Comparative Postcolonial Theory and the Question of Chinese Empire

Shih, Shu-mei


  • Lecture by Shu-mei Shih exploring how the emergence of Shinophone studies is altering the landscape of postcolonial theory. This lecture was presented as part of the Mellon Sawyer Seminar in Comparative Global Humanities.
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First welcome our guest Professor Shu-mei Shih from UCLA.
And also we have with us Professor Francoise Lionnet which was
one of our first fall visitors as well.
Because the two of them are long time collaborators, and we'd initially invited
them together but we're able to schedule them on separate visits.
We often describe this moment that we're in now, as a global moment.
By which we mean that formerly understood bounded nations, or
localities, are increasingly connected, related, and countering each other.
And, that cultures, nations, and economies are involved through trade,
migration and travel.
But the work of scholars like Shu-mei Shih and
Francoise Lionnet make evident that global relation is not new.
And that in the ancient and early modern worlds, there were conquests,
slavery, trade, and was under the ottoman, Mogul [INAUDIBLE].
Sinophone study is a critical reader published in 2013 as a text book that
she co-edited for this field, to bring this field greater depth and volume.
Aside from Sinophone studies,
her areas of research include comparative modernism as in her first book,
The Lure of the Modern Writing Modernism in Semi-Colonial China 1917-1937.
She's also contributed to theories of trans nationalism as in the co-edited
volume between Francoise Lionnet and herself, Minor Trans Nationalism.
She's contributed to critical race studies and
as in the guest edited special issue of PMLA, comparative racialization in 2008.
Critical theory, as in Lionnet and Shih's creolization of theory.
And most recently she's contributed to Taiwan's studies, as in a guest
edited special issue of post-colonial studies entitled Globalization and
Taiwan's (Insignificance) [LAUGH] in the co-edited volume, Comparatizing Taiwan.
Today in her lecture, Comparative Post-Colonial Theory and the Question of
Chinese Empire, she will speak to us about the emergence of Sinophone studies in
the last decade, and discuss its impact on the landscape of post-colonial studies.
Which is largely, as you know, been centered on western European empires.
By taking a comparative approach that emphasizes conjunctures and
relations, her lecture will explore the question of Chinese empire in relation to
European empires via the pivot to Sinophone literature from Southeast Asia.
Please join me in welcoming Shu-mei Shih.
>> [APPLAUSE] >> Well, thank you, Lisa, for
that wonderful introduction.
And thanks also, for having me here.
I think it's my first visit to Tufts,
so it's wonderful to meet a lot of new faces.
I think I I only know a couple of people from before.
At the moment I'm working on two projects and
one project is tentatively called Comparison as Relation
from which people will be reading some chapters for
tomorrow's seminar at 2 o'clock.
And that's I guess a more comparative literature project because it specifically
deals with the question of comparative method in the context of world studies.
This project I'm working on is entitled Empires of The Sinophone.
I gave this topic as electro title
today because they would force me to write and finish the introduction to the book.
And so you are hearing today a portion of the introduction.
So you can see from the title, Comparative Post Colonial Theory the first half is
points to the necessity of broadening the post colonial critique from the privileged
sight of Anglofonia Francofestidies, or as some would say Anglo-Franco focus.
When I heard this term I said wow,
there's already a term called Anglo-Franco Focus of Post Colonial Theory.
And in the second part of the title,
the question of Chinese Empire is an invitation to consider a post-colonial
critique based on Chinese empire and its intersection with other empires.
That is, a proposal for an interimperial approach to postcolonial studies.
The two interventions intersect in the field that I've been calling Sinophone
We're further intersectionality is drawn with ethics studies and diaspora studies.
I hope from my talk today you'll be able to see how these fields
intersect as I draw from them and simultaneously putting pressure on them.
As my point of departure today and my focus today will
be the geographical category known at Southeast Asia which nobody studies.
In Asian studies, people say East Asia.
And then South Asia is big in post colonial studies, but
Southeast Asia usually gets dropped out.
And nobody's,
very few scholars study Southeast Asia in terms of its individual countries.
And that's why we have a term called Southeast Asia.
And scholars in that field must study the whole of Southeast Asia.
And that's why someone like Benedict Henderson and James Scott,
who were South East Asianists, but they come across as generalists and theorists.
Because they cannot just write about their research, this area so to speak.
And Benedict Henderson's book three or four, Southeast Asian languages.
It shows the kind of challenge that you have as a Southeast Asianist.
And I will look at Southeast Asia not only as a geographical category,
but also as a political category, and a theoretical category.
In Marguerite Duras's novel The Lover,
the namesake lover lived in an area of Saigon called Cholon or Cholon.
Bad pronunciation.
Cholon was a city built by the Hua, or
Chinese Vietnamese people, in the 18th century.
And later was incorporated into Saigon by the French colonial government.
It is the largest Chinatown in the world by area, and,now,
part of Ho Chi Minh City.
The reign in Saigon after the end of French colonialism.
This is where I visited, in the spring of 2015, searching for
local publications in the Sinaitic script, or so-called Chinese,
in the dust-ridden bookstores along busy boulevards.
And I found scores of story collections,
literature checkbooks, and literary journals
as vibrant expressions of contemporary Sinophone Vietnamese literature.
If we were to study Duras's China's lover from Sinophone perspectives,
the narrative of the poor 15 year old French girl who acquires a kind of sexual
autonomy via her relationship with a rich Chinese man, would have to be seriously
interjected and intersected with a history of Chinese Vietnamese people.
Bringing into life the largely silent China lover in the novel.
He was Chinese Vietnamese, or Hua in local terminology, not Chinese.
His history was part of Vietnamese history, not Chinese history.
As object of study, Sinophone Vietnam will be quite different from
francophone Vietnam in focus, even though they existed simultaneously.
Or try the Northern Vietnamese city of Hanoi, which is much farther north and,
hence, closer to China, where the French had its capital for
much of the first half of the 20th century, where I also visited.
And here the distance between the tempo of literature
to the opera house is only about 2.5 kilometers.
It takes approximately 30 minutes by foot.
I enjoyed walking around Hanoi, it's a beautiful city.
The Temple of Literature, which is a misnomer for
what in actuality is the Confucius Temple Imperial Academy.
And is modeled after Confucius temples from China.
It was built in the year 1070 while the Hanoi Opera House,
modeled on the [FRENCH] in Paris.
Was erected in the early parts of the 20th century.
These two landmarks belie the inter imperial history of Vietnam,
where Chinese colonialism from 111 BC almost continuously through 938 AD.
This is a history that I think people very seldom know about or write about.
You just need to read any Vietnamese history textbooks from Vietnam.
To get their perspectives on Chinese colonialism in Vietnam.
And French colonialism, 1887 to 1945 or 1954, depending on how you count it,
occurred consecutively.
But their physical structures now coexist in time and space,
not merely as remains, but as active and integrated part of life in Hanoi.
As to tangible and intangible legacies of the American War.
We call it the 'Vietnam War'.
But the Vietnamese call it the 'American War'.
This interimperial history: Chinese, French,
American, has left expected linguistic and literary consequences.
The use of the classical Sinitic script from China for two millennia and
the repurposed Sinitic characters called the Nom script for
about three centuries until the Latin alphabet was adopted
as the sole form of orthography in the twentieth century.
While Francophone Vietnamese literary tradition continues to this day and
spans of English in store signs and everyday speech can be found everywhere.
Within this history is situated the sign of community of
Vietnam of which Marguerite Duras's China lover, was a part.
Consisting of generations of settlers and
immigrants from China who speak several distinct sinidict languages
Cantonese that are not the standard language of China, Mandarin.
