The workshop engages with the globalization turn of modern Chinese literary and cultural studies since the 2000s, in which the Southeast Asian context figures prominently. Contrary to its marginality in many other disciplines, the region — also known by antecedent ethno-geographical appellations such as “Nanyang” (the South Seas) and “Nusantara” (the Other Islands) — has been central to the recent remapping of global Chinese literature. In addition, Southeast Asia has played a crucial but largely unrecognized role in coining meta-concepts to re-frame the study of Chinese cultural areas at critical junctures. For instance, “Cultural China,” the oft-invoked concept in the 1990s to eschew a singular geopolitical and cultural authority embodied by the mainland state, was first proposed by diasporic Malaysian Chinese writers in the 1970s. From the mid-2000s on, the vibrant multi-sited formation of Malaysian Chinese-language literature has invigorated the concept of the Sinophone, formulated to disprivilege China and re-configure center-periphery cultural relations that structure the new cartography of Chinese-language literature. To date scholars have not agreed on the most apposite term to characterize the cultural formations that lie primarily outside mainland China. From “Chinese,” “Sinophone” to “Sino-Southeast Asia,” the plurality of designations underscore the contested interpretations of Sinitic literary practices within and connected to the region.
Keeping in mind the aforementioned invocations, each with their own assumptions and strategic objectives, the ongoing debate can re-visit existing studies on the varied areal constituents of the region. Research has shown that since the 14th century, localities that correspond to current-day Southeast Asia have hosted remarkable histories of vernacularizing Sinitic literary production, which subsequently flourished from the 18th century to early 20th century. From the diversity of Sinitic script practices that inflected literary writings in Vietnam, to the Indonesian depiction of Chinese detectives in translation and original works, to the narratives by Chinese Filipinos that address the variegated condition of Chineseness and its relation to Philippine nationhood, the “language ethics,” “South-South literary exchange” and “strategic hybridity” enacted by social actors exemplify inquiries on civilizational ethos, popular culture and political economy, all of which bear upon the nature and evolution of literary modernities. What accounts for the limited critical attention on these phenomena until the recent spotlight on Malaysian Chinese-language literature (or Mahua literature, as it is locally known), and how can examining the region anew help to reconceptualise the field of modern Chinese literary studies? Besides employing the nation-state as the customary analytical unit, are there alternative scales to study transregional literary production related to places located in today’s Southeast Asia? Historically speaking, how and why have players in fields of cultural production dismantled established creative frameworks and installed new modalities of writing? In particular, the ramifications of overlapping literary traditions in various multilingual societies deserve further critical attention as they can illuminate the uneasy making of modern subjects and their hybrid cultural identities.
Focusing on the topic “Between Mobility and Place-making: The Worlds of Southeast Asia in Modern Chinese Literature,” the workshop will be held in tandem with a second workshop on the same theme at Duke University from March 11-13, 2021. Both events aim to delineate the paradigmatic potential of the geographical region for modern Chinese literary studies, especially in terms of how it can highlight modes of localized Chinese literary and cultural innovations, as well as the ways in which writers have conjugated local self-understandings and extra-local perspectives of linguistic and ethnic relations to the region. The workshops will approach “Chinese literature” in its broadest sense to include Chinese-language writings as well as literature written by ethnic Chinese authors with strong ties to Southeast Asia since the 19th century. They will also be open to parsing “localization” through different optics, by acknowledging the process as either one of absorption of foreign influence, or one engaged in adaptation to new cultural contexts.
The workshop will provide the opportunity for presenters to discuss their articles in progress, which will be reviewed for a special issue at PRISM: Theory and Modern Chinese Literature. We anticipate rich and constructive scholarly conversations. The workshop will not be recorded.
Dr. CHAN Cheow Thia
Assistant Professor, Department of Chinese Studies, National University of Singapore
Professor Carlos ROJAS
Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, Duke University
本工作坊以東南亞為中心語境，探討21世紀以來中國及華文現代文學和文化研究的全球化轉向。眼下的東南亞曾以「南洋」和「群島”（Nusantara）等民族地理名詞的稱說為人們所知。它在許多學科中都處於邊緣位置，近年來卻在重繪世界華文文學的版圖時扮演關鍵的角色。再者，東南亞在當代為研究華族文化區域提供了創新的範式，然而其貢獻亦經常被忽略。例如，英文學界在1990年代使用「文化中國”（Cultural China）的概念來稀釋中國大陸所代表的獨一地緣政治與文化霸權，但此一概念實則源於1970年代離散臺灣的馬華留學生的創想。自2000年代中期開始，多地共構、風貌多元的馬華文學則啟發了「華語語系」（Sinophone）的概念。華語語系意欲開闢華文文學研究的新格局，卸載中國的優勢地位，重新制定中心與邊緣的文化關係。時至今日，究竟哪個術語最能適切詮釋中國境外的文化形態，學者們仍然莫衷一是。然而，無論是「中國」、「華語語系」、或是「國-東南亞」（Sino-Southeast Asia），這些分歧的表述都凸顯了學界如何爭相定義東南亞內部兼或與之相關聯的華文文學實踐。
記取前述不同指稱所個別包含的假設和目標，目前持續進行的辯論不妨重新考察關涉區域內部的現有研究。研究顯示，自14世紀以來，今日的東南亞地區曾為華文文學的地方化提供了不同性質的土壤，使之在18世紀到20世紀初之間蓬勃發展。從影響越南文學書寫的各種漢文實踐，到印尼文學創作與翻譯中對中國偵探的刻畫，再到菲律賓華人性和國族論述的複雜關係，社會成員所展演的「語文倫理」（language ethics）、「南方文學交流」（South-South exchange）和“戰略的混雜性」（strategic hybridity）都指向了對民族精神、大眾文化和政治經濟的研究，並涉及文學現代性的本質與演變。何以及至馬華文學成為學界近日關注的焦點，這些現象方才進入研討的視域？重新檢視東南亞語境能如何幫助我們反思與重構中國與華文現代文學的研究範式？除了以民族國家作為慣常的分析單位，我們是否還能採用其他研究尺度來觀照當下東南亞地區的跨域文學生產？從歷史角度而言，文化生產的參與者是如何、又為何打破現有的創作慣性，進而鍛造新的寫作模式？不同的多語社會中重疊的文學傳統所引發的文化現象尤為值得關注，因為它們能夠說明現代主體及其混雜文化身份的形成。
Sponsored by the Lee Kong Chian NUS-Stanford Distinguished Fellowship on Southeast Asia.
Co-organized by Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences Research Division, National University of Singapore and Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, Duke University.
Language: English, Chinese (with simultaneous interpretation)
|Date:||28 January 2021, 29 January 2021, 4 February 2021, 5 February 2021|
|Venue:||Online via Zoom|
|Contact Person:||Andrew Chang|