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Chinese/Ethnoscapes: Ethnic World-Making in Contemporary Sinophone Literature
In this talk, I explore the relationship between ethnicity and the changing meaning of Chineseness at the turn of the twenty-first century. I will offer the idea of “Chinese/ethnoscapes” as a framework for thinking about “China” through distinctly ethnic (and ethnicized) worldviews, particularly as they are expressed in two literary examples. First, I will address the ethnically Tibetan, Chinese writer Alai’s award-winning novel Red Poppies. By engaging in a reading of the story that accounts for and takes seriously the Tibetan worldview it suggests, I contend that the novel contains an alternative ending that challenges received ideas about modernity and contemporary Chineseness. Next, I will discuss Paiwan aboriginal, Taiwan writer Dadelavan Ibau’s travelogue-cum-memoir Farewell Eagle: A Paiwan Woman’s West-Tibetan Travels. Through her use of parallel narratives that both remember her past and record her present, I demonstrate how she tactically reconfigures normative coming-of-age narratives in order to accommodate minoritized ethnic knowledge within mainstream Han-ethnic society. Taken collectively, I argue that these literary works demonstrate how centering ethnicity – or taking ethnicity as a method – results in the production of new knowledge about both ethnic and Chinese experiences, knowledge that fundamental reshapes how we can understand the purpose and purview of Chinese Studies today.

Sep 29, 2020 12:00 PM in Eastern Time (US and Canada)

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