In this way, the modern sinophone community as
a minority community within and across Vietnam.
Within and across empires in Vietnam activates a dynamic which is distinct from
usual colonizer, colonized di edge, and complicates colonial and
post colonial relationalities from binarism to multilateralism.
The confetti of empire is everywhere.
But it is even as metaphor of diverse kinds, shapes, colors of
varying densities and mixtures and of different degrees of heaviness and light.
Unlike any other part of the world,
Southeast Asia, where the Sinophone has been a part of for centuries,
has seen the historical conversions of both European and Asian Empires.
The Chinese, the Spanish, the Portuguese, the Dutch, the British, French, Japanese,
Americans, and Russians all came to Southeast Asia.
Where they contended, competed, imitated, and colluded with each other.
Unlikely the 19th century rush to carve out and colonize Africa,
where Western European colonialism lasted for about 70 years, Imperialism in
Southeast Asia with or without formal colonization occurred over centuries.
It is not an exaggeration to say that the region has been subjected to almost all
major waves of imperialism from around the world and over a long duration.
Given this remarkable history Southeast Asia offers unique sites for
the study imperialism and colonialism and their aftermaths.
The extent, duration, and
complexity of such a condition undoubtedly provides protein possibilities for
theorizing the post colonialism and this however has not been the case.
In Benedict Anderson's autobiography.
He said, he spent all his life being a southeast-asianist and being ignored.
And then suddenly one day he became a theorist and he was very shocked.
>> [LAUGH] There you go.
The prevailing model of postcolonial theory has privileged Western European
empires of the 19th century with an almost complete neglect of the Asian empires,
especially those of China and Japan.
It also appears that in postcolonial studies oceanic empires are preferred
over what I have called continental empires, such as that of China,
perversely echoing Hegel's celebration of Europe's maritime principle.
And its love of flux and adventure than needed an justified outlets overseas,
even among Western European colonies there has also been a geographical favoritism
that sanctioned the study of particular colonies over others.
South Asia, the Caribbean and Africa have received much emphasis with some attention
paid to such commonwealth countries as New Zealand and Australia.
Which to my mind were mistakenly studied under the post-colonial framework
when in fact a more ethical framework would have been settler-colonial studies.
In due respect of the contested sovereignties by and
colonial oppression of indigenous peoples.
With rare exceptions, South East Asia, where most of British and
the French established extensive colonies,
were largely marginalized in anglophone and francophone post-colonial studies and
instead relegated to area studies under the name of South East Asian studies.
This is my pet peeve.
If one study Anglophone, Francophone, African and
the Caribbean, the work belongs to postcolonial studies.
If one study is any part of Asia except South Asia,
the work belongs to area studies.
Even if this Asia was deeply touched by both the British and the French.
This is why to the post colonial theorists this Asia beyond south Asia
is ironically called the Other Asias is the title of her book.
To whom is this vast Asia beyond south Asia, the other?
Such has been the particular temporal and spatial fixes of post-colonial theory,
as I know it, in the disciplinary division of labor.
Besides the privileging of specific former Western European colonies over others, say
India over Burma and Malaya, when in fact Burma was part of British India, right?
And Francophone Caribbean over Indochina when in fact Indochina was much
larger than all the Francophone Caribbean Islands combined.
There has also been, as scholars of Latin America have pointed out,
the privileging of Western European Empires over Southern European Empires.
From the early modern period.
Latin Americanist have thus usefully made the distinction between what
they call the first colonial modernity, Spanish and Portuguese, and
the second modernity, western european.
And try to correct the displacement of the former by the latter.
For southeast Asia, this first colonial modernity was also crucially formative.
Moment with the arrival of the Dutch, the Spanish and the Portuguese.
However as Western European empires came and went, their timelines
are much messier than those we find in South America.
The Dutch was a 19th century power in the Netherlands East Indies
while the Spanish in Philippines, the Portuguese in Macau and East Timor Equally
spend the periods of first maternity, second maternity and beyond.
As we know Hong Kong and Macau were two of the last colonies given up by
the Europeans in 1997 and 1999.
This complex temporality of colonialism and the shared diversity and multiplicity
of imperial and colonial information is understandably challenging to study.
Yet the most crucial factor for the marginalization of this region
of the world in post-colonial studies is, I believe, language.
Across the British and French post-colonies in South Asia, Africa, and
the Caribbean,
the languages of the colonial masters have largely remained De Facto Lingua Franca.
Were creolized or not into different degrees, and
whether there continuous to exist numerous other local languages.
So the linguistic access so to speak for
researchers from the West could be said to be easier.
I could be, Gonzales might disagree with me on this.
One can study global angle form literature without necessarily learning any other
language but English.
And the same goes for Francophone literature in French.
Knowing English alone however will not give the researcher any reliable access
to the ex-British colonies of Burma and Malaysia.
Actually it will give you no access because they've stopped using English
Similarly, for most of the countries, colonial languages,
European colonial languages have largely lost practical relevance,
except of course, with the global lingua franca of American English.
Scholars who study these post-colonies, therefore must do the hard
work of learning additional languages, other than European languages.
Such as Thai, Bahasa Indonesia, Tagalog, Burmese and so forth.
At its' root to marginalization in South East Asia post-colonial studies is due to
the inertia as well as indifference of scholars who are not willing to take on
the difficult task of learning languages other
than the major Western European languages.
This indifference is also, of course,
the fundamental cause for lack of critical study of Chinese and
Japanese empires except by area study scholars.
It is for area study scholars their resume debt is
in some ways their competence in the foreign languages.
For area study scholars who study Asia and spend long years learning Asian languages,
it is not surprising that their linguistic investment however can sometimes transform
or transition into effective and even libidinal investment.
Which in turn partially conditions the kind of scholarship produced,
the methods deployed, and the perspectives preferred.
I don't have to time to offer a critique of various studies here,
I have a piece coming out on this which is gonna make everybody angry.
So I'll wait for people to read it, and react to it, when it comes out.
Sufficed to say here, that the issue of linguistic access lies at the core of
the disjunctive relationship between post-colonial studies and area studies.
So given the limit of Anglo-Franco focus, the desire to
expand the post-colonial critique has been rather awkward these days.
Such as one, the call for attending to the other Europe that has been marginalized,
Eastern Europe and the rest.
Negotiating post-socialism with post-colonialism, minor and
major empires and countries without colonies, etc.
Two, the call to attend too the entire post-Soviet sphere of 28
countries including the former Soviet Republics.
And three, the call particularly important for
my purpose to consider the Americans so seriously, especially the Spanish Empire.
I want to highlight a reminder by my colleague in LA at Cal State LA,
Brandy Mendoza.
That the conquest of the Americans by the Spanish was crucial
to the configuration of capitalism in Europe.
And without the rise and expansion of European capitalism there would not have
been the colonization of Asia.
In short the colonization of Asia was mediated by the colonization of
the Americas and this is the relational history that under girds
my intervention into post colonial critique.
The Spanish silver dollar, minted from silver from the Americans,
from Spanish, America and Peru.
And transported by Manila Galleons, also known as China ships for
mainly carrying China's good to Spain, was the first global currency
accepted by China for about 200 years between 17th and 19th centuries.
This is a well-known example of how Europe, the America, Southeast Asia,
and China have been connected in the global economic relations, which were
colonial relations involving Spanish America, as well as Spanish Philippines.
The discovery of silver in the Americans of
course also accelerated the growth of the African slave trade.
Colonialism produced out of global relations period.
Robert Young has in this regard usefully called for
a tricontinental orientation, Latin America, Africa,
and Asia, in his book, Post Colonialism.
