).29 Dec.HongKong. not unlike Max Horkheimerand Theodor Adorno's culture industry. 2 (1992):151-70.Chun/ FuckChineseness 121 steering Hong Kong away from ongoing nationalistconflicts that potentially destabilized the colonial regime. this atmosphere of utilitarian growth."Border Zones: The 'Injun-uity' Aesthetic Tricks. the politics of identity. McMaster. and tinuum.which seemed effortlessly to fuse East and West." of Cultural Studies 9.25 From 1967 to 1984. and indifferent to.26 produced the utilitarian artisticgenres such as kungfu movies and absurdist comedies all had roots in this self-propelled cultureindustry. Adorno(New York:Coned.see Rey Chow. was broughtabout by unrestrainedcapitalism's wholesale demystificationof those culturalbarriersfostered by an earlier"colonialism." The Dialecin tic of Enlightenment." 26. Fora different of perspectiveon the predicament colonialand postcolonialrepresentation HongKong.-9 Jan. no. Gerald R. ChanHoiman. 5. Max Horkheimer TheodorW. Hong Kong'sisolationfromthe nationalculture invokedon both sides of the straits allowed for a peculiarsense of Chineseness to emerge that radicallydifferedfromthe assumed synonymityof one 25. .which neatly reThe emergence of values of a free-marketsociety." In short. 1 (1995):74-90.27 promotionof utilitarianism ethos and The as life routinealso brokedown rigiddistinctionsbetween Chinese and Western culture.29 Dec. Hong Kong'shybridculture.Thus. HongKong'sPostcolonial Self-Writing the 1990s. McMaster would call a zone of "in-betweenness. Max Horkheimer and TheodorW.which was insulatedfrom.1972).One obvious consequence of this development was the advent of a media-oriented popularculture. even to the point of politicalindifference."Diaspora no.HongKong. the emergence of postwar Hong Kong "culture" was the product of what Gerald R.
. represents an alternative to a sinocentric view of things.Its very "Chineseness" underlines the semantic arbitrarinessof national "culture. it does not detract fromthe fact that there have always been Chinese living overseas in premodern times who have had particularnotions of theirChineseness. Chinese tended to form regional communities. each speaking mutually unrelated dialects. as well as a familiarity toms. bounded groups but also because most Chinese who lived abroad.Wangremarks University a concept of identity. or what has been usually referredto in the literatureas overseas Chinese. 1. The best examples of this come from the generations of Chinese traders in Southeast Asia. a strategic consideration based on occupational and political necessity that did not involvesacrificingtheir own sense of identity. In all other regards. with some majorexceptions. only a concept of Chineseness. Wang Gungwu.one people. And even though the term itself is modern.Success in one's occupation and in the exigencies of everyday social intercourse demanded fluency with native cusin several dialects and languages. except in contrast to non-Chinese. Strictly speaking.there was little need for a concept of overseas Chinese. strictlyspeaking. Their degree of contact with other Chinese and non-Chinese was. such as t'ang-jen."TheStudy of Chinese Identitiesin Southeast Asia.and one polity cultivated elsewhere by rejectingany intrinsicrelationshipbetween ethnicityand nationality. are essentially identifyingthemselves as ethnic Chinese who reside abroad. one civilization. were sojourners who had intentions of eventually returningto China." The Chinese diaspora. this term has nothing to do with one's nationality and does not conflict with the usual terms for Chinese.122 boundary / Summer 2 1996 family. Chinese abroad who use this term to characterize themselves. there was probablylittleelse to unite them as Chinese.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. of being Chinese and of becoming felt un-Chinese.29 Before the twentiethcentury. but it is necessary to understandhow ethnicityhas been constituted and deployed as identity. usually in speaking to homeland Chinese or foreigners. their role as com29. not just because there was no concept of Chinese nationhood to galvanize ethnicity into marked. invoked to show one's sentimental attachment to a homeland."in Changing Attitudesof the Southeast Asian Chinese Since WorldWarII(Hong Kong:Hong Kong that "theChinese have neverhad Press. 1988)." Chineseness here refersto the attachmentthat individuals to theirown fromthe identity belongingto a groupby of ethnichomelandand shouldbe distinguished sharinga commonhistoryor tradition. Especially in colonial times. Forexample. Despite their obvious attachment to a Chinese homeland.
