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Contrapuntal China

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Organizer: Kyle Shernuk

Co-Organizer: Hangping Xu

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Edward Said posits “contrapuntal reading” as a postcolonial intervention into the master narrative of imperialism by considering the voices, narratives, and perspectives of the colonized and the marginalized. Contrapuntal analysis thus helps us deconstruct a text’s often insidious power apparatus and opens it up for multiple and sometimes oppositional interpretations. Taking a cue from Said’s effort to raise our “awareness both of the metropolitan history that is narrated and of those other histories against which (and together with which) the dominating discourse acts” (51), this seminar coins the term “contrapuntal China'' to highlight the various rhythms of life from around the world that collectively and actively reshape the possible meanings of Chineseness. Building upon Said’s postcolonial framework, this seminar proposes the idea of the contrapuntal as a means for recognizing and validating heterogeneous ways of performing China and Chineseness. We resist essentialist accounts of “Chineseness” and instead understand it to be a contingent and historically informed category shaped by the forces of (anti-)globalization, emigration, diaspora, and multiculturalism, to name but a few. In short, we read Chineseness contrapuntally. How do expressions of ethnic identity complicate Han-centric narratives of what it means to be Chinese? What does it mean to write China from a position of national, linguistic, and cultural exile? What can and does Chineseness look like in non-Chinese national and cultural contexts? Is it possible to express Chineseness in non-Sinitic linguistic forms? When we think beyond the limits of China and Sinophone Studies, what new vistas of Chineseness can we discover? The seminar is open to different approaches, periods, and geographic orientations; we also welcome papers that anchor their contrapuntal reading of “Chineseness” around (Sinitic or non-Sinitic) literary, filmic, and cultural texts. 

Accepted papers may have the opportunity to be published in an edited volume included in the Routledge Studies in Chinese Comparative Literature and Culture.

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