ABSTRACT

In Chapter 1 I argued that Sinologism differs from Orientalism in that it is much less political and ideological, because Sinology from the outset was equipped with an internal mechanism that resists political interference and politicization of scholarship. Does this mean that Sinologism is immune to politics and ideology? As I have already shown politics is an important factor in knowledge production about China and Chinese civilization, especially after the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, a declared socialist state viewed by the West as belonging to the communist camp during the Cold War period. This recognition introduces something new to China studies in the West: a political dimension that has gradually evolved into a politics of scholarship and politicization of China knowledge. Of course, this political dimension is not overtly visible. Indeed, it takes a subtle and less invasive form than that in Orientalism and postcolonial studies. Oftentimes, people scarcely realize its political nature, or even if it becomes visible in scholarship people tend to ignore it or refuse to recognize its true nature. Hence, this dimension should be viewed as constituting a political unconscious in scholarship. My conception of the political unconscious has a basic affinity with Fredric Jameson’s conception but differs in some important ways. I agree with Jameson that all cultural artifacts are “socially symbolic acts,” with political meanings and implications, and all interpretations of literary texts are predicated on a political perspective consciously or unconsciously chosen. Jameson conceives the political perspective “not as some supplementary method, not as an optional auxiliary to other interpretive methods . . . but rather as the absolute horizon of all reading and all interpretation.”1 His conception may be true to readings and interpretations of literary texts, but is not entirely applicable to knowledge and scholarship, which are relatively neutral and objective. The political unconscious conceived by Jameson is essentially a false consciousness, which is largely class consciousness generated by the class struggle between the oppressor and the oppressed in the process of economic production: “The prior moment of class consciousness is that of the oppressed classes (whose structural identity – whether a peasantry, slaves, serfs, or a genuine proletariat – evidently derives from the mode of production.)”2 My notion of the political unconscious also refers to a false consciousness, a political ideology, but in this study of knowledge and scholarship

production, class consciousness is irrelevant. The core of my conception is a political ideology based on ethnic consciousness, national consciousness, and inter-national consciousness. While I share the basic premise of Jameson’s, which is “to assert the specificity of the political contents of everyday life and of individual fantasy-experience and to reclaim it from that reduction to the merely subjective and to the status of psychological projection,”3 my aim is to show how the false consciousness pertaining to ethnicity, nationalism, and inter-national difference affects the production and evaluation of knowledge and scholarship. Basically, my idea of the political unconscious has two aspects. One aspect may be called “academic politics” while the other is “politics of scholarship.” The former is the same as academic politics anywhere in any academic discipline, only it is often sharpened by the fact that scholars engaged in China studies are composed of people of Chinese origin and people of Western origin. Since this is a form of politics mostly concerned with: who should be hired? Who should get tenure and promotion? Who should receive a grant or fellowship? Who should be awarded a prestigious prize? etc., it has more to do with minority policies over political correctness and administrative decisions in academic institutions and does not fall into the purview of this book, which is wholly concerned with problems of a scholarly nature in China-West studies. What I am going to explore in this chapter is the second category: scholarly politics or politics in scholarship. Briefly defined, politics of scholarship is concerned with the conditions of China-West studies from the perspective of politics, which include real-politik, international politics, geocultural politics, identity politics, and ethnic politics. Simply put, it explores how these forms of politics affect and influence the orientations and outcome of scholarship on China-West studies.