Sunday, December 22, 2013

CFP: The 5th International Conference on Translation and Cross-Culture, Nov. 15, 2014

full name / name of organization: 
Center for Cross-cultural Studies of National Chengchi University, Taiwan
contact email:,
Ours is an era of translation and cross-culture. Transportation and telecommunication technology have helped shorten the distance and increase contact between person and person, nation and nation. Spatial “movement” through travel, tourism, migration, diaspora, and communication facilitates the “interaction” between “the (individual/collective/national) self” and “the other/other culture.” Such “movement” and “interaction” depend much on linguistic and cultural translation to keep on “activation,” continuously negotiating, realizing, and vitalizing ideas so as to renew and open up multicultural space.
In November 2012, the Fourth International Conference on “Boundary Crossing and Transformation” held by Translation Center and Center for Cross-Cultural Studies of National Chengchi University, has triggered heated discussions among scholars from Taiwan and abroad. We accordingly have more fully recognized that “boundary crossing and transformation” is a global phenomenon. With the impact of ever-changing information, the diverse cross-cultural movements have marked the main trend in the contemporary society. Even the multi-directional nomadism might be transformed into new patterns.
The results of cross-cultural movements might not always be ideal reciprocal bi-/multi-directional interactions; they could become one-directional penetration and invasion, or even incorporation and assimilation. What is worth rethinking is that such “movement and interaction” are in the process of “boundary crossing and transformation,” whose (tentative) results are subject to various interpretations. Take the example of various responses to “boundary crossing” from governments and peoples worldwide: they might monitor, confront, suppress, collude with, or tolerate, identify with, or expel the groups involved—each with different kinds of transformation that are too complex to homogenize.
Translation Center and Center for Cross-Cultural Studies of National Chengchi University will host the Fifth International Conference on “To Move/To Interact/To Activate: Exploring
Multicultural Space” in 15th November 2014. We cordially invite domestic and overseas scholars and experts in various languages to present papers on topics related to the conference theme. The theme includes but is not limited to:
1. Translation and multiculture
2. Travel, tourism and migration
3. Post-colonial/diasporic literature
4. Exotic/transnational food culture
5. Teaching “translation/cross-culture”
6. Language and “translation/cross-culture”
7. Transnational ethnic/religious/cultural movements
8. Religions and festivals under globalization
9. Clothes, gender, and cultural signs
10. Intertextuality/adaptation/translation: literature, films, arts, and music
11. Other related topics
*Conference date: November 15, 2014 (Saturday)
*Conference venue: National Chengchi University
*Conference languages: Chinese, English
*Abstract submission deadline: March 2, 2014 (Sunday) (Please refer to the website attachment for the submission form.)
Section 1: Current position, affiliation, and contact address
Section 2: Title of paper, abstract of 400-500 words, keywords (Papers written in languages other than Chinese or English should submit Chinese or English version at the same time.)
*Abstract acceptance notification: March 24, 2014 (Monday)
*Draft submission deadline: November 1, 2014 (Saturday)
1. Submitted draft should contain at least 2000 words in Chinese or in English, no particular format required.
2. This draft will only be provided to moderators for their reference; there will be no printed copies of drafts on conference date.
*Please send your submission form as an email attachment to Center for Cross-Cultural Studies of National Chengchi University (email address:, with “Abstract submission to The Fifth International Conference on Translation and Cross-Culture” in the subject line.
*After the conference, full-paper manuscripts will be considered for inclusion in the journal volume or conference proceedings through blind peer review.
【Important dates】
Abstract submission deadline: March 2, 2014 (Sunday)
Abstract acceptance notification: March 24, 2014 (Monday)
Draft submission deadline: November 1, 2014 (Saturday)

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Notes on "Benefits and Costs of Exercising Agency: A Case Study of an English Learner Navigating a Four-Year University"

Ronald Fuentes, "Benefits and Costs of Exercising Agency: A Case Study of an English Learner Navigating a Four-Year University." Linguistic Minority Students Go to College: Preparation, Access, and Persistence. Eds. Yasuko Kanno and Linda Harklau. NY: Routledge, 2012. 220-237. Print.

Fuentes focuses on a female Iranian immigrant he calls Nasim who studied at NGU. He traces her use of accommodation and agency as she negotiates between the university's culture and her own goals as a LM student. Nasim sees NGU as inhospitable toward LM students, calling into question the school's commitment to diversity:
One thing they say is that they value diversity, but I think this is not true (to some extent) because I as an ESL student think that the fact that I have to take ESL classes, or in writing classes, my writing is being compared to an American student is not fair. (qtd. in Fuentes 228)
Fuentes reports that Nasim exercises agency, circumventing the heavy academic demands at NGU (part of NGU's "university culture") by taking some more difficult science courses at a community college instead of at NGU. She does this in order to be able to maintain a GPA high enough to allow her to get into optometry school after graduation (232). She also avoids courses with demanding writing requirements in order to avoid lowering her GPA and generally stays quiet in class in order to avoid publicizing her linguistic difference, which she felt would generally be seen as a deficit.

Fuentes concludes that Nasim's exercise of agency helps her successfully attain her goal of graduating, although it's at the cost of her feeling alienated from NGU's university culture.

Notes on "Citizens vs. Aliens: How Institutional Policies Construct Linguistic Minority Students"

Kanno, Yasuko, and Linda Harklau, eds. Linguistic Minority Students Go to College: Preparation, Access, and Persistence. NY: Routledge, 2012. Print.

First off, Kanno and Harklau's definition of "linguistic minority students": "students who speak a language other than English at home" (vii). Also called "language minority students or non-English language background (NELB) student[s]" (1).

Yasuko Kanno and Linda Harklau: "Linguistic Minority Students Go to College: Introduction" (1-16):

Distinction between LM (linguistic minority) and EL (English learners) students: 
ELs are a subset of LM students whose academic English proficiency has not yet developed sufficiently to benefit from the regular English-medium instruction. Although these two terms are often erroneously conflated, they are, most emphatically, not the same. Many LM students are native or highly proficient speakers of English. It is common for LM students, especially among second-generation immigrant students, to be more dominant in English than in their home language. To assume that all LM students are somehow less than fully proficient in English is a highly reductive deficit orientation that ignores the complex linguistic landscape of the United States. (2-3)
Shawna Shapiro: "Citizens vs. Aliens: How Institutional Policies Construct Linguistic Minority Students" (238-254):
Chapter examines "the conditions and effects of ... institutional alienation [where non-US citizens "were subject to a distinct set of expectations for language proficiency" at "Northern Green University"], as well as its ideological underpinnings. In cases like Northern Green, the institutional response to linguistic minority students reflects an ideology of deficit: Linguistic difference is seen as a liability, rather than as an asset, to institutional excellence" (238).
Makes the argument that 
when policies discriminate against a particular group because of linguistic background (and, in this case, because of national citizenship), they not only hinder the institutional integration of those students, but also call into question that institution's commitment to equity and diversity. If linguistic minority students are recruited and admitted under the the assumption that they have something valuable to offer, then the institution must treat them as "promises" instead of "problems" (Van Meter, 1990, pp. 4-5). Language policies that are deficit-focused do precisely the opposite: They construct students as unwelcome aliens, rather than as institutional citizens. (239)
Argues that remediation programs are ways of admitting students like LMs without having to change institutionally--LMs have to change, not the programs into which they're accepted (240).
Shapiro is focusing in this chapter on LMs who are "permanent residents, most of whom were undergraduates to transferred to NGU from local community colleges" (241).
The institution she examined required all students who weren't US citizens to give evidence of language proficiency unless they were from an English-speaking country. That meant that in some cases students who had successfully gone through 2 years of community college in the US were suddenly required to give a TOEFL test result--not to be accepted into the institution, but to "prove" their language proficiency and avoid having to enter the remedial ESL program.
Some interesting (and, unfortunately, familiar-sounding) quotes from the language program's 2007 Operations Manual (which Shapiro says has been since revised): 
one of [the program's] goals was to help students improve their English so that they "do not pose an excessive burden to instructors." This would also "ensur[e] that students who graduate ... possess adequate English language skills that maintain the university's academic standards and reputation." (246, ellipses in original)
Shapiro uses this case study of NGU to point out the need for institutions to consider how language requirements or required language programs might be more of a burden than an aid to LM students, particularly if they're non-credit courses that cost extra money, and particularly if they discriminate based on a student's national origin. These programs alienate LM students and undermine the institutions' professed commitment to diversity and equality.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Notes on Ilona Leki's Undergraduates in a Second Language

Leki, Ilona. Undergraduates in a Second Language: Challenges and Complexities of Academic Literacy Development. NY: Erlbaum, 2007. Print.

Instructors of first-year writing courses for multilingual students aren't going to come away from Ilona Leki's report on her 5-year study of four L2 college students with a particularly high sense of their own role in their students' academic lives. As Leki notes in her conclusion,
The personal backgrounds, proclivities, desires, and talents of the students and the wide differences in requirements from course to course that they encountered translate expectations of making two or three L2 writing courses central in their academic lives into pure hubris. (283-4)
Of course, Leki is drawing conclusions based mainly on her longitudinal studies of four students; one might quibble with the generalizability of her results. But what her study lacks in breadth, it appears to make up for in depth. She has been able to capture a lot of moments in her subjects' lives as students, and therefore see some of the changes that they go through (arguably, Jan, a business student, goes through the most dramatic changes). She can use this to reflect on what worked for them, what didn't work--and overall what use they made of their education.

One of the problems with L2 writing classes, in Leki's view, stems from how they are often tied in to the interests and ideologies of L1 composition and English departments. This results in students being taught to write in genres that they might never use in other classes (such as "belletristic or argumentative/persuasive essays" [252]) and training in inventional techniques that might end up being irrelevant to students' needs. (Leki argues that the inventional techniques one of her subjects learned weren't useful because in most of her classes, the student wasn't being asked to draw on her own experiences or knowledge in her writing--she was being asked to write about what she was in the process of learning [252].) The association of L2 writing courses with their L1 counterparts also can potentially do a disservice to L2 students, Leki argues:
[P]art of the rationale for granting credit for L2 writing courses has been that these courses are the equivalent of 1st-year L1 writing courses. Being parallel to 1st-year writing has meant in essence applying 1st-year composition values, standards, and methods in L2 writing courses, including privileging English department genres. Atkinson and Ramanathan's (1995) ethnographic account of two writing programs, one L1 and one L2, demonstrates the potential injustice of requiring L2 students' literacy education to be dominated by L1 interests. (253)

More fundamentally, Leki's study calls into question the very conception that compositionists (L2 or otherwise) have of writing as being central to college students' academic experiences and growth. Judging from what she found from her interviewees' experiences of writing in a wide range of courses, writing assignments were only very rarely and in only a very broad sense important to their learning experiences. A lot of the time, assignments were ill-defined (particularly in humanities courses)--sometimes to the point of being incomprehensible to international students. At other times, emphases in the instructions on grammatical accuracy or page length led students to worry more about fixing the grammar or filling out the required number of pages than about saying something. And in other cases, the way that course-assigned group projects were conducted resulted in L2 students doing little or none of the writing for the assignment. (Jan, the business major in her study, contributed only one page of text to his group's 250-page [67 pages of text, plus appendixes and figures] marketing report [141]).

In one case, however, the writing load was overwhelming for one of her subjects. Leki describes the experience of Yang, a Chinese nursing major (who despite having been a practicing pediatrician in China was forced by circumstances to go through an undergraduate nursing program in the US). Yang's expertise in medicine was only occasionally validated by the nursing faculty (in fact, one professor disdainfully likened her Chinese medical degree to a chiropractor's degree), and her English difficulties were sometimes seen as signs of professional incompetence. Due in part to her difficulties with English, Yang had great difficulty managing the writing load she had as a nursing student--particularly with the Nursing Care Plans that she had to write during her clinicals. Whereas native English-speaking nursing students were able to complete writing NCPs in an hour or two by the end of their time as students, Yang continued to struggle with them, partly out of fear of incorrectly paraphrasing information or making grammatical or usage mistakes that would harm her chances of finishing the program. Yang's approach to completing NCPs and avoiding mistakes involved copying technical information verbatim from medical texts, a process that Leki notes "was not only acceptable to the faculty but even tacitly encouraged" (93). Yang saw this all as busy-work that was taking away from her (and her classmates') opportunities to learn. Leki concludes that at least in this case (or concludes from this case), L2 students need to be given time to learn and writing assignments should be carefully constructed to give students that time. Teachers of L2 students need to recognize "that writing in an L2 is dramatically more time and energy consuming than in an L1" (259).

For these reasons, what is often taught and required in first-year writing classes doesn't appear to Leki to be all that useful to L2 students. In the end, however, Leki doesn't conclude that instructors of L2 writing have no reason for being; she suggests, rather, that L2 writing classes "can be used to make space and time for students to explore the world into which they have stepped by, for example, examining and making a start at responding to the literacy demands across the curriculum" (284). She also recommends that L2 writing teachers give students an opportunity to address the challenges they face as L2 students, such as when their cultures are "essentialized by professors" or when they are "not selected for group work." Leki suggests that
[u]sing their developing L2 literacy skills as tools to work toward analyzing such situations, including their hidden ideological dimensions, and developing possible solutions communally not only honors their intellect and experience but also might make L2 writing classes be remembered for more than only the use of the comma. (285)
This is perhaps also a justification for keeping L2 writing courses separate from L1 courses--they can act as "safe houses" (as Mary Louise Pratt would call them) for multilingual--particularly international and immigrant--students to work out ways of dealing with the academic and social challenges and demands that they face and will continue to face as university students.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Final update on AcWriMo, 2013

The end of AcWriMo was a bit of a bust for me. Though we didn't go away for Thanksgiving because of the warned-of winter storm (which also turned out to be a bit of a bust for us, anyway), the process of writing was hampered by grading that needed to get done (and is still in the process of getting done).

I'll continue working on this paper, though, once the dust has settled from the final stretch of grading due at the end of the semester. Wish me luck!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Third update on Academic Whatever-it-is Month

Well, this week I pretty much fell down on the job with the academic writing. Not even the strategy of using small periods of time to do work could help me because I was using even those small periods of time to read and comment on student writing. Last week saw me do just about nothing on my paper. This week I'm not sure what will happen. Part of it might be spent doing family-oriented Thanksgiving things (including traveling), and another part will be spent on grading, so I don't have high hopes for the last week of November. It has been an interesting experiment, though. Hopefully I'll get some work done during the long winter break...

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Another update on Academic Writing Month

At some point this week I despaired of getting anything done, but I managed to get some writing done in some of the in-between times, like when I was on the train in the morning or the afternoon. For instance, I spent some time on the train home on the 13th retranslating a paragraph from a preface that I had only paraphrased before. Having to look at that paragraph more closely in order to translate it gave me some more ideas regarding what to say about that paragraph and the context the preface was creating for the main text. So I got the sense from that exercise that there are useful or productive things that can get done in these small periods of time, like 20 minutes here, 20 minutes there.

I also got some inspiration on Friday afternoon from a monthly writers group that I try to go to. Even though we weren't talking about my writing, hearing and talking to others about their writing gave me a feeling that I was part of an intellectual community; I didn't feel quite so alone working on this as I sometimes feel.

In total, I did about 4 hours of writing this week. (I know that's less than the 5 hours I'm supposed to do, but I'm not going to beat myself up over it.) We'll see how next week goes for writing. I'm making progress, which is better than not getting anything done...

Next update: Next week!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Update on Academic Writing Month

So it has been about a week since I wrote up my goals for Academic Writing Month. I kept them fairly modest (about 5 hours per week, more if I can manage it, working toward getting a conference paper in shape for submission to a journal). While I did make some progress on the article this past week, I didn't quite make the 5-hour goal. I logged about 4 1/2 hours. I had quite a bit of grading to do this past week, so it cut into the writing time. But I did so some writing while on the train into school, and on Tuesday and Friday mornings I also had some time to write, which I think I used well. I also got some books from the library and ILL and skimmed through them, reading a few chapters that I thought might be relevant.

This week's challenges are the day off today (we're doing some family things), and tomorrow's meeting at 9 a.m. (Which means I'll lose some time for Tuesday morning writing.) I also have a Friday afternoon meeting to prepare for, and a bunch of literature reviews to read by the end of the week. I'll try to make up the lost time, though, from last week.

As I say, I'm making progress, and I'm still interested in my topic (which is always a good thing). I found that one chapter I got through ILL is giving me some useful concepts and terms for my own paper, and that some of the other books that I borrowed from the library may not be that helpful. (Which is OK--I don't want to try to force them into my paper.)

Next update: next week!

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Academic Writing Month 2013 goals

Late last summer after I got a draft of a paper done and before the fall semester started, I decided to finish revising a conference paper to make it a (hopefully) publishable article by the end of this semester. I did some work in September, but as October dragged on, I found it increasingly difficult to work on my own writing, and I put the paper aside. November is Academic Writing Month, so I'm going to use this month to get back to work on the paper. I have the basic structure of the essay, but I need to do some work on the literature review part and flesh out some of the arguments and support.

I basically have only one goal for the month: to finish revising the paper so that I can send it out for review in December. I realize that I will need to break down that work into smaller pieces so that I don't fall behind, but I'm not interested in keeping track of daily word counts. I think for me it would be better to say how much time I'll spend on the paper. I think my best bet is to say that I will spend an average of at least 5 hours per week on the paper. (If that seems too low, it's because I'm teaching 4 writing courses this semester and I don't want to overly stress myself by setting unrealistic goals. I know that for me, that's counterproductive.) 

Tomorrow part of my job will be to go to the library and pick up a book that might figure into my literature review. (Just getting me to do that is a major achievement! My recent visits to the library have only taken me as far as the coffee shop next to the entrance...)

Back to grading now...

[Update, 7:55 p.m.: I think one thing I should try are some Pomodoro techniques. When I was working on my dissertation, I was helped forward by the technique of writing non-stop for 20 minutes, then doing research for 10 minutes, and then another 20 minutes of writing, followed by another 10 minutes of research. (At least I think that's what I did. Something like that. Maybe it was 15/10/15/10 or something like that.) At any rate, it got me writing instead of reading, which helped. Maybe it will help this time, too.]

Monday, October 07, 2013

Formosa Betrayed screening at First Parish Cambridge Unitarian Universalist Church

Sunday my wife and I went to a screening of Will Tiao's movie, Formosa Betrayed. Based on historical events, it tells the story of an American FBI agent sent to Taiwan in 1983 after a Taiwanese-American professor is murdered in the US. The agent quickly finds himself in over his head as he balances his desire to get to the bottom of the murder with the pressures on him coming from the US and from the martial law government in Taiwan. After witnessing (and experiencing) the brutality that the US-supported government visits upon the pro-democracy Taiwanese citizens, and after getting no help from the American liaison in Taiwan, Agent Jake Kelly returns to the US and, disillusioned, quits the FBI.

We'd seen the film before (in fact, we have a DVD of it), but what drew us into Cambridge was the chance to see Tiao (writer, producer, and actor in the movie) and ask him some questions during an after-screening Q&A session.

There was a good crowd in the church. The people who were there--at least the ones who asked questions--didn't seem to know very much about Taiwan's history, so I was hesitant to ask the questions I came to ask, preferring to hear the rest of the audience ask their questions about Taiwan's history. It was gratifying to see how interested they were after watching the movie. I think that's Tiao's point. As he said, Taiwan is basically the only reason that might lead the US and China into an armed conflict (though I think I'd phrase that differently, as China's attitude or actions regarding Taiwan are the only reasons), so it's important that Americans have some understanding about the status and history of the island. While this movie is a fictionalized representation of the kinds of events that actually took place during the martial law period in Taiwan (which only ended in 1987), it does a service to the cause of helping Americans understand some of the recent history of Taiwan.

I asked Tiao about what the main character Jake Kelly would do next, and he kind of laughed and said, maybe join an NGO? He talked about how Jake represented friends of his growing up who had an idealistic notion of how democracy was supposed to work and then found out that it's not working the way that you'd hope that it would. I think Jake is in some ways a George Kerr-type figure, though Kerr knew more about what was going on in Taiwan than Jake does at the beginning of the movie. Jake's also sort of a Ralph Barton figure (though Tiao told me he never read Vern Sneider's novel, A Pail of Oysters). They all (including Kerr, actually) come to know Taiwan and the Taiwanese through personal relationships, and it's through the suffering of those people they've come to love that they are given a different perspective on how things are actually operating there. Their later commitment to Taiwan also grows out of the suffering of their loved ones. My guess is that Jake Kelly is going to write articles or a book about what happened, or start to make public speeches about what he saw and experienced, much as Barton commits to doing at the end of Vern Sneider's novel. (Some people might find it amusing that I'm speculating about the future of a fictional character, but I think it's worthwhile to think about the trajectory the plot would take if the story continued, particularly when the story is based on real and contemporary events.)

Interestingly, an earlier treatment that I quoted years ago from the movie's website concludes with Kelly "return[ing] to the States, frustrated with his knowledge and lack of power to do anything about it—when he is invited to testify before the U.S. Congress in Washington D.C. and finally given the chance to declare the truth." This last part didn't actually happen in the final version. I wish I had had the chance to ask Tiao about the change to the ending. Maybe he'll comment on this post and let me know what led to the decision to change the ending. Thanks in advance, Will!

It was also fascinating to find out that Tiao grew up in Manhattan, Kansas, where his parents were graduate students. I had read several years ago that there was a lot of Taiwan Independence activity at KSU in the mid 1960s (see the oral history, 一門留美學生的建國故事, for details), but I hadn't yet met anyone who was that close to such activity. He mentioned that KSU was often referred to as the 'military school for Taiwan independence' (台獨軍校).

Anyway, it was good to see the movie as a member of an audience larger than two people, and the opportunity to talk to the man responsible for putting it together was great. Thanks to Karin Lin for organizing this event!

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Starting summer courses tomorrow

The spring semester here ends in mid-April, which means that a lecturer like me typically wouldn't see a paycheck between the end of April and the middle of September. This summer, though, I've picked up two courses in the first summer session. This will supplement our income nicely.

I've taught summer courses before, but never two intensive writing courses at the same time. Fortunately, I've taught both of these courses before (a first-year composition course for multilingual students and an advanced writing course, also for multilingual students). I'm using the "lighter"(?) summer load to do a little experimenting with how I'm running the course, in hopes that I'll figure out some better ways of evaluating and grading students' work, particularly in the murky areas of peer work and journal writing. We'll see how this works out.

I've been fortunate to land a job here at a school where I can work a lot with international students. I've also had some good classes with USAmerican students, but I feel my strengths are really in working with students from other countries. Like some of them, I sometimes feel like a bit of an outsider in the US and find that "alternative" ways of doing things or thinking about things are not always accepted, tolerated, or even understood.

Well, I've meandered pretty far from the topic of summer school starting tomorrow.

Update, 5/6/13, 6:18 p.m.: Speaking of meandering, this afternoon I fell asleep on the commuter rail and missed my stop. Ended up having to walk 2 miles to get home. (Good exercise!)  

Monday, April 08, 2013

Notes about chapter two of Asia as Method (part two)

Chen, Kuan-Hsing. "Decolonization: A Geocolonial Historical Materialism." Asia as Method: Toward Deimperialization. Durham, NC: Duke UP, 2010. 65-113.

More quotables from this chapter:

"Third-world nationalism, as a response and reaction to colonialism, was ... seen as an imposed but necessary historical choice, a choice made in order to affirm the new nation-states' autonomy from the colonizing forces" (82).

"'Self-determination,' a slogan heralded by the younger generation of imperialist powers such as the United States, proved to be not so much a humanist concern, but a political strategy on the part of the imperialists to scramble the already occupied territories in order to secure for themselves a larger piece of the cake in the name of 'national interests.' J. A. Hobson, as early as 1902, had remarked on the close ties between nationalism and imperialism: the latter, he argued, cannot function without the former (Hobson 1965 [1902]). By the 1940s, it had become clear that neoimperialist nationalism was in good shape. Cesaire's Discourse on Colonialism warned third-world intellectuals not to be deceived by this rising new power. He argues that the rise of the United States signals a transition from colonialism to neo-imperialism, from territorial acquisition to 'remote control.' Occupied by their struggle to grasp state power, third-world nationalists did not seem bothered by the formation of U.S. hegemony; in fact, they prosecuted their struggle for independence with financial and military 'help' from the United States." (82)

Chen discusses Ashis Nandy's idea of "'the second form of colonization'" (Nandy 1983, xi):
"No longer presenting itself as the face of the colonizer, but instead relying on the superior imaginary of the West, the second wave of colonialism was able to exercise its power to change the cultural priorities in the formerly colonized society. The West was no longer a geographical and temporal entity, but a universal psychological category: 'the West is now everywhere, within the West and outside; in structures and in minds' (ibid.) Nandy's main agenda is to combat the hegemonic West by rediscovering cultural practices and traditions uncontaminated by colonialism." (Chen 89)

Chen notes that in a later book entitled The Illegitimacy of Nationalism: Rabindranath Tagore and the Politics of Self (1994), Nandy "argues that nationalism is a by-product of colonialism, and that third-world nationalism buys into the belief that it is backward without the nation-state and nationalist sentiment. Nationalist independence movements are reactions against colonialism and are thus caught in a colonialist frame of mind, accepting that the formation of the nation-state is an inevitable stage in the evolutionary progress of mankind" (91).

After all of this (and some other things), Chen moves toward a conceptualization of what he calls "critical syncretism"--he introduces Edward T. Ch'ien's discussion of the syncretism of Ming Dynasty scholar Chiao Hung (Jiao Hong), which instead of treating Taoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism separately, mixes them and sees them as "'mutually explanatory and illuminating'" (Ch'ien 14, qtd in Chen 98). Chen goes on to suggest that this syncretism involves active agents who are "highly self-conscious when translating the limits of the self" (unlike with hybridity, which he calls "a product of the colonial machine's efforts toward assimilation") (98).

Calling critical syncretism "a cultural strategy of identification for subaltern subject groups" (99), Chen describes the goal of such a strategy as
"to actively interiorize elements of others into the subjectivity of the self as as to move beyond the boundaries and divisive positions historically constructed by colonial power relations in the form of patriarchy, capitalism, racism, chauvinism, heterosexism, or nationalistic xenophobia" (99).
"Becoming others," he writes, "is to become female, aboriginal, homosexual, transsexual, working class, and poor; it is to become animal, third world, and African" (99). I have to admit that when I read this I think of a speech by Richard Rodriguez from 1999, in which Rodriguez argues that he is more Irish than Mexican (due to the education he received from Irish nuns) and is Chinese by virtue of living among Chinese. Rodriguez asks his audience, "What if I find myself becoming you?" I wonder how Chen would respond to Rodriguez's take on identity...

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Notes about chapter two of Asia as Method (part one)

Chen, Kuan-Hsing. "Decolonization: A Geocolonial Historical Materialism." Asia as Method: Toward Deimperialization. Durham, NC: Duke UP, 2010. 65-113.

A few quotes about what he's up to in this long chapter:
In this chapter, I propose geocolonial historical materialism as a framework for analyzing the problematic of decolonization in relation to cultural formation in formerly colonized spaces. (65)
The first task of the geocolonial historical materialist framework proposed in this chapter will be to work through the third-world discourse on colonial identification in order to first situate geocolonial historical materialism within cultural studies, and then to make the theoretical move to connect it with the spatial turn, a move inspired by radical geography. This chapter is a theoretical exercise that aims to connect and reconnect with these discursive traditions by tracing selected responses to colonialism after the Second World War; it is concerned essentially with the problems within former colonies. (66)

Part of this chapter makes use of three sources that represent three forms of decolonization, according to Chen: Frantz Fanon, who critiques nationalism "at the peak of the third-world independence movement in the 1950s and 1960s" (67); Albert Memmi, who critiques nativism; and Ashis Nandy, who proposes what Chen calls a "civilizationalism" that "is nonstatist and counterhegemonic" (94).

Chen brings in arguments about the psychic dimensions of colonialism, "colonial identification," and the struggle for decolonization:
The well-documented experiences of contemporary social movements suggest that the pain of struggle is always inscribed on the psychic body. Regarded as a personal and sometimes a shameful matter, the issue of recurring psychic suffering is rarely openly discussed, but if lessons about this psychic realm are not learned and shared, the problems will continue to return. Similarly, to fully understand the violence of the colonial condition, we need to enter this same psychic space. Hence, the psychoanalysis of colonization and decolonizing psychoanalysis are one and the same process. (73)
Continuing in this psychological vein, and citing Françoise Vergès,Chen argues that
the epistemological foundation of colonial psychology was the political unconscious of family romance: the relationship between parents and children. The colonized subjects were essentialized as being poor in linguistic expression and lacking the capacity for clear conceptualization: they believed in supernatural powers; they were fatalistic; all their knowledge came from blind faith in their ancestors' superstitions; and therefore, these natives could not mature unaided into adulthood. The colonizer's mission was to guide them. Of course, this entire formulation hid behind the name of science, and the validity of the psychologist's observation was backed by the guarantee of scientific neutrality. (74)
Chen observes that in Black Skin, White Masks, "Fanon puts Lacan's 'mirror stage' theory in the colonial context. Although subjectivity is always mutually constituting, the colonial history of economic domination has put the entire symbolic order in the hands of the white colonials, making them the defining agents of the ideological structure. The position occupied by the whites reduces blacks to the level of biological color alone. For the white subject, this bodily difference marks the boundary of the white subject. It has nothing to do with history or economics but is a 'universal' difference" (78-9).

Arguing that Fanon was aware of "multiple structures of domination," Chen argues that "[M]any postcolonial theorists focus on a singular structure of domination--along the continuum of race, ethnicity, nation, and civilization--and are unwilling to bring other structures into the picture. But if structures of domination have historically always been interlinked and mutually referencing, then colonial structures are necessarily entangled with other structures of power" (80, my emphasis).

More later...

Monday, March 25, 2013

Why 外 not?

I haven't written much about my "return" to the US in 2011--I'm not even sure I am comfortable calling it a "return" because that implies sort of a sameness about me and about the US that isn't the case. I enjoyed reading Mark Wilbur's post on "Returning to America," though, because I had some of the same feelings as he did after he came back to the US after years of living abroad (particularly the feeling of going back in time whenever I'm at the commuter rail or subway stations!).

One difference between living in Taiwan and living here is that I no longer see this on my Starbucks cups:

It's not clear, but it says 老外.

So I guess I'm saying I'm not seen as a 老外 anymore--at least not here. (And of course I'm a fan of cheesy bilingual puns, too.)

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

More on Freshman Chinese at Tunghai

About six and a half years ago, when this blog had another name, I posted a response to Kerim Friedman's comments about "Freshman Chinese"in which I described a project carried out by the Chinese Department at Tunghai designed to turn the first-year required Chinese course into more of a balanced reading and writing course. (Their official title is 中文, which simply translates to "Chinese.") Some of the goals of the course, as I noted then, were mentioned in the English abstract for the project proposal. They included the following:
The goal of Freshman Chinese is aimed at improving student’s language skills. However, the average size of 60 students per class makes it impossible for any teacher to help the students efficiently. Therefore, we decided to reduce the class size down to 30 students in the reading & writing class. For the first two years, we plan to offer 12 classes for the incoming students in the six different colleges, namely, the Colleges of Arts, Management, Social Science, Engineering, Science, and Agriculture. These classes focus on writing, but the theme and reading materials for each class is designed by individual instructor based on his or her specialty. We feel that this arrangement would allow individual instructor to demonstrate his or her teaching skills in a more effective way. Student writing could be creative or expository depending on the nature of the assigned topics. Each student is required to hand in at least 4 short papers and one research paper with substantial length each semester.
Six years later, it looks like the program is still going, according to this webpage (Chinese). During the spring 2013 semester, there are 66 sections of first-year Chinese, of which 23 are classified as sections meant to reinforce or strengthen students' writing (加強寫作班). These sections are limited to 30 students (other sections can have up to 60 or more students).

There's a page linking to student writing, as well. I haven't gone through all of this writing (though it looks like it would be an interesting project), but I did glance at some of the essay titles from some of the colleges (the students are divided into courses by college, such as the College of Business, the College of Agriculture, etc.). In particular, I was trying to get a quick idea of the kinds of essays students were being asked to write. My interest came out of a recent article in College Composition and Communication in which the authors--Patrick Sullivan, Yufeng Zhang, and Fenglan Zheng--compare and contrast the teaching of college writing in the US and China. Zheng suggests that Chinese writing instruction stresses the aesthetic and stylistic qualities of writing--student writers should "observe and reflect consciously, describe scenes vividly, articulate thoughts and emotions accurately, and organize an essay strategically" (323--interesting parallel structure in that quote).

I was curious to see if the Chinese writing instruction at Tunghai had a similar focus, or if something else was going on. I was particularly curious to see if there was any kind of Writing in the Disciplines (WID) writing instruction in which students in, for instance, the College of Engineering might learn how to write like engineers. Judging from the quick look I took at the titles of some of the sample student writing, though, it appears that there isn't a lot of that going on, though there appears to be a variety of essay types being written. While there appears to be a lot of the more aesthetic sanwen (散文) being written, there are also some more persuasive texts, like some essays I found arguing about whether the death penalty should be abolished in Taiwan. (One that I looked at was written by a math major, another by a life sciences major, and the third by a chemical biology major.)

I also found the program-wide goals, or "Core Competencies," for these Freshman Chinese classes. They are the following:

1 分析問題與欣賞文藝,提升個人對文學藝術的知性和感性能力
2 掌握語文表達能力
3 具備思辨的內涵和能力
4 對應各學院特色的語文應用能力

This basically roughly translates as follows (corrections appreciated):
1) Analyze problems and appreciate literature, raise personal intellectual ability and sensitivity toward literary art
2) Master linguistic communicative abilities
3) Become equipped with critical thinking skills
4) Language proficiencies that correspond to the characteristics of each college

I was particularly curious about that last core competency, so I looked at the course descriptions for the 23 spring 2013 courses described as "加強寫作班" (courses focused on strengthening writing). Of the 23 course descriptions, 13 were described as helping students become linguistically proficient in ways that would correspond to their college's needs or characteristics. Of course, it's hard to tell what individual teachers mean by this--how they see their courses corresponding to those goals. Some courses seemed to be working with literary texts, even though the students were all from the College of Engineering. Not that engineers shouldn't read and write about literary texts--but I didn't see anything in that particular syllabus that seemed to correspond to the writing needs of engineers.

The course materials and sample student essays look interesting, though, and I'll have to take a closer look at them when I get a chance. It would also be interesting to see how this kind of writing instruction compares with Chinese writing instruction in other schools in Taiwan, and with writing instruction in Chinese universities.

Update, 4/5/13: I found a student essay entitled "巨大能量伴隨著巨大災害-核能運用的反思" ("Enormous Energy Accompanied by Enormous Disaster: A Reflection on the Use of Nuclear Energy") that cites a quote by Einstein. (This essay was written by a philosophy major.)

I also found an essay entitled "從<嘉平公子>看蒲松齡的社會背景與愛情觀" ("Seeing Pu Songling's Social Background and Views on Love from 'The Young Gentleman from Jiaping'") that has a 9 endnotes and an extensive bibliography of works cited and consulted. Another essay "探討<霍小玉>中所映照的唐代社會" (An Exploration of Tang Dynasty Society as Reflected in Huo Xiaoyu"), written for the same professor, also looks like a research paper. These are both analyzing literary works in relation to their social contexts (and they were both written by students in the Chinese Department).

So there are at least three essays that look like academic essays in which outside sources are footnoted and listed in bibliographies. There might be more, but I haven't had time to go through all of the essays. (Note that I'm not being critical of the other types of writings in this collection--the sanwen and poetry, for example--I'm just trying to get a sense of the range of genres in these "加強寫作班.")

Friday, January 25, 2013

Notes about chapter one of Asia as Method

Chen, Kuan-Hsing. "The Imperialist Eye: The Discourse of the Southward Advance and the Subimperial Imaginary." Asia as Method: Toward Deimperialization. Durham, NC: Duke UP, 2010. 17-64.

In this chapter Chen takes as his object of analysis five essays published in a special literary supplement to The China Times (中國時報) published in 1994. He uses his analysis of these articles to argue that they provide cultural/scholarly support for a Taiwanese nationalist subimperialist project of economic penetration into Southeast Asia. The perspective behind this support, Chen argues, is only possible by virtue of the historical blinders the writers (whom he calls "self-proclaimed 'native leftists'" [26]) wear. These blinders allow the writers to ignore how the "southward advance" was based on the 1930s Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere that was a Japanese imperialist project.

Here are some quotes from this chapter (I don't intend this to be comprehensive):
In Taiwan, the third world never became a critical-analytic or political category. Politicians, intellectuals, and business people have always identified themselves with advanced, first-world countries and felt it shameful to be put into the category of the third world. The absence of a third-world consciousness has been a basic condition of intellectual life in Taiwan, including among left-leaning circles. This absence, I wish to argue, was a necessary condition for the formation of the southward-advance discourse. (20-21)
In the field of cultural studies, the third world as an analytical category has also been ignored. Although, since the 1990s, this field has been going through a period of internationalization, the third world has not been taken up as a coordinating concept around which to organize dialogue. This has immense methodological and political consequences. (21)
[In his essay, "Gazing at Low Latitudes: Taiwan and the 'Southeast Asia Movement,'" Yang Changzhen] cites archeological and anthropological evidence to argue that a group of Taiwan's aboriginal tribes called the Pingpu "belong to the Malay race." ...The discursive effect is to naturalize Taiwan's rightful place as an original part of the Southeast Asian black-tide cultural sphere and attribute its later Chinese affiliation to human factors. ... Throughout the rest of the narrative, Taiwan is homogenized, a place completely deprived of social differences. Yang's starting point could have led him to argue for the restoration of Taiwan's territory and sovereignty to "nature," or to the "real" Taiwanese--that is, the aboriginal tribes. But he deploys the aboriginal figure only for the purpose of connecting the Han Chinese Taiwan with Southeast Asia. There is no reflection on the Han Chinese colonization of Taiwan's aboriginal population. (30-1)
The field of Taiwanese history has grown quickly since previously forbidden topics such as the 228 Incident and the White Terror became available for investigation. A more pervasive but little-noticed movement was the emergence of local history groups, which work throughout the island at the village level to collect materials, chronicle local events, and in the process build a cultural identity. This massive writing is evidence of the current struggle over who has the power to interpret history. The interpretations are clearly oriented toward the future, not mere retracings of a suppressed past; most originate from a particular political position or ideology and are used to support political or ideological goals, including the dream of an independent nation, the consolidation of state power, and a combination of the two. The most important function of historical interpretation is to selectively organize popular memory. As critics of the society, we are fortunate to be able to watch these processes in action and see firsthand how collective memory does not just exist "out there," but is constructed and reconstructed through the writing of the past into the present. (62-3)
Some of this last quotation is on one level obvious to anyone who studies rhetorical history; on another level, it strikes me that Chen himself has done some historical interpretations in this chapter. What "particular political position or ideology" is he writing from?

Earlier, he writes that during the martial law period of the Chiangs, the government's "Chinese chauvinism" made use of "White Terror totalitarianism" that
led to appalling mutilation of the collected psychic structure, mutilation that can be seen in today's warped modes of communication, suspicion of other people, and alienation. Such fascist cultural forms as the patriarchal mind-set, whisper campaigns, dividing others into either friends or enemies, and surreptitious defamations still operate in Taiwanese society. Even progressive social movements in the civil society are not exempt from these fascist currents. (58)
He goes on, then, to argue that the KMT's "Chinese chauvinism" was replaced by Taiwanese nationalism that is characterized by an "ethnic chauvinism ... [that] is exemplified in the adversarial relationship between native Taiwanese and mainlander ..." (59).
The reservoir of discontent that the colonized had for years been accumulating was co-opted by the ruling bloc. The co-optation made possible intimate links between Taiwanese nationalism, statism, and colonial imperialism, while ideologically constituting the desire for the formation of the Taiwanese subempire. (61)
I'll have to read the next chapter to see if this all gets clearer...

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Some quotes from the introduction to Kuan-Hsing Chen's Asia as Method

Here are a few quotes from the introduction ("Globalization and Deimperialization") to Kuan-Hsing Chen's book, Asia as Method: Toward Deimperialization (Durham, NC: Duke UP, 2010), 1-16.
"If postcolonial studies is obsessed with the critique of the West and its transgressions, the discourses surrounding globalization tend to have shorter memories, thereby obscuring the relationships between globalization and the imperial and colonial past from which it emerged." (2)
"The epistemological implication of Asian studies in Asia is clear. If "we" have been doing Asian studies, Europeans, North Americans, Latin Americans, and Africans have also been doing studies in relation to their own living spaces. That is, Martin Heidegger was actually doing European studies, as were Michel Foucault, Pierre Bourdieu, and Jurgen Habermas. European experiences were their system of reference. Once we realize how extremely limited the current conditions of knowledge are, we learn to be humble about our knowledge claims. The universalist assertions of theory are premature, for theory too must be deimperialized." (3)
 "My use of the word 'globalization' does not imply the neoliberal assertion that imperialism is a historical ruin, or that now different parts of the world have become interdependent, interlinked, and mutually beneficiary. Instead, by globalization I refer to capital-driven forces which seek to penetrate and colonize all spaces on the earth with unchecked freedom, and that in so doing have eroded national frontiers and integrated previously unconnected zones. In this ongoing process of globalization, unequal power relations become intensified, and imperialism expresses itself in a new form." (4)
 "Current decolonization movements must confront the conditions left behind by the cold-war era. It has become impossible to criticize the United States in Taiwan because the decolonization movement, which had to address Taiwan's relation with Japan, was never able to fully emerge from the postwar period; the Chinese communists were successfully constructed as the evil other by the authoritarian Kuomintang regime; and the United States became the only conceivable model of political organization and the telos of progress. Consequently, it is the Chinese mainlanders (those still in China as well as those who moved to Taiwan in 1949) who have, since the mid-1980s, become the figures against whom the ethnic-nationalist brand of the Taiwanese nativist movement has organized itself. In contrast, the Americans and Japanese are seen as benefactors, responsible for Taiwan's prosperity." (9-10)
 (I hope he gives a more nuanced account later on of what he says rather sweepingly in this paragraph. I can see his point, but I think it's overstated.)

More as I finish other chapters in this book...

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

More notes?

Thinking of firing up the blog again after a long period of sporadic posts. Don't know if anyone is still following this, but maybe if I write something worth reading, some readers will show up. And if I don't, well...

I'm not sure what to write about yet, though. Perhaps I'll post some notes about books I'm reading, just to get started. We'll see...