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郭建:Politics of Othering and Postmodernization of the Cultural Revolution

更新时间:2009-06-29 12:50:00
作者: 郭建 (进入专栏)  

  

  I. China as “Other’s Other”

  

  The year 1989 marked a turning point in modern Chinese history. While the country’s economic reform stayed its course and continued into the 1990s, a decade of cultural reflection in search of China’s democratic modernity in the aftermath of the Cultural Revolution came to a tragic end with the government’s suppression of the democracy movement in June of that year. A new decade was inaugurated by the crackdown, but it did not have a name until a few years later when a small group of Beijing-based academics appropriated contemporary Western critical theory and set going a “postist” trend.[1] Grafting postmodern/postcolonial discourse in Chinese soil, they coined the term “Post-New Era” for the Chinese 1990s and characterized the decade as one of disillusionment as well as liberation in which China was finally free from the spell of a Western myth called “modernity.”[2] Postists also traced the brief history of the Post-New Era to its beginning and post-marked the event of 1989 as “a farewell, a baptism, an abrupt rupture, a symbolic landmark,” apparently with no qualms about the government’s hand in the baptismal ceremony on the eve of June Fourth.[3]

  For Chinese postists, 1989 not only signified the end of the post-Cultural Revolution New Era; it also left behind that stage of Chinese history dominated by a hegemonic power called “Western knowledge of China.” This power, they argue, had posited the modernity discourse of European Enlightenment as a frame of reference, assigned China a humiliating position as the West’s “backward” and “exotic” Other, and effectively rewritten China’s cultural identity for the Chinese. Under the influence of this power, Chinese intellectuals accepted Western ideas of reason, justice, democracy, and individual rights as universals and led China on a course of modernization in the past 150 years designed to catch up with the West. But, according to postists, such a development was simply a process of “self-otherization,” conforming to the “China image” in the “Western cultural imaginary.” The project finally reached its breaking point and went bankrupt in 1989. In the 1990s, postists argue, China was pregnant with a new consciousness: the awakening of the self synonymous with the dawning awareness of China’s colonized identity as an “Other” of the West. The task of cultural critics, then, is to deconstruct Western knowledge of China and at the same time to explore various possibilities to reconstruct China’s own cultural identity and national subjectivity.[4]

  Ironically, however, to deliver China out of its supposed imprisonment by one Western discourse, postists have to domesticate another. Upon dismissing the image of China reflected in Western modernity discourse, they still cannot see China except through a window framed by Western postmodern/postcolonial discourse. Some leading Post-New theorists refer to their appropriation of contemporary Western theory as a critical practice to “transcend China’s Otherization,” to reconstruct the cultural identity of China by revisioning or repositioning it as “Other’s Other.”[5] As one of the two basic components of Post-New theory, postcolonial criticism centers on a simple dichotomy between China and the West as the colonized and the colonizer. This postcolonial rewriting of history never seriously confronts the fact that China has never been a completely colonized country and that the major oppressive forces affecting the everyday life of the Chinese have mostly been domestic rather than foreign. Following its own logic, Chinese postcolonial criticism overlooks China’s socialist revolution as a direct challenge to both colonialism and imperialism, obscures real social conflicts in contemporary China, and typically ignores Chinese forms of oppression such as “proletarian” or “mass” dictatorship that ran rampant during the Cultural Revolution. The postmodern component in Chinese Post-New theory, on the other hand, argues for the currency of a “cultural dominant” for both the West and China: postists insist that the globalization of late capitalism has dragged developing countries like China into the postmodern age and that Enlightenment modernity as a mystification of power relations has already deconstructed itself in the West and in China as well. With the premises of Western postmodernism as a point of departure, postists are not willing to entertain the possibilities of universally shared normative values. Nor are they willing to confront the most poignant question underlying the cultural discussion of the 1980s: could concepts of Enlightenment such as reason, justice, democracy, and individual rights mean something positive and even radical and revolutionary in China after all, considering the widespread inhumanity, irrationality, injustice, and tyranny that the Cultural Revolution brought about in the name of struggle against so-called bourgeois ideology?

  Indeed, this is a question central to any serious assessment of China’s post-Cultural Revolution cultural debate.(点击此处阅读下一页)


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