no.The Peranakan Chinese of Malaysiaand Indonesia are an example. regardless of how deeply they were actually assimilated into indigenous society.in fact.30In short. and have adopted many aspects Malay. he is reallytalkingabout "identity. "Structure Change: Cultural and Identityof the Baba of Melaka. Tan Chee-beng. G.were able skills of Chito maintainChinese culturaltraits. Tan "identify" Chee-beng argues that although the Baba speak a Creolized version of with the natives. by way of contrast. William Skinner's concern withchange and persistence in Chinese culturein Southeast Asia. At face value.in "Among Daedalus120. that most of these merchantsand entrepreneurs. quite correctly.32 think there is much to justifyagreeing with the Peranakans that they are essentiallyChinese as long as we can reject our modern. "for being Chinese had nothingto do withbecomingcloser to China. .Land-en Volkenkunde no. 2-3 (1988):297-314. in the form of increased immigration duringthe nineteenth century. essentially nationalistic 30.Chun/ FuckChineseness 123 pradorstended to enhance theirseparateness as an ethnic community.and those who benefited from continued interactionwith people from China. WangGungwu.have intermarried of local custom." whereinassimilationreflectsa willingnessby Chinese to shed theirsense of difference." 139. and persistence of Chinese identityis a productof a rigidsystem of social stratification that perpetuatesethnicseparation. such as the Indiansand Arabs. of people who are heavily indigenized in terms of ethnic lifestyle but still themselves as Chinese. 32.Itwas a privateand domestic matteronly manifestedwhen needed to strengthena business contactorto followan approved public convention. deals with actual beliefs and practices. the multicultural nese in this context served a functional role that was no differentfrom that of other foreign traders.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. On the other hand. they still identifythemselves as Chinese and as practicing I heterodox customs that are essentially Chinese in culturaloutlook. The sojourningnature of the Chinese in premodern times is an extreme example wherein Chineseness represents both ethnicity and identity. 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. pointsout. 2 (1991): Non-Chinese." tot 144."Journalof the South Seas Society 16 (1960):86100. Bijdragen de Taal-. in "Changeand Persistence in Chinese CultureOverseas: A Comparisonof Thailandand Java." 31. In his study of the Baba of Melaka.
the second covering overseas Chinese communities. a source of alienation. instead.and the thirdconsisting of intellectuals and professionals generally concerned with the Chinese world-in practice. dialect groups into a radically new "imagined community"reeducated in standard Mandarinand the orthodox teachings of Chinese civilization. this new sense of identity could be seen as an extension of a primordialChineseness. the question Tu ultimatelywishes to raise is not just whether it is possible to conceive of the periphery as displacing the center but." as prompted by the rise of Asia's four dragons and the success of Chinese abroad.33Nonetheless.no. For those whose culturallifestyles had become largely assimilated or syncretic in nature.124 boundary / Summer 2 1996 notions of identitybased on definitions of ethnicityauthorized by a cultural mainstream. . The experiences of the Chinese diaspora represent a wide spectrum 22. Tu appears. instead. an expansion of Chinese nationalism abroad that attempted to galvanize Chinese identityfrom what was once kin-centered.2 (1991): 33.For Chinese who had not severed ties with their homeland. invoking the banner of "culturalChina." 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. and Singapore. then. Being Chinese Today. such as mainland China. due to the efforts of Tu. TuWei-ming. to be advocating a kind of pan-national Islamic fundamentalism in the imagined community of exiled Chinese intellectuals. that might serve as models for a declining center. 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. more specifically. The transformationof Chinese overseas into "overseas Chinese" (hua-ch'iao) was. Taiwan. "Cultural China: Periphery 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. this new kindof identitywas. Hong Kong. a new kind of Chinese diaspora has appeared. it refers to a single universe whose common interest in China transcends national boundaries and discourses." The as Daedalus120. followed by the decline of the sinocentric core as a sphere of influence. In recent years."Tu Wei-ming notes that the term culturalChina was probablycoined in the past decade by concerned Chinese intellectuals who were writing in overseas journals. In contrast to the strategy of multipleidentities generally characteristic of Chinese overseas.