Young's focus, however, remains the West European empires of the British and
the French, they all do, it seems.
Again centering his critique, against a sane,
exceptionalized West, this time, including the US.
Southeast Asia receives very brief mention,
all in less than a few pages out of a total length of 500 pages.
I know this is a cheap critique, but I'm gonna do it anyway.
And also obligatory but scattered references to the Vietnam War,
and of course, the Bandung Conference of 1955.
When the account of history is zoomed out to tri-continental,
Tetracontinental, a world and globe.
Southeast Asian countries are usually even more readily relegated to insignificance.
Sinophone studies defined as the study of Sinitic language communities and
cultures around the world.
And on the margins of China and Chineseness, this definition that has
been the point of debate within my circle of Sinophone studies people and
I can go on forever on this particular definition and
the ambiguity and all of that if you are interested.
It has been one effort, that not only aims to expand the post-colonial critique but
to go beyond that.
As the Sinophone is indicated and divergent multiple point layer colonial
questions that exceed the post-colonial framework and
is inherently inter-imperial.
In Southeast Asia the Sinophone with the exception of Singapore has been
a minoritarian community during the Colonial period and after.
And this is the history of the China lover in Cholon in Marguerite Duras'
novel that I mentioned at the beginning.
Before the European arrival, traders and immigrants from China
started arriving in Southeast Asia since at least the 13th century.
And by 1700 were unrivaled as a prominent,
pre-eminent commercial minority everywhere in Southeast Asia.
Historical records show that they were originally and very welcomed for
their skills, wealth, and international connections, and
there was no distinct notion that these people were Chinese in any specific way.
The early settlers became, for instance, the streets Chinese,
a term that refers to a large group of mixed people such as Babas and Nyonyas.
So Babas are mixtures of Chinese fathers and Malay mothers.
Male [INAUDIBLE] and Nyonya are daughters
of Chinese fathers and Malay mothers.
Otherwise, the term Peranakan is used to refer to all
kinds of mixtures in Southeast Asia especially Malaysia,
Singapore and Indonesia.
So this mixed group of people, such as Babas and Nyonyas and
the locally born Peranakans, who spoke their distinctive languages,
their mixed different Semitic languages such as Hokkien and Cantonese with Malay.
And they have developed an entire culture and a way of life.
And there's a Nyonya restaurant in Chinatown, New York,
only one, if you are interested.
In other words, it was not the European colonizers who have created the conditions
of racial and cultural mixing as has prominently theorized in post
colonial studies, rather, they were already mixed before the European arrival.
Mixing is one of the most important, if not the most popular concept in post
colonial theory which correlates in three imperial languages.
The French metissage, the English hybridity and the Spanish meztisaje.
In all these instances, the emphasis is on the mixing of the Europeans and
the native, not the mixing that had been going on for
centuries on the ground among more than two groups of non European peoples.
Ann Stolar when discussing the issue of metissage in Indochina for
instance, does not even make one mention of the Hua people.
In a bookland study on racial relations of desire in colonial Southeast Asia,
her emphasis is again on Europeaness and whiteness.
In one sense, the Chinese southeast asians were twice denied their hybridities.
First by the European colonizers, who denied their localness, and
then, ironically, and unwittingly, by the post-colonial theorists
who fetishized Europeans and whiteness in the colony.
They were denied the chance to be Mestizos, Mestizas, Babas, Nyonyas,
when in fact they already had been these before the European arrival.
In the Philippines for instance,
the term mestizo actually means specifically Chinese Filipino mix.
Mestizo doesn't mean Spanish, it means Chinese Filipino mix.
There are the mestizos and mestizas, these are the people the Spanish hated the most.
Jose Rizal, for instance, the big anti-colonial writer,
the father of the Philippine Revolution, he was a mestizo.
This is probably why scholars have been documenting
through their archival research why it is in fact
the Europeans who turned these people into Chinese.
European colonizers instituted various policies of ratio divide
insisting that even those who have been there for generations and
spoke no Semitic languages whatsoever, were Chinese.
The Dutch for instance, had a strict policy of governance of the Indies Chinese
with some theory course, residential sequestrations,
imposed inheritance regulations while creating collaborationist business elites,
and in this imitated British practices in the British colonies.
Fearing that the Chinese minorities will collude with China or
gain to much dominance in their colonies,
the colonial powers exercise hysterical control in many cases leading
to massacres of the Chinese minorities as early as the 16th century,
most notably in Manila in 1586, 1603, 1639, 1662 and 1686.
I visited a site where such a massacre took place in Manila which is in the old,
walled, ancient city.
And what the Spanish did was told all the Chinese merchants or Chinese residents
to go inside the wall, and then they just burnt the city after locking up the walls.
And then Batavia, today's Jakarta, in 1740, while Brunei, Cambodia,
Vietnam, Siam and Malaysia, also saw many incidences of racial killings of Chinese,
minorities during the colonial period.
By 1920, a specific discourse of a Chinese imperialism emerged in
the Dutch East Indies expressing the fear that a massive migration of Chinese
would bring Chinese imperialist thinking with them, and
those Indies Chinese already there would support such expansionism.
They consider such a scenario to be, quote, faithful for the Dutch future,
unquote, this is from the colonial document from there.
In the postcolonial period, Southeast Asia's anticynicism, so
instead of antisemitism, [LAUGH] scholars quoted a new term called anticynicism,
meaning anti Chinese minorities in Southeast Asia.
Anti cynicism continued unabated until as late as 1998,
when numerous incidents of racial killings in Indonesia,
including the deaths of about 300,000 in the 1965 communist purge.
The May 1968 racial program in Jakarta, and
in Vietnam's expulsion of the Hua in the hundreds of thousands in 1978-79.
The so-called Vietnamese Boat People that we're familiar with
were a majority Chinese-Vietnamese.
And it is from that history, we have this incredible Hong Kong filmmaker Tsui Hark,
who's Vietnamese and as refugee then he settled in Hong Kong and
became one of the best filmmakers.
An argument can be made post colonial Southeast Asian state's anti cynicism
is a legacy of colonial policies that scapegoated the Chinese minorities
in the face of fear and anxiety.
Du Chen imagined a real Chinese imperialism.
So what about Chinese imperialism in Southeast Asia,
is it real, or is it just imagined?
And this, then, refers back to the second story I was telling, about Vietnamese
colonial history by Chinese empire and in the history of Hanoi.
These consequences are so pervasive, consequences of the consideration
of Chinese empire, that a recent book by Ben Tran, whom you've booked,
I was very happy to see, call's modern Vietnam a Post-Mandarin Vietnam.
Right, post-Mandarin, meaning post-Chinese Mandarin Vietnam.
Indeed, European fears had their historical precedents.
Prior to the arrival of the Europeans, during the early and
relatively open stage,
the Chinese had it had actually created ruling dynasties in Southeast Asia.
Notably in Ayutthaya, Brunei, Malacca, and [INAUDIBLE].
They also established autonomous Chinese politics at Ha Tien in
Vietnam-Cambodia borderland and in the gold fields of Western Borneo.
Thonburi Bangkok dynasties in Siam were, actually,
themselves half-Chinese, and they pay tribute to the Chinese Emperor.
Among them, the independent republic in Western Borneo, the Lanfang Republic,
which is one of the earliest republics in the world, and it lasted over 100 years.
And nobody knows about the Lanfang Republic except the tea shop
in Hong Kong called Lanfang Tea Shop.
1777 to 1884 scholars have
argued that these can variously consider settler dynasties,
settler economies, or at least tributary states to China.
