"China" and "the West," "us" and "them," the "subject" and the "non-subject" - these and other dualisms furnish China watchers, both inside and outside China, with a pervasive, ready-made set of definitions immune to empirical disproof. But what does this language of essential difference accomplish? The essays in this book are an attempt to cut short the recitation of differences and to answer this question. In six interpretive studies of China, the author examines the ways in which the networks of assumption and consensus that make communication possible within a discipline affect collective thinking about the object of study. Among other subjects, these essays offer a historical and historiographical introduction to the problem of comparison and deal with translation, religious proselytisation, semiotics, linguistics, cultural bilingualism, writing systems, the career of postmodernism in China, and the role of China as an imaginary model for postmodernity in the West. Against the reigning simplifications, these essays seek to restore the interpretation of China to the complexity and impurity of the historical situations in which it is always caught. The chief goal of the essays in this book is not to expose errors in interpreting China but to use these misunderstandings as a basis for devising better methodologies for comparative studies.
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