Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
The Rey Chow Reader

The Rey Chow Reader

Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 320
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    The Rey Chow Reader
    Book Description:

    Rey Chow is arguably one of the most prominent intellectuals working in the humanities today. Characteristically confronting both entrenched and emergent issues in the interlocking fields of literature, film and visual studies, sexuality and gender, postcolonialism, ethnicity, and cross-cultural politics, her works produce surprising connections among divergent topics at the same time as they compel us to think through the ethical and political ramifications of our academic, epistemic, and cultural practices. This anthology - the first to collect key moments in Chow's engaging thought - provides readers with an ideal introduction to some of her most forceful theoretical explorations. Organized into two sections, each of which begins with a brief statement designed to establish linkages among various discursive fields through Chow's writings, the anthology also contains an extensive Editor's Introduction, which situates Chow's work in the context of contemporary critical debates. For all those pursuing transnational cultural theory and cultural studies, this book is an essential resource.

    Praise for Rey Chow

    "[Rey Chow is] methodologically situated in the contentious spaces between critical theory and cultural studies, and always attending to the implications of ethnicity."- Social Semiotics

    "Rich and powerful work that provides both a dazzling synthesis of contemporary cultural theory and at the same time an exemplary critique of Chinese cinema."-China Information

    "Should be read by all who are concerned with the future of human rights, liberalism, multiculturalism, identity politics, and feminism."-Dorothy Ko

    "Wide-ranging, theoretically rich, and provocative... completely restructures the problem of ethnicity."-Fredric Jameson

    eISBN: 978-0-231-52078-2
    Subjects: Sociology, Language & Literature, Film Studies, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Editor’s Introduction
    (pp. ix-xxiv)

    Cultural studies is an umbrella term covering a multitude of possibilities: studies of popular culture, national culture, regional culture, cross-cultural or intercultural encounters; studies of subculture and marginal or “subaltern” culture; studies focusing on questions and issues of class, gender, ethnicity, and identity; studies focusing on the significance and effects of different aspects and elements of technology, globalization, “mediatization,” and virtualization; studies of the historical, cultural, and economic contexts of the production and consumption of literature, film, TV, and news media; studies elaborating on the cultural implications of government policy, law, legislation, educational paradigms, and so on; as well as...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xxv-xxvii)

    • [PART 1. Introduction]
      (pp. xxviii-1)

      The establishment of knowledge, hierarchy, structure, and order is not a neutral or natural process, as it always involves the more or less conscious taking of decisions, decisions that have consequences. Likewise, part 1 also is about contexts, orientations, starting points, and the taking of decisions and their consequences. In the first chapter, “The Age of the World Target: Atomic Bombs, Alterity, Area Studies,” Chow analyzes the epochal (epistemic) significance of the instruments and rationality culminating in the decision to drop two atomic bombs on Japan in World War II, as well as the enormity and ongoing ramifications of these...

    • 1 The Age of the World Target: ATOMIC BOMBS, ALTERITY, AREA STUDIES
      (pp. 2-19)

      For most people who know something about the United States’ intervention in the Second World War, one image seems to predominate and preempt the rest: the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, pictorialized in the now familiar image of the mushroom cloud, with effects of radiation and devastation of human life on a scale never before imaginable.¹ Alternatively, we can also say that our knowledge about what happened to Hiroshima and Nagasaki is inseparable from the image of the mushroom cloud. As knowledge, “Hiroshima” and “Nagasaki” come to us inevitably as representation and, specifically, as a picture....

    • 2 The Postcolonial Difference: LESSONS IN CULTURAL LEGITIMATION
      (pp. 20-29)

      Growing up in British Hong Kong in the 1960s and 1970s, I am probably one of few “postcolonial” intellectuals working in the North American humanities academy today who can lay claim to having been subjected to a genuinely classic colonial education. There are many possible ways to define the nature of this “classic” quality, but in my case it was distinguished by the peculiar intellectual choices I made from an early age on. Unlike many of my friends who, under family pressure or out of personal preference, had gone into medicine, law, accounting, engineering, computer science, banking or business management,...