in many premodern societies. culturally. Clifford Geertz (Chicago: Aldine. not all of which has as its aim a reflection on "the changing meaning of being Chinese today.34 Cases such as the formerSoviet Union and Yugoslaviaappear to suggest the inevitability a of 34. however.1963). On the contrary.each is a local response to differenthistoricopoliticalcircumstances. Identity in the Politics and Semiotics of Self Despite the fact that ethnicity and culture are often used as metaphorical constructs for identity.to say the least. who in Chinese eyes.Chun/ FuckChineseness 125 of what may constitute possible reconstructions of Chineseness.that these experiences are mutually compatible. that one can hope to effectively decolonize the fiction of ethnicities authorized and institutionalizedby the center only by questioning. ed. such as China. more than just a corpus of traits made conscious by ethnicity or rhetoricallyinvoked by culturaldiscourse. Culture. 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. Minorities along China's frontierno doubt may have been ethnicallyautonomous."in Old Societies and New States. but. This is not to say. on the other hand.they belonged to a single sinocentric universe. by definition.have to. at least. Culture is generally considered to be a larger category of such traits and traditions that may include those of ethnic origin but does not.these three concepts are analyticallyquite distinct. on the other hand."While the diversityof "voices" from the periphery can contribute to the decentering of the essentialism and hegemony of culture. I would argue more strongly. the legitimacy of existing identities to bind people to prevailinginstitutions and groups. "came to be transformed"(lai-hua). "The Integrative tics in the New States. Clifford Revolution: Primordial Sentiments and CivilPoliGeertz. identity is essentially a tie that binds people to communities throughwebs of power and meaning. . but the choice of what traits and traditions should be included here are still problematic. The uneasy marriage between ethnic consciousness and nationalcultureindicativeof many countries today. Ethniccharacteristics can be described in terms of the beliefs and practices of everyday people. insofar as Chineseness has been traditionally shaped by the authorityof a sinocentric core. In other words. was a kind of imagined ideal that could transcend ethnic and politicalboundaries. at the same time.
or subjective. In premodern China. then. that need to be constantly legitimized. as well.therefore I am. Because we are dealing with perceptions. however. relationship: I identify. with a prioricategories about who they are supposed to be as persons and how they should relate to others in the group. There are even cases where notions of ethnic and national culture coexist.but always. Itis interesting note the increaseduse of hua among Chinese to denote a depolitito cized notionof Chineseness.individualsare dealing. of who we are as a group. while other Chinese overseas have discovered that they have multiple identities. 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. people in Hong Kong have discovered that they are Chinese and not Hongkongese. 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.if not insignificant.they are just claims. but I would argue that."35 order to deconstruct these local to 35. Identityis also less about the fact of who one is than about the perception of those facts. or representations. people in Taiwan have recently discovered that they are Taiwanese and not just Chinese. Thus. while cases such as Indonesia and Papua New Guinea tend to suggest otherwise. In contrast to both ethnicity and culture. we should emphasize.2 126 boundary / Summer 1996 synonymity between ethnicity and nationhood.despite appearances to the contrary. Chinese are increasingly referring themselves as . This imagined communion with autonomous others is assumed and easily explains the attention culturaldiscourses devote to shared values and common lifestyles. Thus. in the long run. that they are selective and strategic by nature. identityis essentially a pragmatic. Chinese in Singapore have discovered that Chineseness means speaking Mandarin(hua-yO) and practicing government-sanctioned customs. In the service of the modern nation-state. By choosing to identify. At the level of popular discourse. especially in matters of social and politicalsignificance.role in how Singaporean culture is defined. albeit in somewhat uncertain terms. in actuality. Discourses of identity produced by the state or culturalmainstream always make claims about the nature of identity as though they are based on naturalfacts. For example. in the first instance. identity is rarelya question of who one is as an individual. Each of these transformationsis rooted in local contexts of power-in-meaningand meaning-in-powerthat cannot be encompassed by In universaldefinitionsof "Chineseness. ethnicity plays a minor. when.
