Although claimed as a nation-state, with a government, a territory, and citizenry, Manchukuo (1932–1945) is a colony of the Empire of Japan, appropriated from Northeast China. As such, Manchukuo’s literary identity complicates the relationship between nationalism and literature, inviting us to rethink the history of Chinese literature in specific and East Asian literary history in general. This article tackles the thorny problem of Manchukuo literary formation by going through Shuimei Shih’s concept of sinophone and Chen Pingyuan’s notion of the multiethnic, only to conclude via a reading of Deleuze and Guattari’s elaboration of Kafka that Manchukuo’s corpus is best approached as a minor literature of its own. The very colonial and local complexity of Manchukuo’s minor literature lies in its multiethnicity and multilingualism. A close reading of Mei’niang, Yokoda Fumiko, and Arsenii Nesmelov, through their deterritorialized Chinese, Japanese, and Russian stories, demonstrates the range of indigenous and exiled writers in their diverse imagination of Manchukuo’s ambiguous sovereignty.
Multiethnicity and Multilingualism in the Minor Literature of Manchukuo
Yue Chen teaches in the Language Department at Riverdale Country School, Bronx, NY. She is an interdisciplinary scholar with research interests in East Asian film and literature. Her current research studies the cultural imagination of Manchukuo (1932–1945). Armed with postcolonial and minority discourse, she reveals how Manchukuo cinema and literature mediates the notion of the nation and sovereignty in the context of Japanese imperialism. She earned a PhD in East Asian literature and film studies from the University of Oregon.
Yue Chen; Multiethnicity and Multilingualism in the Minor Literature of Manchukuo. positions 1 May 2020; 28 (2): 341–362. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10679847-8112475
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