postmodernism


postmodernism
(houxiandaizhuyi vi) and ‘post-ism’ (houxue)
Postmodernism as a rubric covering various critical methodologies (deconstruction, post-structuralism, post-colonialism, New Historicism, and so forth) was assimilated by intellectual and academic circles during and after the mid 1980s, largely through the translated work and public lectures of contemporary Western critical theorists such as Frederic Jameson, Jürgen Habermas and Jean-François Lyotard. Postmodernism as a distinctive and distinctly Chinese form of cultural discourse, however, did not emerge until the 1990s and very much shares in the de-politicized, nativist mood of the post-Tiananmen period. The results of a forum on Chinese postmodernism published in the January 1993 issue of Wenyi yanjiu[Literary and Art Research] and articles on Edward Said’s Orientalism and Culture and Imperialism by Zhang Kuan, Qian Jun and Pan Shaomei published in the September 1993 issue of Dushu [Reading] adumbrated the issues around which Chinese postmodernism would take shape—the valorization of Chinese popular culture, a corresponding hostility to modernity, enlightenment and democracy as proxies for Western hegemony, and an obsession with Chinese and national identity, these last two summed up in the title of the 1994 ‘manifesto’, ‘From “Modernity” to “Chineseness”’ (Cong ‘xiandaixing’ dao ‘Zhonghuaxing’) by Zhang Fa, Zhang Yiwu and Wang Yichuan. In 1994 Zhang Yiwu and Wang Ning, young academics at Peking University, both claimed, in different terms, that in the 1990s China (too) had entered a ‘new post-era’ (hou xin shiqi) linked, on the one hand, to global postmodernity, and freed, on the other, from Western historicity and meta-narratives. While Wang Ning elaborated his postmodern criticism in the context of Chinese literature, Zhang Yiwu extended its use in broadly cultural terms, praising the recent flowering of popular culture in urban China for its democratic power (and see minjian), while denouncing Chinese modernity in the twentieth century as created and represented by the May Fourth iconoclasts. Zhang asserted, however, that China needed to explore postmodern space in her own language and resist current postmodern discourses as forms of Western cultural hegemony.
In 1995, the term ‘post-ism’ or ‘post-studies’ (houxue) was coined by Zhao Yiheng in an article, ‘“Post-Isms” and Chinese New Conservatism’, published in the Hong Kong journal Ershiyi shiji ([Twenty-First Century] 27:4–15). The ‘post-isms’, wrote Zhao, were shaped by theories borrowed from the West, and while they performed a critical role in the contemporary West, when translated into China as means of articulating her social and political reality, they paradoxically served the conservative aim of subverting the revolutionary radicalism that had dominated past decades. His article aroused a heated debate, which was joined by Xu Ben, Liu Kang and others in future issues of the same journal. In his own critique of the ideology of the various ‘post-isms’, for example, Xu Ben also emphasized its conformity with the nationalism and political censorship of the 1990s.
Wang, Hui and Yu, Guoliang (eds) (1998).
90 niandai de ‘houxue’ lunzheng [‘Post-ism’ in the Nineties]. Hong Kong: Chinese University Press.
Williams, Philip F. (1998/1999). The Rage for Postism and a Chinese Scholar’s Dissent’. Academic Questions 12.1 (Winter): 43–53.
Xu, Ben (1999). The Postmodern-Postcolonial Stimulus and the Rise of Chinese Post-ist Theory’. In idem, Disenchanted Democracy: Chinese Cultural Criticism after 1989. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 88–128.
——(2001). ‘Postmodern—Postcolonial Criticism and Pro-Democracy Enlightenment’. Modern China 27.1 (January).
Zhang, Longxi (1998). ‘Postmodernism and the Return of the Native’. In idem, Mighty Opposites: From Dichotomies to Differences in the Comparative Study of China. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 184–212.
[See also the special issue of New Literary History 28.1 (1997), entitled ‘Cultural Studies: China and the West’, and the special issue of Boundary 2 24.3 (1997), reprinted in Zhang Xudong and Arif Dirlik (2000), Postmodernism and China. Durham: Duke University Press.]
CHEN JIANHUA

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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