    • 3 From Writing Diaspora: Introduction: Leading Questions
      (pp. 30-47)

      The sinologist Stephen Owen wrote a controversially negative essay about “world poetry” not too long ago in the pages of The New Republic.¹ While ostensibly reviewing the English translation of the collection The August Sleepwalker by the mainland Chinese poet Bei Dao, Owen attacks “third world” poets for pandering to the tastes of Western audiences seeking “a cozy ethnicity” (29). Much of what is written by non-Western poets is, he complains, no longer distinguished by a true national identity but is instead “supremely translatable” (32):

      Most of these poems translate themselves. These could just as easily be translations from a...

      (pp. 48-55)

      . . . Among contemporary cultural critics, Fredric Jameson is the only one I know of who has unambiguously and unapologetically affirmed the inevitability of stereotypes as something fundamental to the representation of one group by another.¹ The unique stance taken by Jameson on this controversial topic is refreshing, and it deserves a closer examination. Not surprisingly, Jameson’s statements about stereotypes are situated in his long discussion of the new field of cultural studies, a field in which representations of our others are a regular and unavoidable practice.² He begins with an astonishing reference to Erving Goffmann’s classic Stigma in...

      (pp. 56-75)

      A leading feature that connects the many studies of the black psychiatrist Frantz Fanon since the first publication of his work in the 1950s is undoubtedly the politics of identification. As Henry Louis Gates, Jr. writes, “Fanon’s current fascination for us has something do with the convergence of the problematic of colonialism with that of subject-formation.”⁴ Beginning with Jean-Paul Sartre, critics have, when examining Fanon’s texts, focused their attention on the psychic vicissitudes of the black man’s identity. While Sartre, writing in the heyday of a leftist existentialism, draws attention to those vicissitudes in terms of a third-world nationalism in...

    • 6 When Whiteness Feminizes . . .: SOME CONSEQUENCES OF A SUPPLEMENTARY LOGIC
      (pp. 76-81)

      Since the introduction of poststructuralist theory into the English-speaking academic world, a point of tension between feminists sympathetic toward poststructuralism and feminists hostile toward it has been the controversy over none other than the status of “woman” in representational politics. Whereas, for Anglo-American feminist critics, the individual woman, woman author, or woman critic continues to be understood in terms of the agency derived from the philosophical foundation of individualism, of the gendered person as an ultimate reality, the pivot of French poststructuralism has been precisely to put such foundationalist thinking into question through theories of language, text, signification, and subject,...


    • [PART 2. Introduction]
      (pp. 82-83)

      Film theory has long suggested a likely a relationship between film and culture and between film and identity. Since the 1970s, feminist film theory has implicated film in producing and reinforcing gendered identities, but not until recently have the relations between ethnic spectatorship and film been explored. Chow takes up these themes in chapter 7, “Film and Cultural Identity,” and chapter 8, “Seeing Modern China: Toward a Theory of Ethnic Spectatorship.” Here Chow shows that the relations among gender, ethnicity, cultural identity, and film call for a thorough engagement with both contemporary film theory as well as with the full...

    • 7 Film and Cultural Identity
      (pp. 84-91)

      A film about how film was first invented in Germany, Wim Wenders’s Die Bröder Skladanowsky (“The Brothers Skladanowsky” Part I, 1994) offers important clues to the contentious relationship between film and cultural identity. Using the style and the shooting and editing skills of the silent era, and filming with an antique, hand-cranked camera, Wenders and students from the Munich Academy for Television and Film recast this originary moment in cinematic history as the tale of a loved one lost and found.

      Disturbed by her Uncle Eugen’s imminent departure on a long journey, Max Skladanowsky’s 5-year-old daughter implores her father and...

