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Negotiating China’s Cultural Authority: Technology of Genealogy and the Self

  • Lingchei Letty Chen

Abstract

Two decades into its development, the Chinese people witnessed Maoist ideology gradually fade and become replaced by capitalism’s insatiable appetite for accumulation and expansion. Today, China’s emergence as a superpower is certainly catching everyone’s attention. Not only is China gaining a new international status, the society itself is also going through tremendous transformation. The intriguing question here is: How do all these changes affect Chinese people, their value systems, their relation to tradition, and their sense of national and cultural identity? The spirit of iconoclasm is familiar to the Chinese people of modern times, recalling the May Fourth movement that ended several millenniums of feudalism and the Mao-led socialist revolution that completely altered the course of modern China. Both legacies champion a radical break with tradition; but is there indeed a rupture between modernity and tradition? When contemporary Chinese writers contemplate ways to reconfigure identities, the tradition and the integrity of Chinese culture remain essential factors.

Keywords

Cultural Identity Chinese People Cultural Revolution Dialectical Relationship Chinese Writer 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    Lydia H. Liu, Translingual Practice: Culture, and Translated Modernity—China, 1900–1917 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1995);Google Scholar
  2. Xiaomei Chen, Occidentalism: A Theory of Counter-Discourse in Post-Mao China (New York & Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995);Google Scholar
  3. Shu-mei Shih, The Lure of the Modern: Writing Modernism in Semicolonial China, 1917–1937 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2000).Google Scholar
  4. 8.
    Both Jing Wang and Liu Kang extensively discuss Li’s complex philosophical construction of the idea of Enlightenment. Please see Liu Kang’s article “Subjectivity, Marxism, and Cultural Theory,” Politics, Ideology, and Literary Discourse in Modern China, ed. by Liu Kang and Xiaobing Tang (Durham & London: Duke University Press, 1993),Google Scholar
  5. and Jing Wang, High Culture Fever (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996).Google Scholar
  6. 9.
    A recent study on this topic is Rong Cai’s The Subject in Crisis in Contemporary Chinese Literature (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2004). I have written a review on this book, published in China Review International, vol. 11, no. 2 (Fall 2004): 287–91.Google Scholar
  7. 16.
    Technologies of the Self A Seminar with Michel Foucault, ed. by Luther H. Martin, Huck Gutman, and Patrick H. Hutton (Amherst: The University of Massachusetts Press, 1988), 25.Google Scholar
  8. 23.
    For a discussion of “detail” in relation to history, nation, and modernity, please see Rey Chow’s “Modernity and Narration—in Feminine Detail,” Woman and Chinese Modernity: The Politics of Reading between East and West (Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, 1991).Google Scholar
  9. 24.
    This is an indirect quote from Judith Butler, Bodies that Matter: On the Discursive Limits of “Sex” (New York & London: Routledge, 1993), 122.Google Scholar

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© Lingchei Letty Chen 2006

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  • Lingchei Letty Chen

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