Journal Articles

June 2016 - Vol.46 / No.2
“Doing” Theory In and About East Asia: Transgression and Translation
Author : Meera Lee
Keywords : theory, East Asia, translation, transgression, psychoanalysis
Academics typically conceive of theory as a Western way of conceptual thinking or producing knowledge. In today’s academic context, nevertheless, theory is influential in the non-Western world as well, as many scholars outside of the West adopt a theoretical stance in the production of knowledge. Therefore, as scholars of East Asia, we must rethink its relation to theory. Theory has been discussed in the literature in connection with East Asia, but the place of theory, both in the study of East Asia and in the region itself, still remains obscure if not unstable. Here, my term “East Asia” refers to both geographical and academic sites; that is to say, the term refers to both the region of East Asia and the academic field of East Asian studies, especially in Western academia. Native East Asian scholars of any subject, and scholars who study East Asia, whether they are situated in a Western or non-Western academic context, all face similar challenges when they attempt to engage in theory. The perception of theoretical scholars in East Asia, from both the West and the East, is at best ambivalent, if not antagonistic. In opposition to this perception, this paper will illuminate the positive aspects of theory in and about East Asia. To this end, I propose the following guiding question about the relation between theory and East: what does “doing” theory mean when it comes to East Asia? Since the term “East Asia” risks being quickly associated or conflated with the colonialist conception of the Orient or the Other – namely, a mythic territory – a more helpful question might be: what does using theory mean for both scholars of East Asia and scholars in East Asia?
The “Other” Asia: In Search of a Possible World of Asia
Author : Yu-lin Lee
Keywords : Asia, Asia as method, the concept of Asia, thinking event, the Other Asia, Orphan of Asia
This present paper explores the problems concerning the conceptualization of Asia. To tackle this formidable problem, it undertakes a review of the well-known notion of “Asia as method,” investigating its development in relation to the condition of humanity upon which Asia is conceptualized during various historical phases. Further, the paper proposes a new concept of Asia to emphasize its thinking movement that constitutes a philosophical event through creating new concepts. To illustrate this new concept of Asia, the term “the Other Asia” is coined and the famous novel Orphan of Asia by the Taiwanese writer Wu Zhuoliu is also introduced and discussed. This paper argues that the act of problematizing Asia not only has the potential to bring forth a new and better understanding of Asia, but also signals a particular moment in time when a revival of philosophical power in Asia can actually become possible.
Contested Theory in East Asia– A Case of Inter-determined Constitution of Proletariat in the 1920-1930s
Author : Kwai-Cheung Lo
Keywords : theory, contestation, East Asia, proletarian arts movement
This essay problematizes East Asia with theory by simultaneously problematizing theory itself. In such understanding, theory by nature is self-reflexive and self-contesting, ceaselessly questioning the legitimacy of established rules. Since theory remains the bearer of questions to all things it encounters (including itself), any attempt to provincialize theory (as European or as Asian), or to claim ownership over it with a national, racial, or civilizational identity would not be possible because theory is something other than itself and intrinsically aporetic. This paper takes the case of theory exchange in East Asia of the 1920s-30s in relation to the proletarian arts movement by looking at how the very meaning of “proletariat” is grasped in order to understand the contested nature of theory.
