Lei Yi: Interpretation of “Post-modern Theory” and “Post-colonial Theory” in the Context of China’s Modernity

四, 结尾
4. Conclusion

1. 作为学术资本的“第三世界”
1. The “Third World” as academic capital

如前所述,西方学术界出现了由常住西方、基本上是在西方大学任教的非白人、多数是 来自第三世界的学者对西方理论、学术中的欧洲中心论倾向和西方文化霸权进行的挑战 和批判。

As already mentioned, voices of scholars appeared in the Western academia that challenge and criticize Western theories, Eurocentric theoretic tendencies and Western Cultural Hegemony in sciences. These scholars are permanent residents in Western countries, are basically of Non-Caucasian descent and maintain teaching positions in Western universities. The better part of them is from Third World countries.

应引起注意的是,这此理论家其中一些人虽曾有“第三世界”的背景,但现在大都在“发 达国家”的学术、文化界获得了相当的地位,其实他/她们已经脱离了“第三世界”、 脱 离了本土的种种压迫机制而溶入了“发达社会”,因而才有条件、有资格优雅从容地告 诫仍在“第三世界”的人们维护自己“民族特性”的重要。
What should attract our attention is the fact, that even though some of these theorists used to have a „Third World“ background, now most of them attained quite notable positions in the scientific and cultural circles in “developed countries”. In fact they have already shed off the “Third World”, shed off the various oppressive systems of their native countries and blended into the “developed society” (发达社会 fādá shèhuì). It wasn’t until then that they had the conditions and qualification to gracefully and calmly admonish people in the “Third World” to defending the importance of their own “national identity” or “ethnic distinctiveness” (民族特性 mínzú tèxìng).

人们可以反问,他/ 她们实际已经脱离了第三世界,为什么批评别人被“后殖民”而自 己却以为有资格代表第三世界“发声”呢?
People can retort: They have in fact already shed off the Third World! Why should they criticize others to be “post-colonial” and assume they are qualified to be the representative voices of the “Third World”?

其实,他/ 她们所面对的问题与真正生活在第三世界的人们所面对的问题非常不一样。 他/她们长期生活在发达国家,直接面对的是发达国家在学术、文化界主流话语的压制; 作为少数族裔,他/她们要在主流学术、 文化界占有一席之地。
The difficulties they face and their actual lives are completely different from the difficulties that people face in Third World (第三世界 dì-sān shìjiè) countries. They have lived in developed countries for a long time. What they face is the pressure of the mainstream discourses in the scientific and cultural circles. With ethnic minority lineage (少数族裔 shǎoshù zúyì) they only have an ordinary position in the main scientific and cultural circles.

他/她们所谓的“第三世界”已成为他们在发达国家学术、 文化体制内取得成功的一种 资本,一种可以利用的资源(他/她们实际已成功利用此点),与真正生活在“第三世界” 的人们其实关系不大。
The thing they call „Third World“ has already turned into some sort of capital for them to become successful in the scientific and cultural systems of the developed countries, a sort of resource they can exploit (they have actually already successfully exploited this). That in reality has not much to do with the real life of the people in the “Third World”.

当然,还有一些非有色人种的西方学者也对东方的种种他们心目中的“特色”逐渐绝迹 深感不满、遗憾甚至愤怒,其实或是以一种外来“旅游者”心态、以对“神秘东方”那 种异国情调的欣赏态度来看待这些“特色”,或是将这些“特色”作为批判自己所处社 会的一种参照。凡此种种,更非更真正生活在第三世界中的人们所面对的真问题。
Of course, there are also western scholars of non-colored-races (非有色人种 fēi yǒusè rénzhǒng) that feel deep dissatisfaction, regret or even anger, that the various “characteristics/distinctiveness” of the East in which they are interested in slowly vanishes. This is actually either some sort of “tourist” attitude to look at these “characteristics/distinctiveness”, this “mysterious orient” (神秘东方 shénmì dōngfāng) with exotism (异国情调 yìguó qíngdiào) or a way to use these “characteristics” as a sort of reference to criticize their own respective societies. There are many varieties of this, and it has even less to do with the difficulties that people in the Third World face in their real life.

2. Self-contradictions

中国的“后殖民”、“后现代”理论当前的一个基本困境是,尽管他们在许多文章中屡屡 以犀利、激烈的言词分析、指出他人的种种理论、作品是“连缀起一个西方权威视点中 的东方景观”,“直接以西方式的能指指认一个本土的所指,本身就意味着接受了西方式 的‘主体’的观看的视点,而将自身的文化‘他者化’”。

Currently, the „post-colonial“ and „post-modern“ theory in China has one fundamental dilemma: Although they analyze in many articles using sharp and intense language and point out various theories of other people, their work is “putting together an Eastern landscape (东方景观 dōngfāng jǐngguān) within a Western authoritative viewpoint (权威视点 quánwēi shìdiǎn)”, “directly using Western signifiers to signify a local (Chinese) signified [compare Saussure’s “Semiotics“], this in itself means that they have already accepted the Western viewpoint of looking at a subject and thereby “otherizing” their own culture.”