in hua-jenspeaking hua-yuj. 136 as well as LynnWhiteand Li Cheng.37 a comparative perspective. I would also add that such permission to narrate becomes effective only when accompanied by changes in the structureof power.fora comparison regionaland globalidentities in HongKong.National. Global.and in ed.Harry "TheConceptof GreaterChina: Harding.Taiwan." ChinaQuarterly (1993):660-86.however. Singapore'sterm for Mandarin. more precisely." ChinaQuarterly (1993):907-25. 136 ." China'sQuest for NationalIdentity. ifto accent its purelyethnicnature. an act of political decentering but. and culturalfactors prompted by the transnational flow of capital and goods between Taiwan. "GowithYourFeelings:Hong and TaiwanPopularCulturein GreaterChina. as 36. forexample.economic. 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. Multivocality brought about by empowering the marginal.Chun/ FuckChineseness 127 struggles for power and meaning. and China. Gold.36Needless to say. however. moral education in Taiwan. not simply is.the silent others. Kim CornellUniversity of (Ithaca: Press. Given the a prioriembeddedness of discourse in the institutionsof legitimation. and the dispossessed represents one obvious avenue for directly authoritarianism culturaldiscourse. 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. Themes. withinwhich the spread of transnationalChinese popularculture is only one In such commodity. 1993). I wish to suggest here that the reason why popular culture in Hong Kong. one must question these constructions of Chineseness and locate their source in the practice of social groups and politicalinstitutions. the phenomenon itself is a coalescence of many complex political. LowellDittmerand Samuel S. incidentally. and Kwangtung. 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. a process of making concrete the reality of identities represented by a possible multiplicity of interests and positions. contrast to kuo-yQj (nationallanguage) in Taiwanand p'u-t'unghua (commonlanguage)on the mainland. See. Variations and Reservations. Hong Kong. See Thomas B. fora discussionof the concept. and filmmedia on the mainlandmay serve as potentialgrounds forthe conwhich is. "ChinaCoast Identities:Regional. Empowermentthrough multivocality in this sense. 37.
(Amsterdam: Ethnos58. have emphasized the disruptiveconsequences of mass migrations. and other public domains. homogeneous societies. capital. in addition to the constant tension between cultural homogenization and cultural heterogenization intrinsicto globalization. and Taiwan. as unstable points of identification or suture. J.1990).culture. technology. Public in and 39. technoscapes. and power ratherthan grounded in the recovery of a past. ed. Rutherford (London: .DifferIdentity and Lawrence Wishart. 40. Nina Glick Schiller.on the bounded ideology of the modern nation and its perceived homogeneity of culturalidentity."Discoursesof Identity the ChangingSpaces of PublicCulturein Culture Society 13. Ulf Hannerz."TheWithering Awayof the Nation:An Afterword. Arjun Economy. they are subject to the continuous play of history.they are usually routinized withthe fullforce of dissemination throughthe media. in effect. education. as James in 38.Hong Kongand Singapore. images. ence. and ideologies withinthe late capitalist cultural economy has.2 128 boundary / Summer 1996 struction of alternative identities has to do mostly with their traditionalrole in the state's dissemination of culturaldiscourse.39 The flow of people. 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. the dynamism of an unregulated market is perhaps a direct threat to the abilityof monolithic regimes to maintaintotalizing. Nations Unbound: Nation-States Transnational Projects.for instance. and ideoscapes. 42. mediascapes. no.38 In other words. changing ethnoscapes. In a decentered global culturaleconomy. 2." 377-91. PostcolonialPredicamentsand Deterritorialized Gordonand Breach. LindaBasch et al. 3-4 41. Culture no. has noted that.and CristinaSzanton Blanc. finanscapes.41 Stuart Hall emphasizes quite rightlythat cultural identity is less a matter of "being"than of "becoming"and that."Cultural Culture. in the form of deterritorialization. ArjunAppadurai. LindaBasch. In recent years. Stuart Hall. cultural discourses and identities are not simply written. Different societies are thus characterized by different sorts of flows and disjunctures. 1 (1996):51-75." Theory. See AllenChun.42Or. 225. no. (1993): in and Diaspora.1994). 2 (1990):1-24.40 while Ulf Hannerz has noted that the same globalizing trends have contributedelsewhere to the increasing demise of the modern nation-state. and not just because they happen to be sites for the colonially oppressed." "Disjuncture Difference the GlobalCultural Appadurai. there have been significantdisjuncturesbetween ethnoscapes. and diasporic identification. created a web of complex relationships." IdentityCommunity.