And what about post-colonial, post-European colonial Southeast Asia?
The relations between China and southeast Asia have been nothing but turbulent after
the Europeans have left even when we figured in Bandung Conference.
And I offer a critique of the sort of more global solidarity
reading of the Bandung Conference in one of the pieces I'm
offering to ask you to read tomorrow, so be curious.
I totally, Rethink the Bandung Conference.
It's such a romantic moment, but I went, visited,
looked at stuff, and it was pretty shocking.
Okay, the Chinese support of, for instance, the Pol Pot regime,
which I don't know of how much we know of, right?
For me this was astounding to discover.
The financial and military support of the Pol Pot regime sustained the regime for
as long as it did in Cambodia.
China fought a border war with Vietnam in 1979 and
continues to have military skirmishes along the border,
including now also border skirmishes with Myanmar.
There are the conflicts now of course, which was in the news recently,
I don't want to distract us to the current news.
But the conflicts in the South China Sea involving the Philippines, Vietnam,
Malaysia, but in fact China currently has territory disputes now with almost all
of its neighbors.
So is Chinese empire imaginary or real?
To continue on this question.
If there's relatively no doubt that Britain and France were empires that
behaved imperialistically, the question of Chinese Empire persistently
marginalized in post-colonial studies has been beset by ambiguity.
The two words, China and empire,
have both been to different degrees unstable and problematic.
And particularly so when they are placed together into the compound term,
Chinese Empire.
China of course, is itself a signifier as not only, that which constitutes China
geographically has changed dramatically over time, but also that the name China
itself is a construction with a contested historical and textual genealogy.
Each instance of construction implicating the question of who defines it,
who claims it, and doing so on what grounds?
For our purposes here, the crucial question of whether we can consider
today's China as an empire has to be considered in terms of another question,
which is whether the Manchu Empire 1644 to 1912 was Chinese or not.
So, This is a bit of history,
not very long, but I think it's very crucial for us to consider.
So is the Manchu Empire Chinese?
This was a topic of an intense debate in the field of Chinese studies in
the United States between the proponents of the sinicization thesis.
The scholars of so-called New Qing history.
There are many of them across the Harbor Square who claim otherwise,
the New Qing historians, there are many of them over there.
I don't know about Tufts, do we have a New Qing historian?
No, the question is not merely an academic one.
It has bearings on whether contemporary China is an empire or not,
on the one hand.
And the strategic answers to the question have been deployed by both
the Chinese state and its intellectual apologists for specific purposes.
Amounting practically to how the state defines sovereignty as well as national
security on the other.
Briefly, the sinicization thesis is basically
a unidirectional assimilationist thesis.
The idea is that the, Chinese culture has so
much charisma and it's such a powerful single civilizing
force emanating from the Chinese imperial center.
And so, it has assimilated all alien cultures and
peoples throughout history, including the period of alien rule,
such as the Mongol dynasty and the Manchu, Qing dynasty.
For this narrative,
not only that the history of military conquests are minimized and displaced but
also the local societies and indigenous populations are detached from and
denied their participation, as well as credit in the state-making process.
According to this thesis then, everyone ineluctably becomes Chinese,
thanks to the superior civilization that is Chinese.
Very soon we will all become Chinese.
New Qing historians disagree.
First and foremost, they are here for the Manchu-ness of the Qing Empire.
Evidence after evidence shows how the Manchus deliberately maintained
their unique ethnicity, language, and culture through for
instance the ethnicity based hereditary eight-banner system.
Which began as military divisions but ended up being mainly identity markers for
the Manchus, who through this system were granting land and
income for no other reason than their ethnicity.
The Chinese land conquered by the Manchus was
only the 17 provinces of the Ming Dynasty.
So if you look at the historical map of China,
of the Ming Dynasty right when it fell to the Manchus in 1644,
it's the 17 provinces on the eastern coast of China.
And the Manchus conquered basically because they came from Manchuria.
So they, from Manchuria, joined the 17 provinces,
the entirety of Mongolia, Xinjiang, which literally means New Dominion.
If it's not new, why would it be called New Dominion?
[LAUGH] And then the entire greater Tibet,
which now is split into many parts, many provinces.
And so the land conquered by the Manchus is actually five eighths of,
Today's China, so Ming China was three eighths of today's China, right?
That make sense?
Territorially then the so-called China proper was less than half of the empire.
So if I answer positive to the question as mentioned is Manchurian Empire Chinese?
then the fact that the Republic of China and now the PRC have inherited all of
the territories conquered by the Manchus, except outer Mongolia, unequivocally shows
that contemporary China has inherited the Empire in an historical process.
That's pretty self-evident, yes?
But apparently not.
But if I say no to the question, is Manchu Empire Chinese,
then the PRC is a success story of Chinese nationalism overcoming an alien regime,
meaning the Manchu regime, and restoring its sovereignty from a victimized state.
All the more successful for
claiming to have driven out Western imperialists at the same time.
In fact, contemporary China's nationalism has often utilized both positions,
even though they're apparently contradictory with each other.
Namely Manchu Empire's Chinese,
hence Manchu territory is Chinese territory, right?
Manchu Empire's not Chinese.
Hence, Chinese weren't, are not imperialists, right?
So you can see the inherent contradiction in how this question is responded to.
The effective use of both positions allows contemporary China,
to claim inheritance and legitimacy, without taking responsibility.
This is the China, that is comprehended within China, as the natural consequence
of five millennia of continuous history and political unity, and the China,
as it is attributed as such, and sanctioned by the international community.
By this logic, if the Mongol Empire was also Chinese, as the Chinese have claimed,
shouldn't Chinese sovereignty now extend to today's Iran, right?
Or the whole of eastern, much of Eastern Europe,
the whole of Central Asia and the Middle East, right?
Shouldn't Iran be Chinese if we use this logic?
Or was China simply part of the Mongol Empire?
Depending on which position is taken,
we can draw a dramatically different political implications.
Similarly, the term empire has been put into question,
in terms of whether empire and imperialism belong to the same semantic category, and
whether then, they imply each other or not.
If acting imperialistically is what makes one an empire,
then the argument goes, imperialism is a distinctly Western behavior,
that China has not engaged in, hence China is not an empire.
From within China, and their empire is categorically denied
to have anything to do with contemporary China, replaced by other terminologies.
Such as the revived notion of the Chinese world, the Chinese world order,
known as the discourse of all under heaven, [UNTRANSCRIBED CHINESE].
China is everything under heaven, is China.
The arrival of the new age of power [UNTRANSCRIBED CHINESE], or
the pursuit and fulfillment of the Chinese dream [UNTRANSCRIBED CHINESE].
In an attempt to account for the super national, multicultural, multi-ethnic, and
multilingual entity that is today's China,
that exceeds the modern notion of the nation state.
And while insisting on Westphalia notion of sovereignty and refusing the term
empire, Chinese intellectuals have had to offer various new concepts,
to describe the Chinese state form.
Calling it, for
instance, a multi systemic state, it's a state that has multiple systems.
Or a multi-state system, it is a system with many states.
Or a civilizational state, when you're a civilizational state,
it's not the modern nation-state form.
It's an entire civilization.
Where the logic of belonging to the vast frontiers, especially
the Greater Tibet and Xianang to China, is supposedly totally unique to China.
Here is a new version of Chinese exceptionalism, which is crucially
calibrated, with what Rey Chow has called, in 1998, The Logic of the Wound.
The Logic of the Wound makes a fetish of Chinese victim-hood at the hands
of Western imperialism since the Opium Wars, to such an extent that China
can only be the object of empire, not the subject of empire.