……但是,他们自己从理论体系到基本概念和术语却又全部来自西方,实际已被“后殖 民”。其言必称 M·福柯、P·利科、J·德里达、F·杰姆逊、E·萨伊德、D·佛克马…… 所用概念术语是结构、解构、能指、所指、话语、符号、编码、代码、隐喻、象寓、迷 思、镜城、镜象化、互文性、文本间性……
But from the theoretic systems (理论体系 lǐlùn tǐxì) up to the basic concepts (基本概念 jīběn gàiniàn) and terminology (术语 shùyǔ) they use, it all comes from the West, in fact they themselves are “post-colonized” (被后殖民 bèi hòuzhímín). Their language must be called that of Michel Foucault, Paul Ricoeur, Jacques Derrida, Fredric Jameson, Edward W. Said or Douwe W. Fokkema. Their conceptual terms are structure (结构 jiégòu), deconstruction (解构jiěgòu), signifier (能指 néngzhǐ), signified (所指 suǒzhǐ), discourse (话语 huàyǔ), sign/symbol (符号 fúhào), encoding (编码 biānmǎ), code (代码 dàimǎ), metaphor (隐 喻 yǐnyù), figurative language (象寓 xiàngyù), confusion (迷思 mísī), mirror city (镜城 jìngchéng), mirror imagination (镜象化 jìngxiànghuà), intertextuality (互文性 hùwénxìng), intertextuality (文本间性 wénběn jiānxìng), etc. …

The grammar and syntactical structure of some texts have been “post-colonized” to such a high degree that they are hard to read.

不顾具体背景而生吞活剥一种外来理论,自会时时陷入尴尬之境。如有论者为寻求论据, 以杨绛等在干校劳改时将一村姑戏称为文艺复兴时代的“蒙娜丽莎”、称一位老农为唐 诘诃德为例,说明这是“被一套西方的话语所命名和书写”,是“将自身的文化‘他者 化’”的后殖民。
Yang Jiang and other researchers (wrote in their memoires) that during their time in the cadre school (干校 gànxiào) and in „reform through labour“ (劳改 láogǎi)-camps they jokingly called a village girl “Mona Lisa” of the Renaissance or called an old farmer “Don Quixote”. A proponent of post-colonial theory (whose name I don’t give here) was searching for arguments and took this as a negative example, He criticized Yang and expounds that this was “a way of naming and describing using Western language”, an example of post-colonialism and of “otherizing” one’s own culture.

不过,论者本人却又十分严肃地将美国当代作家塞林格笔下的那个“麦田守望者”作为 中国当代知识分子所当取的姿态象征而加以推崇。难道自己就不是“被一套西方的话语 所命名和书写”?不是“将自身的文化‘他者化’”?不是“后殖民”?
Yet said theory proponent himself on the other hand in complete seriousness uses novel “The Catcher in the Rye” written by the contemporary American author J.D. Salinger as a symbol to describe the attitude of China’s contemporary intellectuals and to emphasize his high praise for them. Isn’t this commentator himself “naming and describing using Western language”? Is this not “’otherizing’ one’s own culture? Is this not “post-colonialism”?

It is actually hard to avoid this kind of embarrassment already in the time of Zhang Zhidong (张之洞 an important proponent of the Westernization Movement (洋务运动 Yángwù Yùndòng). From early modern times we have this rather famous anecdote:

张之洞兴办学堂时曾有请幕僚路某拟一大纲,不料拟就之后张之洞因见其中有“健康” 一词而勃然大怒,提笔批道:“健康乃日本名词,用之殊觉可恨。”掷还路某。
When Zhang Zhidong founded a school he asked his assistant Lu Mou to draw an outline for it. But unexpectedly, when Lu was finished writing to Zhang Zhidong, the latter spotted the word “jiànkāng (健康 health)” in it. Zhang became furious, took the brush and criticized:

“Jiankang is a Japanese term, I really hate it when people use it.” [健康乃日本名词,用之殊觉可恨] With this he returned the outline to Lu Mou.

偏偏路谋略通西学,当即发现张之洞的“把柄”,便针锋相对地加批道:“名词亦日本名 词,用之尤觉可恨。”反对用“日本名词”者如张之洞,却也无法摆脱“日本名词”的 困扰,确有象征意义。
Lu Mou had only cursory knowledge of Western Learning (西学 xīxué), but immediately after discovering Zhang Zhidong’s so called “evidence” he gave a tit for tat response and wrote this criticism:

“Míngcí 名词 (term) is also Japanese term, I extremely hate when people use it.” [名词亦日本名词, 用之尤觉可恨] People that oppose the use of “Japanese terms” like Zhang Zhidong have the problem that they can’t avoid using “Japanese terms”, this really has a symbolic meaning.