Anthropology no. PaulE. AkhilGupta. "TheSong of the NonalignedWorld: Transnational Identitiesand the of Cultural Reinscription Space in LateCapitalism. 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."TheSemioticMediation Identity. a persistently displaced and reinvented time/space of crossings. under other globalizing contexts.46 Similarly. 1977). Paul E. to borrowAkhilGupta's terms." of Ethos22. identities. one should not assume that all instances of decentering constitute active moments in a contest of power. AihwaOng." Anthropology no.Learningto Labor (Westhead:Saxon House.44 While it is clear that these multipleidentities and other reinscriptions of postcolonial space."43 Especially against the background of transnational interventions and new cosmopolitanisms. pan-nationalfundamentalism. 3 (1994):321. James Clifford.45 Just as multivocality itself by does not insure the deconstruction of culturalhegemonies (in the absence of deinstitutionalizationof those cultural forms). 47. 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. who shuttle from their naturalizedhavens in Canada and Australiaback to Hong Kong. Willis. pora." 7. to be ephemeral. the evolutionof multipleidentities.in his study of Taiwanese youth counterculture. where they continue to conduct business as usual.it is equally importantin my opinionto ask what all these positionings really mean. 44." 45. I argue that if ethnic identities and cultural discourses are all constructions anyway. Cultural 9. in the long run. acts of relationshiprather than pre-given forms: this traditionis a network of partiallyconnected histories. no. Shaw. . constitute positionings in an ongoing politics of identity. 3 (1993):745-78. 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. as well as an acceptance of disempowerment. in the imagination of an alternative life-world. 1 (1992):63-79. "Diasporas. no.47 The notion of identityor subjectivityas positionalityand interpretation has importantramificationsfor how one understands the arbitrariness and function of culturaldiscourses.Chun/ FuckChineseness 129 Clifford not phrases it. 46.Thomas A. "identifications. The notion of a cul43. 1 (1994):83-119.and culturalsyncretism. is just one of many possible examples of decolonizing that.such as the new class of "astronauts"in Hong Kong. ThomasA. "Onthe Edge of Empires:FlexibleCitizenship among Chinese in DiasPositions1. has led to a resurgence of ethnic nationalism.
Inquiry no.49 The 48. howassumes the potentialrealityof identitiesthat have simply ever.260.that it may be just as easy to invent discursive imaginations as to create a multiplicity of identity-positions. (NewYork: pointsout in his discussionof Edward Said's Orientalism 1988). one cannot have it both ways.Likewise. whose realityor attempted legitimationcannot be separated from its relationship to existing political institutionsand This is a line that effectively divides EdwardW. has made the notion of hua-ch'iao anachronistic and rendered traditionaldualisms between East and West meaningless. The semantic arbitrarinessof culturesuggests. 4 (1990). and.2 130 boundary / Summer 1996 turallybased national identity in Taiwan is mostly a postwar creation. moreover. ThePredicament Culture Press. Indeed.1978) that Said differsfromFoucaultby suggesting that there is a real Orient to that is distortedand that is denied the authority speak.the widening diversitythat characterizes the disposition of "Chinese" overseas. Multivocality been suppressed by the fictiveauthorityof culture. and despite recognition of the oppression of authoritarianrule. 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.48 Michel Foucault.then it maynot onlybe thoughtof as praxisbutit is praxis" (756).The consequences of each are quite different. Johannes Fabian. James Clifford. 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. Said from social groups.in "Presenceand Representation: Otherand Anthropological has Critical 16. University (Cambridge: W." do above all withpower. makes a similarpoint:"Ifrepresentation to Writing. the illusion of Chineseness forcibly inculcated in these brief decades is still deeply ingrained in the minds of the people. 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. in my opinion. rightly Pantheon. Hong Kong identity was a similar postwar invention."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. Inthis to regard.while polysemy assumes a constant fiction of identities. . most of whom are ethnic Taiwanese. Contraryto Tu'sneo-essentialist idealism of "cultural China.
In this regard. Australia. appears to represent a problem of a differentorder. Having successfully decolonized these silent voices of the oppressed. institutionalnexuses of power? Lastly. overseas) or sociopolitical disposition (class. The usage of ethnicity as a marker of culture. was pushed five months back to facilitate Melbourne. there is much to learn from their se50." in 1994 at La TrobeUniversity. gender)."Ethnicities. one may then ask. on the other hand.perhaps. and these notions contrast with the way they may be conceived by differentcommunities of Chinese as a functionof their geographical removal (Hong Kong. Said's participation keynotespeaker. 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.50Moreinteresting. How are these identities constituted. which in turn serves as a marker of identity. as . 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. 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.He nevercame.Chun/ FuckChineseness 131 So. Identities. In my opinion." 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. Although not totally immune from ambiguities of this kind.is a highly problematicone that has consistently been challenged in this paper.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. albeit within the narrow context of "Chineseness. Who Are "We"? Said's publicationssince Orientalismhave influenced tremendously the course of culturalstudies in recent decades. Nationalities. A recent international held conference. First.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. 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. At the level of discourse (ethnicityas culture). internalas well as external. China.
