shu-mei shih on china and the discourses of empire and postcoloniality


Shu-mei Shih, ‘The Concept of the Sinophone’, PMLA 126, 3 (2011).

Sinophone studies — conceived as the study of Sinitic- language cultures on the margins of geopolitical nation-states and their hegemonic productions — locates its objects of attention at the conjuncture of China’s internal colonialism and Sinophone communities everywhere immigrants from China have settled. Sinophone studies disrupts the chain of equivalence established, since the rise of nation- states, among language, culture, ethnicity, and nationality and explores the protean, kaleidoscopic, creative, and overlapping margins of China and Chineseness, America and Americanness, Malaysia and Malaysianness, Taiwan and Taiwanness, and so on, by a consideration of speciic, local Sinophone texts, cultures, and practices produced in and from these margins. Sinophone Tibetan literature and Sinophone American literature are two examples in an expansive consideration of Sinophone studies in literature. If the critical operation of Sinophone studies involves a trenchant critique of China- centrism, it equally involves a critique of Eurocentrism and other centrisms, such as Malay-centrism in Malaysia. It is, in short, always a multidirectional critique.

Three interrelated historical processes have produced Sinophone communities: continental colonialism, settler colonialism, and immigration.

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