Rethinking Chineseness: Translational Sinophone Identities in the Nanyang Literary World

by E. K. Tan


*This book is in the Cambria World Sinophone Series
(General editor: Victor H. Mair)

This book examines the relationship between the Nanyang Chinese, their original homelands (Borneo, Malaysia and Singapore) and their imaginary homeland (China) through the works of writers such as Kuo Pao Kun, Chang Kuei-hsing, and Vyvyane Loh. The increasing international scholarly interest in works by these individuals——part of an ever-growing Sinophone canon——draws critical attention to the politics of identity formation and transnational discourses of ethnicity and identity. Although these works and concomitant discourses have generated a great deal of interest in Asia, they remain largely unexplored in English-language scholarship. While many scholars such as Ien Ang, Quah Sy Ren, Philip Kuhn, Ng Kim Chew, Aihwa Ong, Shu-mei Shih, Tee Kim Tong, Jing Tsu, David Der-wei Wang, Wang Gungwu, and Zhu Chongke have contributed to the field, there is still a great disparity between both the primary and secondary literature written in Chinese and English. To expand the scope of discussion on Sinophone studies with a focus on the Nanyang Chinese, Rethinking Chineseness creates a dialogue by breaking down the linguistic boundaries between these critical discourses.

In recent years, scholars in anthropology, cultural studies, literature, and sociology have critically examined Sinophone communities as part of Chinese diaspora and Chinese overseas studies. Focusing on the triangular relationship among globalization, transnationalism and diaspora studies, these scholars tend to assume that Sinophone experiences are similar across culture, history, ethnicity and gender, neglecting the uniqueness of individual Sinophone communities. Rethinking Chineseness addresses this oversight by adopting the Sinophone as a critical concept to investigate the unique experience of the Nanyang Chinese within the context of literary studies.

The concept of Chineseness has arisen as a topic widely discussed and debated among scholars such as Ien Ang, Rey Chow, Allen Chun, Shu-mei Shih, Wei-ming Tu, Wang Gungwu and Ling-chi Wang for the past two decades. As a project that takes as its objective a rethinking of the meaning of Chineseness in the context of the Nanyang Chinese, Rethinking Chineseness addresses Chineseness as a theme that poses a problem to scholars involved in Ethnic and Area studies via the critical concept of the Sinophone. The investigation of the productivity of the Sinophone in evaluating the notion of Chineseness is to foreground the significance of the Nanyang Chinese writers and their works within the larger scope of representation in the global cultural experience of Sinophone communities. As cultural products, their works directly and also symptomatically tackle questions relating to Sinophone identities in a less metaphysical but phenomenological sense.

Rethinking Chinesenessis an important book for Asian studies, diaspora studies, ethnic studies, literary studies, Chinese overseas studies, Sinophone studies, Southeast Asian studies and transnational studies.

See the MLA 2013 book release.


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