China Inside Out: Contemporary Chinese Nationalism and Transnationalism

China Inside Out: Contemporary Chinese Nationalism and Transnationalism

China Inside Out: Contemporary Chinese Nationalism and Transnationalism

China Inside Out: Contemporary Chinese Nationalism and Transnationalism

Synopsis

The "war on terror" has generated a scramble for expertise on Islamic or Asian "culture" and revived support for area studies, but it has done so at the cost of reviving the kinds of dangerous generalizations that area studies have rightly been accused of. In the case of China, this book shows the diverse array of critical but solidly grounded research approaches that can be used in studying a society. Its approach neither trivializes nor dismisses the elusive effects of culture, and it pays attention to both the state and the multiplicity of voices that challenge it.

Excerpt

Aihwa Ong

The anthropological perspective

China has been a very unique subject of study. There tends to be no comparative aspect to how we approach China and perhaps a kind of reluctance to apply to it a social theory that is developed in other parts of the world. I think it is extremely important to have that kind of comparative aspect in order to be engaged in a conversation about what China is like in other parts of the world.

Dikötter on Ong's chapter

This lecture contains a whole panoply of notions that are very popular in cultural anthro
pology. Even if you feel a bit overwhelmed by the number of names and concepts, it is
very useful to pay attention to them. You also have an opportunity to see how anthro
pologists think and work, the sort of knack anthropologists have for deconstructing all
sorts of things that we considered to be unproblematically natural.

It is undeniable that anthropology has had the biggest impact on other fields of social
research since the 1980s–90s. the whole postmodernism is very much fueled by what
anthropologists have developed in the last 10–20 years. I also use the notion of denatural
ization: to denaturalize the nation or culture means no longer to see them as fairly
unproblematic givens that you can more or less classify and examine, pretty much like an
entomologist will look at different sorts of insects. You have to have that sort of
anthropological reflexivity, a self-reflection in examining the very basic units of analysis
that you deploy in your own world. There is no way escaping anthropology. That was
possibly the case 10–20 years ago, but it no longer is the case. Even in the so-called hard
economics no one would be a fool to think that you can more or less ignore this sort of
cultural anthropological insights.

This chapter will first talk about anthropology, which is my discipline, and present my approach to the subjects of the nation, nationalism, and transnationalism.

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