The euthanization of Chinese power, and fetishization of Chinese victim-hood,
both are, in fact, discourses of China's exceptionalism.
Vouchsafe the condition in which China, now and forever,
beyond reproach, leading to the injunction that impractical
situations declares China cannot be criticized.
This injunction may have begun as a psychological need based on past
victim-hood, but given China's economic and political power, within every
extending ability to pressure and to censor, is no longer merely psychological.
Every place I go, I have audience members who
end up basically telling me China can not be criticized.
So I expect I might get those responses here as well, so
I'm happy to engage with those kinds of questions.
This is the history of the present,
connected with the long history of the past.
In the longer duree of history, the 100 year history of China being
the object of empire, from the mid 19th century to mid 20th century,
is in fact a very short and finite duration.
Now, given a proper name, as quote,
100 years of shame, unquote, by [UNTRANSCRIBED CHINESE].
The question we need to ask is this.
For how much longer in the present and the future, should The Logic of the Wound,
govern Chinese relations with the rest of the world?
What are the responsibilities of China's scholars in such a present?
Crucially also, what are the responsibilities of post-colonial critique
when Chinese intellectuals have already hijacked the critique,
in their criticism of Western imperialism and claimed a Chinese post-coloniality.
Which is a chapter in my book,
on how Chinese intellectuals have claimed post-coloniality for China.
So in such a case then, how do you offer a different kind post-colonial critique?
Finally, what would a globally oriented post-colonial critique,
that takes Southeast Asia and Chinese empires seriously, look like?
I hope I have gestured towards it in my own small way today, and I welcome
your questions, as I conclude this talk now.
So, thank you so much.
>> Hello?
Thank you for a very provocative and
fascinating set of arguments.
I was wondering both in terms of your definition of siancom
studies of the Chinese speaking world in the margins of China.
Given the complex inter-ethnic, multi-ethnic,
multi-linguistic Chinese people that exist within
the state of the People's Republic of China,
what goes into your decision not to include those people in the siancom?
[CROSSTALK] In other words the Chinese fate.
I just wanted the people [CROSSTALK] the Chines fate,
fine, but the people themselves are so agrochemious,
that would be a source of critique of being forcibly humility the same.
>> Yeah, absolutely.
I always prefer collecting a few questions,
because then it gives more people to, it's really for my own benefit,
because I really enjoy the responses from the audience.
And so, also, so
I might just end up giving a long answer, and then the time might be gone.
So can I collect maybe three questions, and then one more round or
something like that?
Okay, Chris?
>> So I had a question.
Thank you, first of all, for a fascinating talk.
And my question relates to Lisa's in a slightly different way,
which is the question of ethnicity.
So by thinking in terms of a Southeast Asia realm,
[COUGH] so when you look at Southeast Asia economy today,
one might think of in Malaysia, you have the political term,
and you have the communism, and you have the Chinese,
the idea of being that, of course, in other communities.
The idea being that in these modern nation states themselves have
a lot of ethnic diversity, but beyond that diversity,
there are various long On class difference, even a kind of caste
like difference between different groups that are formed by
and by a certain marking of distance from other groups.
That may have a logic that's not class but
thus making more indigenous students out of [INAUDIBLE].
So basically, I was just wondering about where, let's say in Malaysia or
clients in Malaysia related to story that relates to the sign forms.
>> Yes.
>> So what about the address?
>> I see.
>> [INAUDIBLE] I was just trying to think and
I work at [INAUDIBLE] I work in East Africa [INAUDIBLE] power levels but
I'm thinking about Southeast Asia sort of interactions with.
[INAUDIBLE] and one thing that I really loved was what if the question
is not whether or not the Manchu was a Chinese empire, but
really, what does empire really mean in that moment?
How can we think of empire not just that way we define,
say the British Empire, the French Empire, or
the Dutch Empire which kind of thing.
But what did empire look like before that?
What was the activity around which they defined themselves or
understood themselves to be.
I mean I'm posing that question thinking about ethnicity in these places, and
what that meant in different periods, and
how states dealt with the question, is it a city or not, right?
And this might be an unjust comparison, but in East Africa,
there is this notion that the Umali empire had a different understanding of Greece.
And the missing that shift in particular moments say that the British and
coastal period needs to consider things that are going on speaker traditions.
Cuz there isn't this solution like what makes populations do or how you find.
So then that's where the question is coming from.
>> Yes, thank you, very good.
I think that's enough for me to work with for now.
So thank you for the question, Lisa, on the definition of the Sinophone.
This is hotly contested within the Sinophone studies Perspectives,
because by definition that inclusive term on the margins of China and
Chinese citizens is meant to be ambiguous.
So the major sort of challenge I've been getting is whether,
not whether I am including as if minority
people in China and their literature and their center of articulations, which I do.
But why not the mainstream Chinese culture and literature?
And so in my formulation, it's the factor of difference
that articulates the specificity of the Sinophone.
And so Sinophone Tibetan literature for instance,
is a very important part of Sinophone studies.
So we do study all the minority peoples and
their literatures in terms Sinophone literature.
But we do concede the mainstream literature to Chinese literature, right?
And do not call them Sinophone literature and they want to be included.
And this has been the most interesting thing.
In France,
the French don't want to be included as part of Francophone literature.
But in Chinese studies here, I don't know,
they think Sinophone is pretty cool or something.
Now they want Sinophone to include everything.
Okay, so that's been the challenge.
And then saying why would I want to really pay
attention to the minority communities and their cultures?
Because, you see for instance, in Sinophone Tibetan literature,
because they grow up, especially in parts of greater Tibet where there's more
assimilation that has taken place, the writers actually cannot write in Tibetan.
And so they write in the Han script, which is basically a colonial language to them.
And they actually engage in very subtle anti-colonial critiques in their writings.
And, for a while, some of these writers actually won major awards in China.
Until the Chinese government decided to become sensitive.
And equally for instance,
one of my favorite writers in China who's a Hui Muslim writer.
Hui Muslims in China are the most assimilated and
so they practice Islam but
they basically write and look like Han Chinese.
And one of my favorite writers his name is and after decades of having been
one of the most famous important writers in China, he suddenly discovered his way.
And so he started learning Arabic and
claimed that Arabic is his long lost mother tongue.
And started studying sophism and wrote a book about his sort of family and
lineage having to do with the Sophie sect of [INAUDIBLE] in
a beautifully non genre specific book novel,
called the History of the Soul, which has English translation.
And so, these are definitely something I'd like us to pay attention to.
The canonical Chinese literature, there are millions of people studying it, right?
They don't- >> [INAUDIBLE]
>> I know, so, my answer is,
yes they're included in the definition.
>> [INAUDIBLE] the Chinese then [INAUDIBLE],
this conglomeration of many different ethnicities, including the Manchu.
>> Yes, yeah.
>> [INAUDIBLE] on the margin of [INAUDIBLE] Chinese, so.
>> Yes, that's true.
But as I wrote, the Han ethnicity.
The word Han is the name of a river.
People were mixed, right?
From time immemorial, right?
As in all places, ethnicity is fictive.
It's when institutional, political, economic powers
are congealed around constructed explicitly that it has power
to oppress others and claim that legitimacy and hegemony.
That's when it becomes a problem, right?
As is the case everywhere in the world.
And so the question of ethnicity is so crucial to this and
to both of your questions.
I like to say that I always try to bring ethnic
studies perspectives into area studies.
And that's, I think, one of the ways which I really foreground the question of
race and ethnicity in my work in general.
And perhaps in this case, not so much class, as you pointed out, Chris.
