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Revisiting Chineseness: Notes on
International Center for Cultural Studies and Institute of Social Research and Culture Studies, National Chiao Tung University and International Institute of Cultural Studies and International Master’s Program in Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, University System of Taiwan jointly organized the lecture “Forget Allen Chun” by Prof. Allen Chun on 26 September 2018. The lecture conducted in Mandarin was attended by more than 40 people.
In the lecture, Prof. Chun discussed the background and aims of his recent book Forget Chineseness: On the Geopolitics of Cultural Identification (SUNY Press, 2017). Although readers quite often refer to his provocative essay, “Fuck Chineseness: On the Ambiguities of Ethnicity as Culture as Identity”, published in 1996, Prof. Chun started by suggesting that the book was “not related” to the previous essay.
For Prof. Chun, one significant difference was in the context. To problematise, he suggested, it is not the content of a culture, but the context was much more important. As the world and China have been changing, so do the content and function of “Chineseness”. He used the transformation from “Greater China” (da zhonghua大中華) into the “New Greater China” (da zhongguo大中國) and their differences as an example to illustrate his argument. He suggested that the former was indeed a transnational notion that emphasized the influence from “external” (e.g. Taiwan and Hong Kong). However, the rise of China changed such context and thus the changing geopolitics in a new “Greater China”. The case of being forced to be identified as a Chinese national (bei zhongguo ren被中國人), he argued, had rather been political than cultural.
In elaborating his motivations and considerations of writing the books, he argued that the rise of China had become a major factor; societies like Taiwan and Hong Kong could no longer be considered as closed and self-sustained entities. In short, these places could no longer merely consider internal factors. He also found that there lacked the analytical and theoretical language to understand and tackle the situation. Prof. Chun recounted that the book was to be understood as a series of argument instead of independent analysis of different cases.
During the question-and-answer, there was a heated discussion surrounding Prof. Chun’s book and the related reviews in Router (Spring 2018). Issues aroused include the concept of geopragmatics, the politics of place, the critique of disciplines, and the relationship between diaspora and division of academic labour. The heated discussion clearly showed that the participants’ enthusiasm and academic importance of Prof. Chun’s book. I am confident that many participants are looking forward to Prof. Chun’s forthcoming book, On the Geogragmatics of Anthropological Identification.
Writer: Postdoctoral Fellow Desmond Hok-Man SHAM(The International Center for Cultural Studies)
“It is rare that one reads a book that so thoroughly challenges so many commonly held basic assumptions. For this reason, this book evades succinct summarization and is best read carefully, perhaps twice over. Anyone who takes the time to do so will find the way that one talks and thinks about ‘China’ forever changed.” ― The China Quarterly
“Forget Chineseness does not only contribute astute observations for scholars in Asian or Cultural Studies, it is also an important book for postcolonial theorists. The book’s importance is in its problematisation of prevailing notions of identity, culture and Chineseness as well as its invitation for postcolonial scholars to think beyond oppositional discourses. Chun’s voice is strong, passionate and bold; his call to explore as well as transcend identity politics of Chineseness, if not already heeded, will be followed by many.” ― Postcolonial Studies
“…a good example of disentangling complicated historical materials and presenting ambiguous identities in a relatively constructive way.” ― Cultural Sociology
About the Author
Allen Chun is Research Fellow at the Institute of Ethnology, Academia Sinica, Taiwan. He is the author of Unstructuring Chinese Society: The Fictions of Colonial Practice and the Changing Realities of “Land” in the New Territories of Hong Kong.
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