      (pp. 92-123)

      As contemporary critical discourses become increasingly sensitive to the wide-ranging implications of the term “other,” one major problem that surfaces is finding ways to articulate subjectivities that are, in the course of their participation in the dominant culture, “othered” and marginalized. Metaphors and apparatuses of seeing become over-whelmingly important ways of talking, simply because “seeing” carries with it the connotation of a demarcation of ontological boundaries between “self’ and “other,” whether racial, social, or sexual. However, the most difficult questions surrounding the demarcation of boundaries implied by “seeing” have to do not with positivistic taxonomic juxtapositions of self-contained identities and...

    • 9 The Dream of a Butterfly
      (pp. 124-147)

      These days we have become complacent about our ability to criticize the racist and sexist blunders inherent in the stereotypical representations of our cultural “others.” “Our” here refers to the community of intellectuals, East and West, who have absorbed the wisdom of Edward Said’s Orientalism and who are on the alert to point out the discriminatory assumptions behind the production of cultural artifacts, in particular those that involve Western representations of the non-West. But Said’s work, insofar as it successfully canonizes the demystification of Western cultural pretensions, is simply pointing to a certain direction in which much work still waits...

    • 10 Film as Ethnography; or, Translation Between Cultures in the Postcolonial World
      (pp. 148-171)

      Throughout this book I have been using the term ethnography to describe some of the outstanding features of contemporary Chinese cinema, but a more systematic theoretical articulation of what I mean by “ethnography” is still in order, in particular of how this new ethnography may be conceived through visuality. Already, in discussing Zhang Yimou, we see the surfacing of a major problem of cross-cultural politics—the problem of the “foreign devil.” The critics who accuse the Chinese directors of pandering to a “foreign” audience rather than to a “Chinese” audience—are they not prioritizing some “original essence” of the Chinese...

    • 11 A Filmic Staging of Postwar Geotemporal Politics: ON AKIRA KUROSAWA’S NO REGRETS FOR OUR YOUTH, SIXTY YEARS LATER
      (pp. 172-179)

      In the summer of 2005, I was invited to deliver a keynote lecture at an international conference on Japanese cinema jointly hosted by the Kinema Club and the Japan Foundation in Tokyo.¹ Not being a specialist, I chose as my topic Akira Kurosawa’s film No Regrets for Our Youth (1946), based on the controversy of the dismissal, in 1933, of a Kyoto University law professor, Takigawa Yukitoki, on grounds of his pro-Communist views by the then education minister Ichiro Hatoyama. Despite its mid-twentieth-century Japanese location, the film’s narrative mode, I thought, spoke acutely to our own time of global warfare...

    • 12 From Sentimental Fabulations, Contemporary Chinese Films: ATTACHMENT IN THE AGE OF GLOBAL VISIBILITY
      (pp. 180-195)

      Where Is the Movie About Me? In the academic study of cinema, this is one of the most commonly encountered questions in recent years. Versions of it include some of the following: Where in this discipline am I? How come I am not represented? What does it mean for me and my group to be unseen? What does it mean for me and my group to be seen in this manner—what has been left out? These questions of becoming visible pertain, of course, to the prevalence of the politics of identification, to the relation between representational forms and their...

    • 13 The Political Economy of Vision in Happy Times and Not One Less; or, a Different Type of Migration
      (pp. 196-214)

      Following the lead of Edward Said and other critics of Western imperialism, some contemporary academic authors, whenever they encounter images of another culture, tend readily to be on the qui vive about stereotyping, exploitation, and deceit and make it their mission to correct the falsehood especially of visual representations. In my previous work on contemporary Chinese cinema, I have attempted to critique such knee-jerk antiorientalist reactions with regard to the early films of Zhang Yimou.¹ From a comparative cultural perspective, what continues to concern me is that a certain predictable attitude tends to dominate the agenda these days whenever works...

  7. Notes
    (pp. 215-268)
  8. Index
    (pp. 269-292)