Cinematic Folds underneath “East Asia”: Humorous Traces of History in H Story and Secret Sunshine
Author : Mayumo Inoue
Keywords : Humor, Aesthetics, East Asia, Martin Heidegger, Naoki Sakai, Gilles Deleuze, East Asian Cinema
Especially since the 1930s, “East Asia” as a spatial imaginary has been increasingly deployed by Imperial Japan and the U.S. to institute a larval network of nation-forms that locally mediate and effectuate biopowers. For critical intellectuals today, a critical exodus out of an “East Asia” as an imperial network of nation-states is not only necessary; it has to propose an alternative process in politics and arts whereby categories of nationality, culture, and colonial difference are at once deconstructed and overcome. This essay first situates the genealogical origin of the term “East Asia” in Japanese imperialism in the 1930s and then considers two theoretical efforts to critique metaphysical assumptions about culture that legitimate such imperial ideology: Martin Heidegger’s “The Age of the World Picture” and Rey Chow’s The Age of the World Target. If both Heidegger and Chow underscore the importance of “theory” as a practice in which currently foreclosed modes of life can be “thought,” they also shed a critical light upon a symptomatic return to a non-theoretical culturalism in East Asia today—most notably exemplified by the term “Asia as method”—whereby anticolonial political desires remain firmly tethered to the imperial scheme of culture. In light of Heidegger’s exploration of “invisible shadows” and “secret emitting of light” that haunt “the world as picture,” cinema emerges as a productive site in which conceptualizations of “East Asia” as a metaphysical “picture” or “target” can be undone. The essay looks at two films, Suwa Nobuhiro’s H Story (2001) and Lee Changdon’s Secret Sunshine (2007), in which historical secrets re-emerge as the instances of newness in the present and release their witnesses from the schema of cultural nationalisms in Japan and South Korea. The paper concludes by suggesting a potential intersection among Heidegger’s reading of Kantian “schema,” Naoki Sakai’s critique of a “schema” of co-figurative nations, and Gilles Deleuze’s notion of “humor” as a “fold” that critically traverses the schematized world.
The Cultivation of Citizens: Degeneration, Sexuality, and Nationalist Biopolitics in Zhu Guangqian’s on Cultivation
Author : Ron S. Judy
Keywords : Zhu Guangqian, nationalism, cultivation, Michel Foucault, biopolitics, governmentality
This paper looks at Zhu Guangqian (朱光潛) and the discourse of collective “Life” in the Republican Era (1912-49), focusing specifically on the biopolitical dimensions of the liberal “aesthetic state” (Lee 2006) imagined in Zhu’s On Cultivation 《談修養》. In this work Zhu adopts Arthur Schopenhauer’s ideas about the racial “will to life” (“species will”) and degeneration and combines them with an indigenous emphasis on Confucian ideas of selfcultivation (xiuyang 修養). Zhu, also a follower of the Italian liberal Benedetto Croce, argues that the success of liberal democracy in China depends largely on self-control and studious attention to individual ethical behavior, particularly as regards sexuality. Zhu thus blends early-20th century proto-eugenicist discourse with a liberal emphasis on personal choice and responsi-bility, softening the Chinese nationalist discourse of the “New Life Movement” (xinsheng yundong 新生活運動, 1934) and formulating a theory of responsible popular citizenship which is more in line with Sun Yat-sen’s Three Principles of the People, particularly “Popular Life” (Minsheng 民生). This paper tries to situate On Cultivation within the larger context of changes taking place both without and within the late Republic—i.e., the rise of Kuomintang biopolitics, by focusing mainly on Zhu’s Schopenhauerian understanding of sexuality and “racial life.” From a Foucauldian standpoint we conclude that Zhu’s discourse of “cultivation” is an amalgam of ethical attitudes and mores for citizens that acts partly as a counter-discourse which runs against and parallel to the Kuomintang state’s biopolitical ambition of creating disciplined, “docile bodies.” That is, although it is possible to see governmentality as a macro-management or “government of souls,” it is also possible to understand it as something similar to Zhu’s principles of selfcare in On Cultivation—that is, as a matter of concerned personal aesthetics. Finally, although I partly draw on Foucault’s late lectures on the hermeneutics of the Western subject and the care of the self (epimeleia, or “self-care”), my goal is to understand how Zhu’s emphasis on “species will” (sexual conduct) as a means of race regeneration can be considered in the context of individual, socialized cultivation (xiuyang 修養).
