Academic journal article ARIEL

"I Haven't Seen You since (a Specific Date, a Time, the Weather)": Global Identity and the Reinscription of Subjectivity in Brian Castro's Shanghai Dancing

Academic journal article ARIEL

"I Haven't Seen You since (a Specific Date, a Time, the Weather)": Global Identity and the Reinscription of Subjectivity in Brian Castro's Shanghai Dancing

Article excerpt

Abstract: Globalization provides an important means of understanding the new linguistic composition of the contemporary world, which is itself grounded in shifts in social reality and social relations. Such shifts impact models of selfhood and otherness as well as constructions of identity. This article considers how Brian Castro's award-winning fictional autobiography Shanghai Dancing represents identity by concentrating on perceptual deixis and the text's narration--that is, on pronouns of address and focalization. I use stylistic analysis to demonstrate that Castro uses language, particularly the referential positioning(s) of pronouns, to articulate an experimental poetics of subjectivity in the globalizing world. In doing so, he not only tests autobiographical boundaries but represents the contemporary formation of identity in the globalizing world as reflexive, variable, and relationally constructed.

Keywords: Brian Castro, cosmopolitanism, globalization, identity, perceptual deixis, pronouns, relationality, Shanghai Dancing I. I.

I. Introduction: Identity in the Globalizing World

In his introduction to The Handbook of Language and Globalization, Nikolas Coupland argues that globalization, as a mode of understanding the cultural epoch of recent times, is "an indispensable concept, particularly if we take it as shorthand reference for the cluster of changed and still changing social arrangements and priorities which are indeed distinctive and (despite opinions to the contrary) indeed new" (2; emphasis in original). Coupland's latter emphasis acknowledges that while globalization has been historically linked to the processes of cultural modernization and can thus arguably be "dated anywhere from the early sixteenth to the mid-nineteenth century" (Tomlinson 34), (1) it is not the longer duree but the more immediate sociocultural structures that are valuable for critical and analytical consideration. Indeed, he writes, "while globalization is certainly not without precedent, its scale and scope are new and detectable in changes over recent decades--and most clearly so since the 1980s" (Coupland 4; emphasis in original). He adds that "[g]lobalization has certainly not run its course" (4). I will touch on periodization and cultural formations in the next section of this article. For Coupland, who is interested in understanding the new linguistic composition of the contemporary world, it is more pertinent to note that the importance of globalization is grounded in shifts in social reality and social relations, which themselves impact models of selfhood and otherness as well as constructions of identity.

Sociologist Ulrich Beck places similar emphasis on the social and personal, writing in 1997 of a current '"crisis' resulting from the unfamiliar and chaotic quality of world society" (107). Responding to Martin Albrow's discussion in The Global Age, Beck agrees that one of the challenges facing individuals in the context of the globalizing world is societal organization, not in relation to class structure but in light of the dwindling power of the state and concurrent rise of transnational social movements. Such changing social structures underscore questions of cultural belonging, otherness, and hybridity. Beck writes that " [t]he issue, according to Albrow, is one of 'identity'. Who am I? Where am I? Where and to whom do I belong? These are the key questions" (107). While the restructuring of social lives and social affiliations brought about by changing world conditions is indeed significant, Beck's questions are nevertheless too essentialist; the interrogative pronouns point to monolithic sources upon which to found contemporary identities. (2) As Adam Jaworski and Crispin Thurlow state, "[w]e are living and researching at a time when power is no longer so neatly centred or easily tracked and when people's lives and identities are no longer so neatly bounded or easily located" (255). …

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