So in the case of Malaysia is a term which means the sons of the soil,
used by the Malaysian government to designate the Malays as
the indigenous people of Malaysia who were oppressed under the British.
And Chinese Malaysians who occupied a higher class,
economic class due to their economic success over.
Over centuries and they constitute it,
to a certain extent, a certain colonial minority.
The reason why Singapore was kicked out of Malaysia was because, otherwise,
the Chinese-Malaysian's would have become the majority, and so
Malaysia decided to kick Singapore out.
It is not because Singapore wanted to become independent.
In order to preserve Malay majority, of the country Malaysia.
And so scholars have talked about Chinese Malaysians as merchants without countries.
They go all over southeast Asia, they've become rather successful.
And then they occupy a certain class in a society all across
southeast Asia and to the resentment of the indigenous people.
And as I was trying to describe that kind of divide was itself,
to a large extent, instituted by the colonizers.
They were already mixed.
If you -- if you -- meet Nyonyas and Babas, you don't know who they are.
You don't know who they are.
But there are now less Nyonyas and Babas and Perankans than before,
so to speak, before the European colonialism.
And Tamils in Malaysia are squarely cut within this dynamic,
with the Chinese Malaysians occupying an economic upper class and
then the Malays, with the which is a kind of, basically,
a policy of, it's called policy of positive discrimination.
So, negative discrimination is
I discriminate you because you are who you are.
Positive discrimination is I really like you because of who you are.
And so I'm gonna give you all these things and give you all the spoils of state
benefits, and income, and other kinds of
preferential treatments including easiest access to government positions,
to state sector jobs, including even clerical jobs.
So Tamils and Chinese Malaysians, they're just cut out of this,
but Chinese Malaysians, because of their economic access, they predominantly, then,
end up leaving Malaysia.
The second generation, third generation, they come to US, they go everywhere else
and study in the higher education, and then they occupy that class
position, even though politically, they're very marginalized in Malaysia.
And Tamils get completely just forgotten
along with new migrants from other Southeast Asian countries.
And there are some really wonderful films now, made about the situation.
I don't whether you've seen I Don't Want To Sleep Alone by
a Sinophone Malaysian filmmaker, Tsai Ming-liang,
who now works out of Taiwan and he's won all sorts of awards.
And he made movies in France, What Time Is It There?, was shot in Paris.
He's just absolutely amazing.
And a few years back he decided to go back to his homeland, which is Malaysia, and
made a film in which the characters barely speak because he was factoring in or
creating film in which a very inclusive kind of
social scene of the underclass migrant laborers was the focus of the film.
And there are all kinds of people but
we don't know who they are because they barely speak.
These are sort of the silent migrant class,
but it's done really beautifully and highly recommended.
It looks like somebody has seen it.
And it's a beautiful, I mean, in his films,
there's always a very strong clear content that this one is done so
beautifully that it can make you cry.
But anyway I recommend it.
In sign of a Malaysia literature, you will see that the writer
is actually engaged in Tamil characters, and writing.
One of the writers that I studied,
if you read his short stories he actually uses Tamil in his writing.
So, his texts are infused with Tamil,
English, Malay, and the different kinds of Chinese.
So Cantonese, Hokkien, and Mandarin.
And he kind of mixes them all up and it takes many footnotes for
us to understand what he's trying to do.
He's an incredible personality.
Now finally, there's a collection of his short stories that were translated.
It's called Slow Boat to China, I think.
And hopefully, some of his other writings, especially on the Communist movement in
Southeast Asia, he has a big novel on that which has never been translated.
So these writers are engaging with the complexity of their reality
of multiethnic society in Southeast Asia.
And there's a lot of Islam everywhere in these stories, of course.
The last question about what did empire mean in that movement,
I completely understand where you're coming from.
Within the context of the rise of China in
Chinese studies, it's because the Chinese state
asserts an alternative understanding of Chinese empire and imperialism.
So the critique is actually to say that it's not that exceptional.
Does that make sense?
So it's the opposite dynamic that's happening right now or
has been happening for the last couple of decades.
And so, for instance, Qing historians, if you look at their work,
they went to really search all the archives and looked at the specific and
concrete ways in which the colonial administration worked.
And so, there was a colonial office established by the Qing government,
by the Qing Empire, called Le Feng Ye, which literally means
The office of Management of Barbarians.
And through which,
the Qing Empire managed all different ethnicities,
and religions, and peoples including strategically
claiming themselves to Tibetan Buddhists when they were not so they could have
some sort of a blood relationship with the Mongolians and the Tibetans.
That's really easy.
You tell them, I'm Tibetan Buddhist too, that was great.
But what they did also is to respect local forms of governance.
And so these are some of the things that people say, hey,
this is not an imperialist empire.
And so, maybe, we cannot use the term imperialism.
All the debates that are going on.
So empire and imperialism in English, they are cognates, right?
But are they?
To eat. Once you put ism on something,
it seems to make it really bad.
[LAUGH] And so China doesn't mind to be an empire, but
doesn't really want to be imperialism.
So, these are the some of the things that, within Chinese studies means,
you can get on blacklists, you can be monitored, censored, and
four colleagues in history were targeted by the Chinese
government last year, and their photos were published.
And a party appointed scholar
from the Academy of Social Sciences wrote an open critique,
or open charge, or criticism of these four scholars with photographs,
and basically saying, you know you're all wrong.
And somebody counted that in that essay
there was something like 186 exclamation marks.
You can gauge the extent of the emotions here.
What's the logic of the doing it.
It's deeply, deeply hurt person
speaking with 186 exclamation marks.
So, that's the history of the present.
People are so afraid.
Now, it's not just academia anymore.
It's also funding.
Confucius institutes all across the world now are receiving
incredible amounts of funding from the Chinese government.
And they tell you how to teach Mandarin or how not to teach Mandarin and visa versa.
So, we're living in a different era and
Chinese [INAUDIBLE] historically have been leftists
because China was a socialist country and,
unfortunately, that China is gone.
And with me telling them, please, China is gone.
You can't hold down two [INAUDIBLE] of Marxist Socialist China anymore,
but this is one of the sort of the factors that contribute to the dictum or
the injunction that China cannot be criticized.
And so, imagine the difficulty that some of us have in trying to, not so
much to criticize China, but to explain these things.
And if I speak in any way that sound euphemous, that's the reason why.
After this book is published,
I'm never going to be able to go to China, not go back.
I'm not from China, but I'll never be able to go to China,
because I have a chapter on Tibet.
Forget it.
You have a chapter on Tibet, you're on the blacklist.
Yeah. >> I think that this question is slightly
different, though, which is to say,
how does [INAUDIBLE] call it empire or not, but
rather, in the context of the 19th century,
in the context of British incursions,
Portuguese in Macao earlier, etc., etc.,
is what kind of assuming, exactly, impact.
Do you know [CROSSTALK]- >> Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
>> She's an anthropologist, but she's asking if they consider
themselves to be imperial in the same way the British do.
Is that a question that interests you?
>> Clearly, not for the duration between the Opium Wars,
when the Europeans arrived, right?
Between the Opium Wars and, one would say 1949, clearly not during that period.
And so, the Manchu Empire I speak of is the height of the Manchu Empire
when it conquered all the vast lands that comprise today's China.
And all empires are different.
If you read the book, Empires in War with History,
Frederick, yeah, and Cooper, they will tell you, all the empires are different.
But then, they also imitated each other,
they learned from each other, and they've shared a lot of similarities.
And Manchu Empire did as well.
So not so much that I would,
I would say that the Empire form was a self unique.
But that contemporary considerations is important
in thinking about what was Manchu Empire or
not, because it has consequences for today.
