Academic journal article American Studies

PLURALIST UNIVERSALISM: An Asian Americanist Critique of U.S. and Chinese Multiculturalisms

Academic journal article American Studies

PLURALIST UNIVERSALISM: An Asian Americanist Critique of U.S. and Chinese Multiculturalisms

Article excerpt

PLURALIST UNIVERSALISM: An Asian Americanist Critique of U.S. and Chinese Multiculturalisms. By Wen Jin. Columbus: The Ohio State University Press. 2012.

The impulse to transnationalize the study of Asian American literature has grown apace in the past two decades, at the same time that a similar pattern evolved in China studies, under such rubrics as diasporic, Sinophone, and global Chinese literature and culture. Few, however, have brought to this project the comparative systematicness, dual geographical depth, and sustained thematic focus that characterizes Wen Jin's Pluralist Universalism. Well researched and richly contextualized, Jin's book examines the ethno-racial policies of the United States and the People's Republic of China through the lens of their respective fictions on multiculturalism. Reading English alongside Chinese literary texts while working with cultural and scholarly sources across both languages, Jin adroitly mines for parallels between the two nations' seemingly oppositional multicultural visions-American liberal multiculturalism on the one hand, China's policy of ethnic autonomy on the other. In the process, Jin brings into rare critical dialogue the U.S.'s and the PRC's divergent treatments of minority groups, persuasively arguing that their two multiculturalisms be understood as part of a "global movement," "two different but not entirely incongruous forms of pluralism that have increasingly come to bear on each other" (1).

As Jin observes, comparisons of the two countries' ethno-racial policies often descend into a "solipsistic, accusatory mode" (xii), so that targeting the other regime's minority governance has become constitutive to nationalistic rhetoric on both sides, giving rise to a recurrent and ever more prominent geopolitical discourse in our time. Given this polarized situation, Jin sees contemporary fiction as a fertile site for drawing out connections between the two official multiculturalisms and hence opening up a framework for "double critique. …

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