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. 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.insofaras they can criticallyreflect back on the authorityof a hegemonic center. 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. At the level of identity (culture as pragmaticchoice). however.the semantic nature of ethnicityis probablyless importantthan the recognitionof speech contexts wherein ethnicitycan be seen as a relevantvariableamong many possible constituents of identity. or just a member of the human race? Inthis regard. one should also ask when and why identityis invoked. The polarization invoked both by subaltern studies 51.Inobjective terms. but that also tended to divide culturalsentiment along generational lines.an exiled sojourneryearning for home. 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." typically referto all northerners . In other words.51 postwar construction of a Hong Kong consciousness was one that effectively incorporated all ethnic Chinese there.a Chinese man/woman. regardless of regional origin. the uses to which ethnicity is put to engender a conscious sense of community invoke a ratherdifferentnotion of politics.That is to say.this dualism is clearly marked by the terms pen-sheng (indigenous) and wai-sheng (outsider). This is not to say that ethnic categories do not exist.and hostility along ethnic lines has been a staple feature of social relations. increasinglyalienating those older refugees firmlytied to a previous homeland.2 132 boundary / Summer 1996 mantic diversity. In Hong Kong. the postwar population gauge of both Taiwanand Hong Kong is made up of roughlythe same percentage of mainlanders to resident locals. InTaiwan. the problem of uncovering real indigenous voices inevitablyposes questions about the role of academics in this entire enterprise. Instead of simply asking how identityis constituted. is he/she reallyspeaking as a Hong Konger. however. 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. In the final analysis.an alienated laborer. however. following the Sino-BritishDeclarationof 1984. Ironically.
A curious consequence of asking who speaks for Indianpasts and indigenous cultures.Needless to say. has galvanized "identities"to such an extent that all writing invariablybegins in the first person.a movement to sinicize the social sciences began in the early eighties. . their role may be quite different. 10 (Nankang: AcademiaSinica. culto tural. (Historical An historical the ginal practicesand "sinicization": intellectual analysis regarding idea of "sinicization the behavioral social sciences" inTaiwan). it was rather difficultto recognize a definite thematic 52. contrary to the way cultural discourse may be construed at the popular level.the use of social scientific models to explain Chinese culturalconcepts. it is easy to assume that such local experts are representatives of their respective academic circles.Chun/ FuckChineseness 133 and post-Orientaliststudies. Given the random melange of disciplines and interests. volume of essays dealing with this subject is Yang Kuo-shuand Wen Ch'ung-i.sociologists. and behavioral study of Chinese society.the various approaches invoked covered a wide range of interests. of and Pao-taopien-yfian1 (1991): 103-25. Institute Ethnology Series B. and psychologists. no. also. and the synthesis of Chinese and Western experience to assess diverse phenomena such as modernization and globalization. in particular. develop native models forthe social. in particular. through the productionof knowledge. fora criticalreviewof the literature. from the use of indigenous concepts to study Chinese society and history. then."Li-shih Monograph hua': tui t'ai-wan'hsing-weichi she-hui chien-kou.eds. She-hui chi hsing-weik'e-hsijehyen-chiu te chungkuo hua (The sinicizationof the social and behavioral of sciences).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. albeit from differentdirections. such local intellectual contestation most usually revolves around ideological issues that have littleto do with the authenticity of indigenous voices. sparkingefforts by anthropologists. is that the role of native vis-a-vis metropolitan academics (or is it scholars of differentethnicities?) becomes even more pronounced. their label as "Chinese"intellectuals becomes replaced by "postmodern. at what point do native academics cease to become "local"within the ongoing dialectics of local and global? Inan "international" context." Moreover.. One may ask. InTaiwanand Hong Kong. 1982).pien-ts'ueicheng-ts'e yQ 'chung-kuo k'e-hsieh chung-kuo te hua't'i-fa ssu-hsiangshihyen-chiu" marconstruction.52Theoretically. but within these circles. See Fu Ta-wei. and most influential." simply "radior cal. But do native academics really speak on behalf of natives? I suggest that the ability of natives and of native scholars. The first.