And that's sort of more of my focus.
I don't know whether that would answer your question a little bit better.
Other questions?
>> [INAUDIBLE] I was wondering if you thought
that there are particular pressures and
dynamics surrounding, I was thinking of
the [INAUDIBLE] I was thinking about, to some extent,
there may be a logic [INAUDIBLE] that applies
to people of color in the United States.
[LAUGH] And that, in some ways,
attempts to forge close colonial studies have also
led to sort of pressures to align pan-ethnically.
And I'm just wondering what impact do you think it has that,
to the extent, these studies are based in the US, that they are occurring within
US racial dynamics?
>> Mm-hm, yeah, I mean, crucial question of the day.
Other questions?
>> Yeah, I was inspired by your concluding [INAUDIBLE] and your comparative and
broadly based [INAUDIBLE] these questions of colonialism.
And it struck me
that in a tussle
one of the points
Something which goes on for centuries, changing all the time, but
basically, providing rhythm to society that kinda stands for,
it's probably better to say [INAUDIBLE] the different regimes and
[INAUDIBLE] that may be running the show.
And it seems to me that that might be a productive place to start for
looking back at European [INAUDIBLE] there's two points
that [INAUDIBLE] since you mentioned [INAUDIBLE] literature.
And late 19th century, early 20th century in Vietnam,
there was still an examination, a civil service examination,
consists of those models of the Chinese system.
>> Yes.
>> And one of the questions that was asked in the exam sessions in the late 19th,
early 20th century was how do we deal with the French.
And people were responding to that based on their readings of the Chinese classics,
basically, trying to make political strategy for
the day, based off these classics.
And another interesting context for
me would be the British use of the idea of a bureaucratic system.
>> The idea of? >> The British, yeah.
Appropriation of [INAUDIBLE].
>> Mm-hm.
>> A bureaucracy that is staffed by people who have been examined.
And they got that fresh produce in India and then they're so pleased with it that
they kind of bring it back to your father country
as it inspires the British [INAUDIBLE].
So this is just [INAUDIBLE].
>> Thank you.
I'll take one more question.
Thank you.
[INAUDIBLE] question that I was wondering if you could
say more about anti-Semitism and in particular,
I'm curious whether it's [INAUDIBLE] orientation or [INAUDIBLE].
>> Thank you for, the questions are getting tougher, which is good.
The logic of the wound.
There's a difference between an oppressed people feeling
wounded and oppressors feeling wounded.
And so the logic of the wound pivots around
the idea that actually it's the powerful who was previously wounded and
now continues to feel the wound, and not willing to give it up.
And so the wound becomes arrogance and oppression of others and
so once scholar Francis called that China uses its
past as the optic of imperialism to exercise imperialism on mothers, right?
That's the logic of the wound, that shift that happens
after the wound becomes the reason or the rational for
wounding others this is expressed in many ways.
If you follow news China you will see that one of the favorite
government expressions is that our Chinese feelings are hurt.
You know?
Are feelings are, Chinese people's feelings are hurt.
If you criticize China then they will say Chinese people's feelings are hurt, okay?
And this hypervates discourse.
You cannot hurt Chinese feelings, right?
Because of the wounding that happened in the past.
But it also then silences criticism, right?
And silence is justified criticism for the better of China, right?
We all want China to do well, because then the whole world will do well.
We all want that, but the question is the wound operates in such
a way that it actually prevents any kind of critique at all.
And so in terms of ethnic minority people from the US, people of color in
the US don't think we are turning the wound into weapons of oppressing others.
Right, and so there is that wounding that is of course there, right?
And I think scholars have kind of looked at this differently
from different perspectives and I always liked the notion of
the epistemological privilege of the oppressed, where the oppressed,
because they experience the oppression first hand, and
hence they understand how power works better.
Right, so instead of the wounding becoming
like this, it's a condition that cannot be overcome.
But the wounding becomes a place where new kind of knowledge can be produced.
And so, there are different ways of understanding, the logic of the wound
operates very differently for people of color in the US and for
the Chinese government, Chinese state, if you look at the Chinese state today, okay.
It really ought to feel more generous, and open, and kind to the rest of the world,
rather than feeling wounded and its feelings hurt all the time,
that I guess maybe I wasn't quite clear.
>> Yeah. >> [INAUDIBLE] Yeah no and
I really appreciate everything you just said and
I agree wholeheartedly with all of it.
I guess I was wondering to what extent perhaps like
part of the difficulty in critiquing Chinese empire from the U.S.
academy has been that a lot of Asian Americans working within the U.S.
are subject to regional dynamics of the U.S..
Which can make it which can make it tempting to jump into
a sort of more general post-colonial discourse,
because it feels like that's more shared.
>> I see. >> I see what you mean.
Yeah yeah yeah thank you for that further elucidation.
In Asian studies or in Asian in Chinese studies in general,
Asian Americans actually don't have a privileged place.
Because they're not authentic Chinese from China, right?
So if you were born in the US it's actually harder for
you to become a Chinese studies scholar than a white person.
So [LAUGH] and
forget about black and Hispanic and others.
Because if you're Asian American, you're American, and so
you don't have native fluency in Chinese.
In Mandarin Chinese, right?
So, actually, Asian Americans often suffer in Asian studies.
There is a historical prejudice.
Prejudice here, unfortunately, right?
But this is something I read about in that really awful essay that's gonna
make everybody angry which is one point that I make is that unfortunately
all these Chinese scholars are on their way of becoming Chinese Americans.
How does that work, right?
So, that's a crucial question in terms of
the racial icology of asian studies in the Untied States.
Because usually when you have the authentic asians they have to be wives.
You know, not the scholars.
So most Asianists have Asian wives.
Many Asianists have Asian wives, not most.
So sorry if I exaggerated.
And that's something that I criticize too.
And I'm not the only one because Harry and has written about this himself.
And so I was inspired by.
Who's a historian of Japan.
And he uses really, really incendiary language,
including how these Asian studies scholars are body snatchers.
You know, they kind of become Asian, right?
And, blah blah blah, but I think pretty, pretty radical.
But, I think Asian studies scholars who are in the traditional areas studies mode,
they don't read Harry so they probably haven't send a critique,
which would be incredibly offensive, right?
I mean, people have devoted their lives, studying the languages.
To understand the societies that they study thickly.
And so forth.
So, it's a really touchy subject.
About the civil service examination system,
constituting a kind of continuity of Chinese civilization.
I think you have answered, I mean you have offered a counter example to that
perfectly, which is that it also has been in practice in Vietnam.
What's Chinese unity about that, right, except that Chinese empires,
I guess, reach, right, to Vietnam.
And so that's one I guess very quick answer.
I don't know whether that satisfies your question but under the Manchu and
the Mongols the Han Chinese were an ethnic majority right?
And so I think the Manchus especially were very adept at
utilizing resources of governance from all sorts of places,
including continuing the civil service examination.
And claiming themselves to be Tibetan Buddhists.
And marrying Mongolians, through marriage alliance,
conquering the whole land without fighting very much.
Or using all sorts of other strategies.
And civil service examination was definitely one that
they have kept from the Han Chinese throughout the Dynasty.
And of course in the case of Vietnam, reading Ben Tran's book, Post-Mandarin,
you realize that the Post-Mandarinites were actually for
pesos when the French came.
Because their Chinese training so to speak or
civilization accouterments were now being challenged
by the modern ways of the French and that was really interesting to read.
I am in no way an expert of Vietnam but I'm very interested in learning more.
I am really happy to receive questions that will challenge me to think further.