当然,从更广的意义上说,这是关于整个“第三世界”困境的寓言。即便反对西方的话 语“霸权”,亦无法摆脱、甚至要“屈从”于这种话语的“霸权”。但换句话说,在文化 交往如此繁密的今天,真有可能建立起一套完全不受西方话语“污染”的话语系统么? 只是被动、机械地“被书写”吗?
Of course, in a wider sense, this is an allegory of the whole “Third World” dilemma (困境 kùnjìng). Even if one opposes the “hegemony” (霸权 bàquán) of Western language, one also has no way of avoiding its use and even has to “submit” (屈从 qūcóng) to the “hegemony” of this language. But in other words, in today’s world with such close cultural exchanges, is it really possible to establish a language system that is not even in the smallest way “tainted” (污染 wūrǎn) with Western language? Is this only „being described“ passively and mechanically?

3. The meaning of the post-modern and post-colonial theory in the Chinese context

“后现代”“后殖民”理论在西方语境中无疑有其自身的意义与合理性,但把他的理论 不加消化便生搬硬套到中国,总使人有文不对题之感。
„Post-modern” and “post-colonial” theory without at doubt has its own meaning and rationality in the Western context, but applying its theory to China mechanically and without digesting it, it always causes people to feel that it is beside the point.

在中国语境中,为西方“后现代”所解构的启蒙话语、现代性话语在中国从未居中心、 主导地位,而是一直处于被挤压被批判的“边缘”地位。
In the Chinese context, the enlightenment discourse and modern discourse, which both are being deconstructed as Western “post-modern” have never taken a central or leading position (主导地位 zhǔdǎo dìwèi), but have always been squeezed and criticized into a “marginal” (边缘地位 biānyuán dìwèi) position.

在这种背景下硬套“后现代”的种种现成结论而不对中国语境作具体研究,实际是将西 方的问题幻化为中国的问题,并因此避开或曰阉割、消解了西方“后现代”理论的锋芒与革命性,与所谓“本土特性”、“后殖民”理论一同为“主流”利用。
With this kind of background, various ready-made verdicts are made by arbitrarily applying the term “post-modern” without conducting concrete research on the Chinese context. This really means to miraculously turn Western problems into Chinese problems. Due to this avoidance (避开 bìkāi) some people say that the cutting edge and revolutionary character of the Western “post-modern” theory has been castrated/emasculated (阉割 yāngē) and dispelled. And the theories of the so-called “Chinese/local characteristics” (本土特性 běntǔ tèxìng), and “post-colonialism” are all used as “main stream” (主流 zhǔliú).

简言之,中国的“后学”与西方的“后学”相反,加入到“主流”对“支流”的冲击、 “主调”对“杂音”的掩盖、“中心”对“边缘”的扩张、“强势”对“弱势”的的挤压 中去。
In short, contrary to the Western “Post-School” the Chinese “Post-School“ aggravates the clash between “main stream” and “sub stream” (支流 zhīliú). “Homophony” (主调 zhǔdiào) conceals “noise” (杂音 záyīn = dissenting voices?). The ”center” expands into the “periphery”. The “strong” grind down the “disadvantaged/weak/vulnerable”.

由于把当代西方的社会、文化问题当作当代中国、甚至是近代中国的问题这种时空“双 重错位”,所以才会对近代以来一直到五四新文化运动“集大成”的启蒙、改造国民性 等提出严厉批判。
Turning problems of the contemporary Western society and culture into problems of contemporary and even near modern China is a kind of dual dislocation (双重错位 shuāngchóng cuòwèi) in space and time. Only this makes it possible to harshly criticize ideas like the enlightenment, the reform of the national character, etc. that have been around since early modern times and were “epitomized” (集大成 jídàchéng) in the May-Fourth New Cultural Movement.

“后殖民”、“后现代”理论能够真正地“中国化”,就是紧贴中国语境,为中国思想、 理论、学术界注入又一股新鲜的活力。
The theory of „post-colonialism“ and „post-modern” can really be “sinicized” by closely connecting it to the Chinese context. It can inject a breath of fresh vitality into Chinese thinking, theory and academia.

所以,我们不能轻而易举地生吞活剥、生搬硬套一种外来的理论,而应经过一番艰苦的 独立思考、加工改造和有机消化,使之与本土经验有机相契,作为一种新锐的武器用来 剖析本土的社会脉络和问题,而不是削足适履地以本土经验(或干脆无视这种经验)来 映证一种外来的理论。
Therefore we can’t just simply and uncritically embrace a foreign theory and apply it mechanically. We must let it organically resonate with our local (Chinese) experiences through hard independent thinking (独立思考 dúlì sīkǎo), by processing and reforming as well as organically digesting it. This will turn it into a freshly sharpened weapon to analyze the thoughts and problems of the local (Chinese) society. This way one doesn’t mechanically apply other people’s experiences and let the local (Chinese) experience just reflect foreign theories (or straightforwardly ignore these experiences).

(Translation by Matthias Niedenführ and Daniel Niedenführ)

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