positions 8:2 Fall 2000 away of festering sores. What thus seems signiï¬cant is less the centrality of ailment as a metaphor for an endangered national identity than the mode of nationalistic discourse generated by such masochistic self-ï¬agellation. Indeed, the construction of a viable national character ï¬gures prominently in every instance of locating the source of Chinaâs weakness. National identity is obsessively dealt with in all possible venues of assessment and reevaluation, the expression of the urgent need for alternative narratives of a tradition no longer viable for either the articulation or the survival of modern nationhood. These alternatives, however, are paradoxically sought in the same West that also occasioned this felt oppression. Translations of Western literature, social treatises, and political tracts during this period reached an unprecedented volume. The conclusions to be drawn from them consistently return to the critique of the inadequacies of modern China: its failure to transmit its glorious cultural heritage, the stagnant social institutions it has preserved unchanged from the past, and the decayed character of its people. The ability to identify and expose ruthlessly the social as well as psychological ills of China itself became, for writers and intellectuals, one of the last
positions asia critique – Duke University Press
Published: Sep 1, 2000
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