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. Multiplying points of resistance to dominant ideologies represents only a point of departure for meaningfulconstitutionof those identities and is not the productof identifyingalone. in my opinion. which represents a loose code word for counterhegemonic discourse of various sorts. This does not mean. On the basis of this experience. making the idea of multipleidentities a meaningful reality. that one is free to invent culture as one pleases. most of whom were major figures in mainstream academia. diaspora." . Effectivedecentering of authoritytakes place only when one operates within given frameworks of meaning to create the possibility of new.but not of their own free will"is equally applicable to culture."53 Nonetheless. Although the participants in this movement. 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. Yet. imagined communities. 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. and resistance in themselves mean little. more criticalscholars of various persuasions refused to acknowledge any of it as being indigenous to or postcolonial.That is to say. is the need to articulatethe various contexts (of speech or practice) wherein facets of identity(such as ethnicity)are deemed to be relevant. however. Sinicization Psychologists. of lar seminars on such themes and by establishinga journalon "the indigenization psychology. more important than the notion of multiple identities.2 134 boundary / Summer 1996 orientation except for a common interest in "sinicization. I have begun to extol the virtues of being Peranakan. Marx'sfamous dictum that "men make history. decolonization. either as science or as cultural construct. In short. 53.in parcontinuedto cultivateinterestin nativeconcepts of behaviorby organizingreguticular. in light of the prevailingatmosphere and nature of culturaldiscourse. there was very littlecriticalreflection on basic concepts in one's own discipline. Itwas probablyfor this reason that later. despite claims of "identity" the contrary. the movement drew popularappeal from the broader reading public. what kinds of contexts demand that one speak from laterbecame replacedby the term indigenization.
in consideration of politicalinterest. ethnicityis simply . Chinese. In no case is facticity a relevant issue. the recognition of an empire of mind that subordinates and negates difference. In other words.as well as cases in which an explicit claim of identityis not deemed necessary (in which case. no doubt. To Identifyor Not to Identify Just as one has been led to believe that multiculturalism been has invented by the advent of postmodern theory. leaves open the possibility that there may be instances in which ethnicity is totally irrelevantor in which there is no necessity to identify. what causes people to identify in the first instance is the way in which the context of practice is framed. it might be possible for one to identify as Cantonese. simply as a person.and what contexts do not? The question of relevance. the substance of any particular identity matters less than the problematic nature of identity as a conceptual entity. the second.. Moreover. one has also been led to believe that postcolonial theory had finally liberated the multipleidentities in us all. to distinguish oneself in terms of presumed cultural origins. Most human societies fromtime immemorialhave been multicultural or multiethnic. in this regard. be cases in which one wishes is simply to be taken for what one "really" (i. or Asian. Thus. 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. Finally. In essence.then it is less a matter of content than of form. or to mark one's solidarity in contrast with non-Asians. in consideration of intellectual orientation.there will. whereby certain strategic choices are seen as relevant or desirable. Identificationwith the first may be relevant in consideration of personal lifestyle. depending on whether the frame of reference is meant to accent feelings of intimacyamong a small circle of kinsmen.the need to recognize multiple identities is.e. Ifthe power of identity is such that it can invent its own traditions.only to be subjected to temporary erasure by the imagined homogeneity of the nation-state. in which the ethnic factor is deemed irrelevant). Similarly.Chun/ FuckChineseness 135 a position of identity. Identification is problematic. in the first instance. 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. Indeed.it entails a relationshipwith a given communityof people whose existence is meaningful only in relationto similar bounded communities.and the third.