And it's not just, you know, actually Chinese studies scholars
have been saying China has been unified civilization for five millennia.
Right. And most recently there's a very important
scholarship that's coming out of China, by this historian.
His name is [INAUDIBLE].
And his book is just coming out from Harvard University press called What
is China?
Or has it come out?
Maybe, I think it's just coming out.
And, he's written two books on this question,
in which he shows that China, as any kind of a notion of a country,
or self-awareness, really didn't happen until,
I guess he says, quite late, [UNTRANSCRIBED] or
even, or earlier to say, which is the sixth century or
even later, and so would be much later.
And he says, the awareness came with invasions by others.
And so it's a very interesting thesis.
But even then the term China was never a proper name, right?
The term China simply means middle kingdom, a place in the center.
It wasn't a name of the polity in any way, right?
It always had these dynastic nomenclatures.
And similarly, in relation to the British Civil Service System and
how empire used that in some ways to train the colonized to become,
I guess, clerical helpers of empire, but never the managers of empire, right?
I think there's great truth in empires using the system across different places.
I don't know exactly how you were asking this question,
but on the level of person antidote, I spent two and
a half years in Hong Kong and so I experienced first hand the combination
of the Chinese bureaucratic system plus the British bureaucratic system.
With all the civil service examinations of all kinds
depending on what kind of job you're applying for, and so forth.
And it was very, very Interesting.
The discourse of anti-cynicism, much of it was from my understanding
was really European Colonial discourse of how the Chinese are different,
they look different, they act different.
Look how they are pressing the locos, they make so much money.
But then at the same time, the European colonials gave them a lot of privileges.
I took out a paragraph in this thing about
how in Burma, across Southeast Asian countries,
the European colonizers gave the Chinese minorities all sorts of benefits.
Including some forms of self governance and representation in the government and
economic benefits because they relied on the Chinese to do business with China.
And so this China trade thing was happening
under the European colonizers already.
Because they wanted these people to connect them to China and
do business with China.
And then when the Chinese minorities then became rich,
then they start feeling threatened, right?
And then they have to kill them off and then the whole cycle starts
again and this kind of European colonial racism
against the Chinese minorities was then picked up by post Colonial governments.
And so, in the case of Malaysia, right,
you know, the killings of the Chinese in 1969 pilgrim of Jakarta,
that was all Malays, you know, the Malay government.
In the practice of preferential treatment and all of those things and
under the Dutch in Indonesia, all of those laws were already in place.
The most famous Indonesian writer, that we know of,
Pramoedya Ananta Toer, he wrote a book called The Chinese Question,
in Indonesia, in which he criticized the Indonesian government severely for
it's steep racism to the Chinese.
And so Ananta Toer was imprisoned for nine months because of the book.
So the government cannot be criticized and
in that sense the logic of the wound is not unique to China.
I also meant to say that Malaysian government definitely practices
the logic of the wound.
That's why should be protected and given benefits and
other minorities Chinese and Tamil Further oppressed.
Yes, Kris.
>> [INAUDIBLE] >> Okay, even underline.
[LAUGH] >> So
I'm actually interested of the concept of which and
I'm citing one study to [INAUDIBLE] the limits all the time for
[INAUDIBLE] transformative, I think, worth noting ways [INAUDIBLE] and deploying it.
There's reference to language, there's a reference to script, and
a reference to ethnicity.
Now, language confirmed that certainly
genealogies where Chinese people try to speak the language,
[INAUDIBLE] patriarchies where there are certain families And
then reproduce themselves and certainly promotes biocentrism and
place that sort of kinds of scripts [INAUDIBLE] within
a kind of [INAUDIBLE] centric system of meaning.
And so my question is how do you
move [INAUDIBLE] beyond iii.
The notion of linear genealogies, and notion of patriarchy, and
so, or the embedded concepts of those, that seem to be inside a home?
And when I was wondering about that, it seemed that, is it that,
instead of needed caffeine studies, and you and, and
most flaws and so forth, [INAUDIBLE] beyond the Caribbean but
certainly the idea [INAUDIBLE] the idea of the Caribbean [INAUDIBLE].
So what about the [INAUDIBLE] has to be taken out so
that one is to expand the study to include who were on the scene.
The toiling indentured laborers, who you write about.
Who went to the Caribbean.
All those various forms of Chinese merchants who were doing weird things with
land-owner the whole history of the pre-European forms of plantation
that when Chinese merchants were innovating this,
there were all kinds of contaminations and interprenetrations that are taking
place on boats, on patients, on railways.
And what if back, but
wouldn't that I mean, having to working on,
fascination with descriptive language.
>> Thank you.
That is the reality on the ground that you're describing right?
Is all the contaminations and inter penetrations and cross {UNKNOWN] and
hybridisations, that's the reality of on the ground right and so
to name itself could be a paradoxical gesture right?
It's as if you are picking this out of that already incredible mixing,
that's on the ground.
And so that is a paradox that I'm working with, but
at the same time sort of a major, I guess
conception that's behind it, is sign of as a place-based practice.
In each locale with all its inherent differences and
differentiations and multiplicities implied.
And so for instance on the level of the sonic,
on the level of sound, this is your everyday reality.
Just walk down any street in Singapore, you're gonna hear all sorts of Asian
languages on different kinds of sinitic languages, even though they're forced by
the Singaporean government to speak Mandarin, to learn Mandarin at school.
But [DISMISSIVE SOUND] at home they don't speak Mandarin, they speak Haka,
Hokkien, Cantonese, [UNTRANSCRIBED], right?
And then you go to all the working class neighborhoods, it's Thai.
They're all speaking Thai.
I went to a Thai area,
when I was there last May, and I didn't hear any other language but Thai.
So that's the reality of, you know on the ground, It's an incredible mixing.
And to be able to consider is a place-based practice.
As in practices of diaspora, right, that in fact, it is inherently multilingual.
The sinophone happens in the context of other languages.
This is something that sometimes I get criticized by.
Aren't you fetishizing Chinese language and Chineseness?
And I'm saying no, actually it's a critique of Chineseness,
critique of so-called Chinese language.
And so on the level of script, I mean you're right also on the mark.
Because that's the level, that's the kind of critique that's coming out
of Southeast Asia, even as they write in the script, right?
So in the case of Malaysia, writers,
they're almost hanging onto the semitic script.
Like a fetish, right?
Because Malaysian government will not recognize
them as a community, or their writing as literature.
So in Malaysia, Sinophone Malaysian literature is taught
in the foreign language department, not in national literature department.
Does that make sense?
And so the writers they were born many centuries, generations,
they feel awful that their literature is not recognized.
Because all national literatures are multi-lingual in the first place.
We could criticize these writers for
holding onto their ancestral language as such.
But they have had it, over a hundred year literal history.
They've been writing since 19th Century, you can't tell them not to write
in the language that they want to write in, right?
So there's a lot of sort of points of language on the ground, and yet
at the same time, they're ironizing it, they're parodying it,
they're critiquing it.
This wonderful novel, one of the short stories that I have written about in which
you have a British colonial officer stationed in Malaysia,
wishing to write a James Joycean modernist masterpiece in the semitic script,
when he didn't even know how to write them correctly.
And he decided to write it in the medium of the human skin
by tattooing the Chinese characters onto the backs of Chinese coolies in Malaysia.
This is one of the short stories, right?
And then he imprisons these coolies because he needed to be
able to carve on them and then he rapes them, right?
And he brought a wife from China, so this is the story in which you have a central
Malaysia writer actually critiquing the fetishism of the so
called Chinese written character by Ernesto as right?
This is a very self aware writer.
While at the same time he has other stories in which he ironizes