China & Inner Asia: Table of Contents
Organizer: Angelina Chun-Chu Yee, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
Chair: Helen Funghar Siu, Yale University
Discussant: Rob Wilson, University of Hawaii
In the current economic reality of globalization of capital, there is reason to expect that national boundaries would be transcended and cultural identities erased. Yet everyday occurrences belie such predictions. Ethnic conflagrations continue to blaze around the globe, and assertions of ethnicities and local identities from North America to Europe, Africa, and Asia-Pacific have become increasingly insistent. Within academia, the notions of nation, culture and identity as natural, primordial, or all-encompassing entities have come under increasing scrutiny. China, traditionally represented as long possessing a continuous, homogeneous civilization, has hitherto stood as a felicitous example of the perdurance of cultural identity embodied and enforced by the nation-state. Therefore the recent turn of political eventsthe return of Hong Kong to Chinas sovereignty, and the raging of the independence movement in Taiwanpresents a particularly poignant challenge to the integrity of the concept of "China," not only to governments, but to the inhabitants concerned. As both Taiwan and Hong Kong embark on the path of self-redefinitionsome might call it nation-building in the case of the formerthe task of reconstructing a history and a cultural identity separate and distinct from an increasingly powerful mainland has become for many an urgent moral and political imperative. Such rescripting of relationships with the ancestral homeland brings interesting twists to postcolonial narratives; it also offers convincing proof of the powerful agency of cultural discourses. While such a process is self-consciously conceived as progressive resistance against big-power domination, it must answer the charge of complicity with colonial and imperialist forces.
The cases of Taiwan and Hong Kong are linked, not only by virtue of their common ties with mainland China and their former colonial status, but because they serve as illustrations of the complex interaction between people of former colonies and their histories (Yee, Carroll), between the practical demands of national unity and local identity-formation (Liao, Lo), and between the competing ideologies of anti-colonialism and anti-imperialism on the one hand, and anti-hegemonism on the other (Chen). Because of the prominence of national and cultural identity discourses in both cases, the papers in the proposed panels provide further evidence of the constructedness of nationalism and cultural identities, and act as a counterbalance to dominant nationalist discourses. In themselves, the historical moments in which the people of Taiwan and Hong Kong are situated present interesting parallels and striking contrasts. Whether their mutual impact will bring about productive relations remains a subject of negotiation between the forces at play and a matter of concern to students of postcolonial power relations.
Angelina Chun-Chu Yee, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
With the competing discourses of reaffirmation of an integral China on the one hand and the establishment of a local identity on the other, the literary writings of Taiwan during Japanese rule has become a site of contestation between different ideologies and political programs. The past decade has seen a remarkable surge of interest in the colonial period, marked by an outpouring of publications of literary texts produced during that period, as well as rewritings of its history. The period has been represented either as the root cause for disaffection with the motherland, or as proof of the tenacity of nationalistic sentiments. This paper takes the case of three Taiwan writers most frequently anthologized on ostensibly artistic groundsYang Kui, Zhang Wenhuan, and Long Yingzongand studies the ways in which their self-writings negotiated between various conflicting identities: their ancestral nostalgia, their Japanese accculturation, and their efforts at constructing alternative ideals to nationalism and capitulation. I examine the political uses to which their writings have been put in recent recountings of colonial history, and suggest a more subtle and complicated reading of their texts: one that takes into account both the changing material conditions of history as well as the shifting psychological constructions of the self and its specific location, Taiwan.
Sebastian Hsien-hao Liao, National Taiwan University
Since large scale Han Chinese immigration to Taiwan began in the sixteenth century, the aborigines here (who are of Malayo-Austronesian extraction) have suffered consistent humiliation, exploitation, and physical destruction in the hands of the former. With their population reduced to a numerically insignificant size, a tremendous linguistic barrier to overcome, and the urgency of their problems largely eclipsed by the current fierce struggle for cultural hegemony between two ethnic Han cultural identitiesTaiwanese and Chinesethe aborigines organized resistance against the Han domination began only recently. Encouraged by the general atmosphere of liberation of the eighties, the aborigines began to actively seek to have their voice heard by producing a startling amount of resistant discourse and political action. And re-negotiating a new sense of identity that would light up the darkened path of what an aboriginal critic calls the "near-dusk situation" (huang-hum qing-jing) of their ethnic survival seems to assert their subjectivity amidst the overbearing Han establishments while maintaining a productive working relationship with the Han society not only provides a thought-provoking lesson for postmodern/postcolonial transactions of identity but carries implications for aboriginal survival all over the world, especially where the postcolonial struggle of the settlers is being carried out at the expense of aborigines. This paper will examine their cultural discourse to see how their rethinking of identity is being done, what kind of problems it has encountered, and what it could contribute to the renegotiation of the broader Taiwanese identity.
John M. Carroll, University of Texas, Austin
This paper looks at the complex relationship between colonialism, Chinese nationalism and Hong Kong identity in pre-1949 Hong Kong. Part of a study of the historical relationship between the Hong Kong Chinese bourgeoisie and the colonial government, the paper argues that this relationship was enhanced, rather than threatened, by the rise of Chinese nationalism at the turn of the century and strengthened by the birth of an incipient Hong Kong identity.
The paper begins by arguing that Chinese nationalism in Hong Kong was inextricably linked with the colonial nature of the city. The colonial government itself encouraged the growth of Chinese nationalism in several important ways. Thus, at least among the bourgeoisie, Chinese nationalism in Hong Kong was never directed against the colonial government. Rather than driving the Chinese bourgeoisie and the colonial government apart, the idea of a powerful, modern China united them.
The second part of the paper argues that, contrary to conventional wisdom, there was a sense of Hong Kong identity before 1949. It argues that the development of a Hong Kong identity among the Chinese bourgeoisie was part and parcel of the growth of the colony. Acknowledging the existence of a Hong Kong identity allows us to see some of the debates in Hong Kong history not simply as moral arguments but as debates over what it meant to be Chinese in Hong Kong. It also allows us to view the relationship with the colonial government outside of the narrow confines of "collaboration."
Kwai-Cheung Lo, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
This paper uses the notion of transnationality to study the social and cultural conditions of Hong Kong cinema in the 1990s and to rethink the concept of "local" identity in the new global context. At a time when Hong Kong is undergoing an unprecedented process of decolonization and the formation of a unified national identity, is Hong Kong cinema becoming more national or more transnational? How do local filmmakers react to the increasing influence of a National Culture represented by mainland China, and to the economic pressures of foreign capital? This paper studies how some new Hong Kong filmmakers, including Peter Chan, Lee Chi-Ngai and others, attempt to constitute a new site of the "local" through the cinematic representation of other times and other spaces in the present moment of historical transition. It demonstrates the filmmakers subtle transformation to transnationality, which does not necessarily refer to the characters and the settings, but to a new sensibility and a different narration. The paper argues that unlike the films of the eighties which still saw the foreign others as a differential entity from which a distinct Hong Kong identity was constituted, those of the nineties express a transnationality which blurs the boundary between local and foreign, and between self and others. The representation of the foreign other has become incorporated as a natural and essential part of the local, which is never seen as a single, unified given, but as a multiplicity of various cultures and different times.