This essay addresses the “demand for humanism, with a nod toward Asia” within current theory and global intellectual political culture. I argue that using humanism as a way to understand China (a habit inside and especially outside the PRC) keeps us within the orientalist tradition; it is also at odds with China's attempted/failed/ongoing revolution and trajectory since 1949. I offer an interdisciplinary analysis of area studies and other representations of China, especially in regard to Tiananmen and the Cultural Revolution. I then contrast this with current intellectual debates in China as well as with an older Maoist or revolutionary discourse. The resurgence or “demand” for humanism is rendered as part of an intellectual and political backlash or depoliticization.
China as Humanist Exemplum
Daniel Vukovich teaches postcolonial, literary, and theoretical studies at Hong Kong University, with an emphasis on the PRC and Sino-Western politics. His book China and Orientalism: Western Knowledge Production and the P.R.C. appeared in late 2011. It makes a case for the global reconstitution of orientalism since the 1970s and is a defense of the theoretical and political complexities of Maoist and post-Mao China. He has also published in Cultural CritiqueCultural LogicpositionsNeo-Helicon, and Frontiers of Literary Studies in China and has forthcoming chapters in China and New Left Visions (2012), The Oxford Guide to Post-colonial Studies, and Culture and Social Transformation. He is a generalist.
Daniel Vukovich; China as Humanist Exemplum. Cultural Politics 1 July 2012; 8 (2): 207–231. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/17432197-1587145
Download citation file: