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Can Chinese intellectuals in the diaspora be themselves first and a Chinese subject second? Gao Xingjian poses this question in his dramatic works and theory of “cold literature.” Conversely, Julia Kristeva describes her experience of feeling like an ape under the gaze of the other during her visit to China in her book, About Chinese Women (1978). How does racialized thinking inform Japanese and Chinese mythologies, Sun Yat-sen’s republican revolution, performative discourses of “yellow peril” and “yellow fever,” and the relationship between Taiwanese women and their Southeast Asian maids?
Race draws on culturally and historically diverse materials to examine the intersections of race and gender, whiteness, blackness in a global context, and race in South Africa, Israel, India, Europe, US, East Asia, and Asian America. From Black Lives Matter movements to #MeToo movements, the book close reads a wide array of examples from the Middle Ages to Renaissance to the twentieth century.
If race is a central part of human identity, can one own or disown one’s race? To which community would a multiracial person, immigrant, or diasporic subject belong? What future is there for race as a viable analytical concept? The book argues that race is profoundly constituted by language and narratives. Race is a signifier that accumulates meaning by a chain of deferral to other categories of difference such as gender and class.
In contemporary Anglo-European West, race often brings to mind people who are not white, while whiteness remains unmarked and serves as a benchmark category—as if white is not a race. The second feature in racial discourses is the alignment of a race-based social group with innate or inner qualities rather than class. Third, the focus on black and white sometimes obscures other groups within the United States, such that Hispanics, Latinos, Chicanos, and Native Americans often fall under the rubric of ethnicities rather than “race.”
Table of contents
Part I: Fixing the fetters of race
Chapter 1: Marking barbarians, Muslims, Jews, Ethiopians, Africans, Moors, or blacks
Chapter 2: Pseudo-scientific markings of difference
Part II: Recasting the fetters of race
Chapter 3: Legislative, governmental, and judicial markings of difference
Chapter 4: Slavery and race
Part III: Loosening the fetters of face
Chapter 5: Race and epistemologies of otherness
Conclusion: race in the world