at the same time. no."Cultural Reportfromthe Hawai2 ian Front. Especially in lightof an admittedlymulticultural society in which ethnic Hawaiians now constitute a small minorityand in which indigenous tradition.2 136 boundary / Summer 1996 seen as matter-of-fact). 'we. the heated rhetoricsurroundingcurrentdebates regardingthe politics of identityhave largely been prompted by assumptions of boundedness and totality intrinsic to the nation-state. 1 (1994):111-33. While it is easy to facetiously distance the anthropologist with Tonto-likeclaims of "whatdo you mean.as objects of both appropriationand discourse. has already undergone considerable change and reconstitution. spelling out what might be shared assumptions about Hawaiianess. The notion of multiple identities. . Although identity is not exclusively a national concept. But what justifies the existence of character of nationalistidentityitself? these categories.'white man?"it seems equally to difficult justifywithsemantic preciseness who exactly qualifies as a native without. While Tobin rightlycontextualizes constructionist discourse in relationto an earlier anthropologicalromanticism and criticizes the lack of empathy that enables the anthropologist to be aloof. mask an even deeper irreconcilabledifference in the way natives and anthropologists.In effect." the native's obligationto empathize likewise reinforces the boundaries that continue to separate the self from others.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. may even heighten it by making resistance inherentlypolitical. JeffreyTobin. however.to qualifyas a bona fide native? While the anthropologistcan continue to remain aloof by his refusal to "identify. identificationis a function both of how the context is defined and of how one might perceive the strategic nature of available choices. if not the arbitrary and Construction NativeNationalism: 54. thus immunefromthe colonial situationthat gives rise to the politicsof resistance.one mightask equally facetiously. even if one's identification to "identify" vulgar and most fetishized attributes. is it enough simply to empathize? Is it acceptable for anyone who claims with culture is with its with the land." boundary 21.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. as subjects. in some cases. he fails to define precisely who has the rightto identifyor stipulate to what extent this rightto identifyentails the assumption of authenticity in culture.54 content. identifywith culture.
343. is perhaps an inaccurate term to cover the diversity of intellectualpositions in any indigenous context. is participationin postcolonial discourse that characterizes one as a postcolonial intellectual ratherthan the content of postcolonial discourse itself. 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. while in another context lead to their very dissolution. ironically. ArifDirlik. forthe most part. Any resultant identity is really the consequence of deeper processes of a sociological nature than of identificationitself. "ThePostcolonial Third Aura: World in Criticism the Age of GlobalCapital20 ism. which. culturalconstructionism represents an attempt to show that politics (rather than knowledge itself) is the prime condition for the production of knowledge).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.56 The term postcolonial (as defined by identity). 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. The distancing that "native" thirdworld evolving from a "colonial" intellectuals feel vis-a-vis "diasporic" comrades in the metropole is a case 55. some argue. Dirlik."Critical Inquiry (1994):332. given the diversityof local discourse and institutionalregimes. As Arif Dirlikhas it rightlypointed out." . Aura. 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.and diasporic identification--thatwill.however. not to mention those contexts not strictlycharacterizable as situation.55Perhaps like native nationalists. there is no reason to believe that the same globalizing forces in one context could not lead to a hardening of existing boundaries. contribute inevitably to the overall demise of the modern nationstate. no matter how unambiguous it may seem or how well grounded it may be in relationto factual authenticity. it is clear that ethnic nationalismis only one of many possible forms of postcolonial identityand that. Like Tobin. Withinsuch a context.mass migrations. remains inadequately is defined. "ThePostcolonial 56.
There tends to be relatively less concern. The sociology of power relationships that give rise to identities cannot be reduced to any one magical theory of postcoloniality. with its intrinsicconcern with homogenization and heterogeneity. pan-nationalfundamentalism. world system. or pushes and pulls. one which can be easily vision of the "world" translated into a series of knee-jerk reactions.and culturalcreolization.2 1996 138 boundary / Summer in point. because there are many colonialisms that are rooted in historically specific contexts. a huge gap in our understandthat produces local cultural ing of the local historical-sociologicalframework The very language of postcolonialityinheritedfrom the modern discourse. while postcoloniality appears to privilege the local by inIronically. 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.then. To be sure. reflects a ratherskewed from the center of things. 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. there is. cult fanaticism. cores and peripheries. not all of which can be rightlycharacterized as postcolonial. 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. vokingthe realityof multipleidentitiesand make sacred indigenous truthsto counter Orientalistfictions.The poverty of the "postcolonial"is most evident when it is used in its most vulgar sense-as a statement of identityalone.a pragmatic frameworkcentered on the interpretation of culturalmeaning cannot be divorcedfroma preexisting networkof power relationships that influences the desirabilityof one choice over another.supranationalism.all of which impingeon notions of identity. What needs urgent clarification.Is Chineseness important?How can one not give a fuck? . Both assume an ongoing linkage between ideology and practice ratherthan the inherent privileging of one over the other. Similarly. but even in an indigenous context. each of which is cloaked in locally defined systems of meaning. I argue. there are positions that crosscut a wide politicalspectrum. however.
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