Lost Agency for Change: The Diasporic Identity in Yizhou’s Shui Villages

  • Chih-yu Shih


In his Culture and Imperialism, the late Edward Said argued for a method that allows an ethnic community to assert itself in a non-threatening way, so that the larger surrounding community could remain peaceful.1 However, this is not an easy task, as the politics of diaspora has plagued world politics since the end of the Cold War. Ethnic violence, terrorism, and even war-scaled conflict all appear to be related to the politics of diaspora. To resolve the conflict around it is to deal with diasporic identities and the identities of the larger community at the same time. Said did not offer a definite solution, but he nonetheless pointed his readers in a direction. Specifically, Said was looking for a discourse that acknowledged those identities that originated from multiple sources. He believed that such identities always happen to be one of a kind by itself, a hybrid by nature. Said’s position is not identical with multi-culturalism. The latter advocates a liberal solution and stresses that all cultures are equal. Yet, multi-culturalism assumes that everyone belongs to some known culture.2 Said’s “problematiqué” addresses the identity issue of those diasporic communities that run into problems with readily defined cultural categories. Said actually spoke from his peculiar position, being a Christian Palestinian living in the United States. Said believed every hybrid community was in itself a kind, and had no need to find expression from the vantage point of any known culture.3


Ethnic Identity Common Ancestry Party Secretary Biblical Text Cultural Custom 
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  1. 1.
    Edward Said, Cultural Imperialism (New York: Vintage Books, 1991), 311–12.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Edward Said, Orientalism (New York: Vintage Books, 1979).Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Albert J. Paolini, Navigating Modernity: Postcolonialism, Identity, and International Relations (Boulder: Lynne Rienner, 1999).Google Scholar
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    For example, see Rey Chow, Alternative Perspectives on Hong Kong Culture [xie zai jia guo zhi wai] (Hong Kong: Oxford University Press, 1995);Google Scholar
  5. Louisa Schein, Minority Rules: The Miao and the Feminine in China’s Cultural Politics (Durham: Duke University Press, 2000);Google Scholar
  6. Fred Y. L. Chiu, “Politics and the Body Social in Colonial Hong Kong,” in Formations of Colonial Modernity in East Asia, ed. T. Barlow, (Durham: Duke University Press, 1997).Google Scholar
  7. 6.
    For criticism of this sort, see Dirlik Arif, “The Postcolonial Aura: Third World Criticism in the Age of Global Capitalism,” in Dangerous Liaisons: Gender, Nation and Postcolonial Perspectives, ed. A. McClintock, A. Mufti, and E. Shohat, 501–28 (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997);Google Scholar
  8. Andrew Linklater (ed.), International Relations: Critical Concepts in Political Science (Boulder: Routledge, 2000).Google Scholar

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© Chih-yu Shih 2007

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  • Chih-yu Shih

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