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Reading Chinese Fortune Cookie

Reading Chinese Fortune Cookie: The Making of Chinese American Rhetoric

Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 190
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  • Book Info
    Reading Chinese Fortune Cookie
    Book Description:

    LuMing Mao offers an important discussion of the rhetoric of Chinese American speakers, which has wide implications for the teaching of writing in English and for our understanding of cross-cultural influences in discourse. Recent scholarship tends to explain such influences as contributing to language hybridity---an advance over the traditional "deficit model." But Mao suggests that the "hybridity" approach is perhaps too arid or sanitized, missing rich nuances of mutual exchange, resistance, or even subversion. Working from Ang's concept of "togetherness in difference," Mao suggests that speakers of hybrid discourse may not be attempting the standard (and failing), but instead may be deliberately importing cultural material to create a distance between themselves and the standard. This practice, over time, becomes a process that transforms English, enriching and enlarging it through the infusion of non-Western discourse features, subverting power structures, and even providing unique humorous touches. Of interest to scholars in composition, cultural studies, and linguistics as well, Reading Chinese Fortune Cookie leads in an important new direction for both our understanding and our teaching of English.

    eISBN: 978-0-87421-538-0
    Subjects: Education, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. INTRODUCTION: Thinking through Paradoxes
    (pp. 1-10)

    Lately I have been increasingly drawn to a growing paradox—one that has produced a polarizing discourse pitting unreserved enthusiasm on one side against downright resistance on the other. On the one hand, we now live in this increasingly interconnected and interdependent world, brought about in part by rapid technological advances such as the Internet and the World Wide Web and by the spread of English as a language of commerce and science, as a lingua franca. These developments not only make it possible to collapse time and space in ways that have never been imagined before, but also seem...

  2. 1 OPENING TOPICS: Reading Chinese Fortune Cookie
    (pp. 11-35)

    I pause and struggle already—even before I start—over how I should proceed or in what forms I should present my thesis and advance my argument. Should I situate myself right away in European American rhetorical tradition where I assume a direct, logical, and agonistic persona—so that I can stand a better chance of being recognized, understood, and eventually accepted? Or should I enact and adopt, not a minute too soon, some other rhetorical approaches or tropes that are not informed by, or implicated in, the directness paradigm or the ideology of individualism? More specifically, can I present...

  3. 2 FACE TO FACE: Chinese and European American
    (pp. 36-59)

    I have chosen to begin this chapter with Arthur Smith, an American missionary who went to China in 1872 and lived there for over twenty years. His first-hand experiences in China led him to write Chinese Characteristics, which was published well over a century ago. I find his description of the Occidental with respect to Chinese face practices eerily relevant. The Occidental, portrayed by Smith, saw Chinese face practices as irregular, irreducible, and fundamentally irrational, and such practices, therefore, should be replaced by European American “common sense.” While Smith’s Occidental may largely have been discredited, the binary disposition evidenced in...

  4. 3 INDIRECTION VERSUS DIRECTNESS: A Relation of Complementarity
    (pp. 60-86)

    As a style of communication, Chinese indirection is quite visible. Not only have China observers, from missionaries to sinologists,¹ studied it, linking it to the Chinese preference for harmony and stability, if not to the image of inscrutability, but it has also been consistentiy contrasted, as a quintessential feature of Chinese communication, with the direct style of communication in European American culture. While Chinese indirection has been attributed to the long-held tradition in China “to nurture the subtle, fragile bonds and links in human relations” (L. Young 58–59), this style of communication is not that unique. Indirection has been...

  5. 4 TERMS OF CONTACT RECONFIGURED: 恕 (“Shu” or “Reciprocity”) Encountering Individualism
    (pp. 87-122)

    I have long noticed—with a certain degree of ambivalence—that the English word “individualism” has become a necessary part of my communicative repertoire: I use it often in my classroom and in my own writings to characterize certain discursive behaviors. Not that I have come to embrace its underlying ideology,¹ but that I often feel compelled to invoke it either to help describe, both for my students and for myself, European American rhetorical practices, or to help draw distinctions from Chinese rhetorical practices. However, every time I perform these acts, I feel a sense of inadequacy, because individualism entails...

  6. 5 FROM CLASSROOM TO COMMUNITY: Chinese American Rhetoric on the Ground
    (pp. 123-143)

    Thus far, the making of Chinese American rhetoric has largely been motivated and mobilized by my classroom practices and by my own experiences at rhetorical borderlands. As I continue to articulate Chinese American rhetoric, and as I continue to reflect upon what it means to promote an in-between subject position of comings-to-be, my thoughts often turn to my fellow border residents: I wonder how they deal with, consciously or subconsciously, this tension between the “structural nostalgia” for the “ancestral culture” (JanMohamed 101) and the real desire to be accepted as part of the American story—not as “innately and irreversibly...

  7. 6 CLOSING COMMENT: Chinese Fortune Cookie as a Topic Again
    (pp. 144-150)

    As the title of this concluding chapter indicates, I am now coming to a close, and I will be using the Chinese fortune cookie again as my central topic in this chapter. In so doing, I not only want to signal that I have now come full circle, but I also want to use this nifty image of the Chinese fortune cookie to extend what I have developed so far and to flush out further the significances and implications of this project.

    Structurally speaking, I see this chapter as a fitting conclusion, too. As one may recall, in Chapter Three...