Theories and Histories: Reconstructing the Legacies of Sir Robert Hart and the Chinese Maritime Customs Service
Author : Chihyun Chang, Xiaoling Li
Keywords : imperium in imperio, synarchy, informal empire, impactresponse, and institutional breakthrough
The legacies of Sir Robert Hart and the Chinese Maritime Customs Service have been characterised by a variety of theories in modern China, ranging from Cantonisation, imperium in imperio, synarchy, impactresponse, tradition-modernity, revolutionary Marxism, informal empire, institutional breakthrough, etc. The controversy demonstrates the wide gap between the ways in which the theories and histories of Hart and the CMCS have been told and remembered in China, on the one hand, and in the West, on the other hand, in the twentieth century. The reconstruction of the legacies of Sir Robert and the CMCS enriches the theoretical ingredients bridging Chinese and Western scholars’ different theories about modern China. The theorization of modern China was an evolutionary process which combines different groups of scholars’ memories, experiences and histories. This article aims to examine how theories were generated from the research on the CMCS, how these theories argue against each other and how these debates generate new theories.
Poetry Blogs and the Posthuman in Postcolonial Taiwan
Author : Dean Anthony Brink
Keywords : Postcolonialism, Taiwan, posthumanism, poetry by Taiwanese, social media, Taiwanese politics
This article engages the use of poetry blogs in light of the critical writings of Alain Badiou, Jodi Dean, Cary Wolfe, Katherine Hayles and others who shed light on how posthuman autopoietic relationality forms means of conceptualizing how postcolonial subjects may overcome the oppressive legacies of outside rule and restore a sense of sovereignty through transnational networks. These Taiwanese poets—Chiau-Shin Ngo (吳昭新) and Kueishien Lee (李魁賢)—present work in Mandarin, Taiwanese, Japanese and English translation speaking to issues of politics and aesthetics in contemporary Taiwan. Their poetry blogs are shown to continue to reorient the legacies of occupying regimes that excluded Taiwanese from positions of power until the late 1980s. This paper explores how poetic form and the blog medium provide an extension of uses of poetry in posthuman prosthetic networks to form tactics aimed at displacing the KMT apparatus while serving as tools of decolonization and the renegotiation of international affiliations.
The Chinese Taoism of Fred Faulk in Tennessee Williams’ The Night of the Iguana
Author : Xuding Wang
Keywords : Tennessee Williams, The Night of the Iguana, Fred Faulk, Chinese Taoism, influence, comparative studies
This paper explores the Chinese cultural influence on the character of Fred Faulk in Tennessee Williams’ The Night of the Iguana via a comparative approach. Departing from the traditional Christian interpretations of the play and its characters, the paper argues that Tennessee Williams’ creation of Fred Faulk is influenced by Chinese culture in general and by Taoism in particular. Faulk’s Taoist lifestyle is an integral part of his character and helps establish the play’s Taoist theme as a philosophical framework. A critical eva-luation of Faulk’s character from a Taoist perspective rather than a traditional Christian approach can show how he fulfills a distinct function within the play’s larger dramatic structure. Tennessee Williams shows the Chinese influence on Faulk in three ways. First, Faulk is directly influenced by his Chinese cook’s philosophy of “Mei yoo guanchi,” (沒有關係) or “no sweat.” Second, Faulk’s personality is strikingly similar to that of Hannah Jelkes, who has obviously been much influenced by Chinese philosophy and so points us to Faulk to foreshadow Hannah, who then reminds us of or points back to Faulk part of Tennessee Williams’s dramatic strategy. Third, Faulk’s lifestyle perfectly mirrors that of a Taoist sage and hermit such as Jiang Taigong and Chuang Tzu. The paper first establishes the clear connections between Chinese Taoism and Tennessee Williams, and then analyzes Faulk’s personality via concepts of parallelism favored by American comparative literature scholars. Although Fred Faulk is an “absent” character, he is an important symbolic figure and an organic part of Tennessee Williams’ Oriental theme—one which has not yet really been studied. The importance of Faulk becomes clear through an in-depth analysis of his personality and comparison with the play’s main characters. As a character in absentia, it is not surprising that critics have not paid sufficient attention to him, let alone to the Chinese Taoist theme he and Hannah embody. Yet, Williams has given Faulk a unique lifestyle that not only resembles that of Hannah but that sharply contrasts with the lifestyles of his wife Maxine and his friend, the Reverend T. Lawrence Shannon. Such comparisons make Tennessee Williams’ own Taoist attitudes toward life as reflected in the play all the more clear.