Introduction: On Chineseness as a Theoretical Problem
Rey Chow
Fallyseveral
or years now, with much fanfare and controversy, what is gen
known as theory—by which is really meant poststructuralist theo
even though other types of discourses are sometimes included—has ma
its way into modern Chinese literary (and of late, cultural) studies. Num
ous publications, issued by university presses such as Stanford, Duke, C
fornia, and others, seem to respond to the consensus, among the youn
generations of scholars at least, that some use of or reference to theo
is a
necessity.1
While the most prominent example is probably femin
theory and its corresponding investigations of
women,2
buzzwords such
postcolonial, postmodern, the body, the subject, interdisciplinarity, and so fo
also seem ubiquitous and popular. The hostility toward ‘‘Western theor
which merely a decade ago was still predominant in the field of Ch
studies, has apparently all but become marginalized to the point of ins
nificance.
This enthusiasm for theory coincides, in many ways, with enthusiasm
a different, though not unrelated, level—that of realpolitik. With the m
ernization campaign introduced by Deng Xiaoping after he resumed pol
cal centrality in the late s, the People’s Republic of China (PRC)
been undergoing rapid, radical economic reforms, so much so that, by t
early fall of , a massive plan to convert most of China’s state-own
enterprises into ‘‘shareholding’’ ones was announced in the Fifteenth Co
munist Party Congress, leaving many to wonder exactly what would s
be left of the Chinese government’s avowedly socialist or communist id
logical commitment. Taken in the broad sense of the word economy, su
openness toward economics may be understood, though with much
bate, of course, as a pragmatic acceptance of an order that is capable
managing things so that they work. For China at this historical juncture, t
economic order that works is one that is capable of successfully transfor
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