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The Chinese Exotic

The Chinese Exotic: Modern Diasporic Femininity

Olivia Khoo
Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 228
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  • Book Info
    The Chinese Exotic
    Book Description:

    The Chinese Exotic examines new representations of diasporic Chinese femininity emerging from Asia Pacific modernities since the late twentieth century. Through an analysis of cultural artefacts such as films, popular fiction, food and fashion cultures, the book challenges the dominant tendency in contemporary cultural politics to define Chinese femininity from a mainland perspective that furthermore equates it with notions of primitivism. Rather, the book argues for a radical reconfiguration of the concept of exoticism as a frame for understanding these new representations. This engaging study raises important questions on the relationship between the Chinese diasporas and gender. The Chinese Exotic provides a timely critical intervention into the current visualizations of diasporic Chinese femininity. The book contends that an analysis of such images can inform the reconfigured relations between China, the Chinese diasporas, Asia and the West in the context of contemporary globalization, and in turn takes these new intersections to account for the complex nature of modern definitions of diasporic Chinese femininity.

    eISBN: 978-988-8052-85-1
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction: The Chinese Exotic
    (pp. 1-24)

    Gong Li, poster girl of Fifth Generation Chinese films, swore after being lampooned by the media for her first Hollywood film Chinese Box, that she would never again star in another American production. With a further three English-language films released, and more in production, her comment to the Chinese media appears to have been all but forgotten.¹ In these new roles, playing strong and successful women, Gong Li seems finally able to relinquish the unforgettable image of herself as the lipstick-smeared forsaken lover of Chinese cinema, which she burnt onto the screen in Wong Kar-wai’s 2046. Gong Li has reinvented...

  5. I: Fold

    • 1 Folding Chinese Boxes: Sensing the Chinese Exotic
      (pp. 27-66)

      This chapter explores how the Chinese exotic ‘makes sense’ by following a form that ‘folds’ — both in terms of the way it negotiates competing discourses and formations, and also in the way it permits certain images and representations of diasporic Chinese femininity to circulate and become globally visible. The Chinese exotic manifests itself as both ‘inside’ (chic, fashionable), as well as ‘outside’ (different, strange). The Chinese exotic also folds between notions of time and space: figured as ‘outside time’ — ahistorical and traditional, yet also a contemporary formation resulting from the newly emergent Asian modernities and economies. The fold, as a...

  6. II: Cross Over

    • 2 Spies, Vamps and Women Warriors: Translating the Exotic into the Technics of Chinese Femininity
      (pp. 69-110)

      The previous chapter examined how the Chinese exotic travels as a fold — a trope of movement that can potentialise a shift from object to subject positions within diasporic contexts in the West. In this chapter I explore the movement of two popular Hong Kong film stars, Maggie Cheung and Michelle Yeoh, from film industries in Asia to those of the West, to examine issues in cross-cultural spectatorship.

      Cheung and Yeoh were two of the biggest stars of Hong Kong cinema in the 1980s and 1990s, and their popularity has now reached beyond Hong Kong to the rest of Asia and...

  7. III: Ornament

    • 3 Ethnic Supplementarity and the Ornamental Text: Asian American and Asian Australian Diasporic Literary Production
      (pp. 113-148)

      This chapter examines how diasporic Chinese femininity, as translated through cross over films in Chapter 2, can also be produced through mimetic forms of reading and writing. Mimesis can be defined as “an intentional construction of a correlation”.¹ It corresponds to some form of identification, and in this sense is distinct from the concept of mimicry, which emphasises the physical rather than necessarily identificatory aspects of a correspondence. By examining how ethnicity is produced both within and across different diasporic contexts, it also becomes possible to see how it is over-produced, and accumulates meaning through each subsequent ‘copy’. In the...

  8. IV: Region

    • 4 From the Chinese Exotic to the Asian Exotic: Critical Regionalism and Pop Culture Asianism
      (pp. 151-168)

      This chapter concludes with some thoughts and observations on a movement I have been signalling throughout; that is, a movement from the Chinese exotic into a formation of the Asian exotic. The Chinese exotic is a phenomenon that is constituted through ex-centric movements that mark its dispersal and displacement at local, regional, and global levels. The Asian exotic appears when we examine the Chinese exotic from the perspective of the region Asia. It does not displace the Chinese exotic, but is a related mode of representation manifesting alternative, and shared, interactions from a regional perspective.

      Regionalism is the deliberate grouping...

  9. Conclusion: Heliotropic Manoeuvres
    (pp. 169-172)

    Across the various chapters I have sought to examine new representations of diasporic Chinese femininity emerging from the development of alternative modernities and economies in the Asia Pacific region. I argued that an analysis of such representations could inform reconfigured relations between China, the Chinese diasporas, Asia and the West in the contemporary era.

    The Introduction traced the emergence of a new mode of representation called the Chinese exotic and distinguished it from earlier colonialist representations through the concept of ex-centricity. I argued that the Chinese exotic travels in a form that is feminised and in particular that it produces...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 173-196)
  11. Filmography
    (pp. 197-198)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 199-214)
  13. Index
    (pp. 215-218)