The politics of representation in contemporary ethnic Chinese writing
With the increasing mobility of the Chinese to the West, there has been an increase in publication and popularity of literary works by ethnic Chinese writers living in the West. This thesis proposes to investigate the image of China and the West in ethnic Chinese writing focusing on autolbiographies and novels, and to explore the role of 'representation' in the diffusion of these texts, a topic that has not yet been systematically and substantially studied. Since ethnic Chinese writers are immigrants or descendants of immigrants who live in-between nations, cultures or languages, the representational issue is examined from both Western as well as Chinese standpoints, using theories developed by Michel Foucault, interpreted by Edward Said and Xiaomei Chen. Different representations of China and the West affect divergent, and often contradictory, receptions of these texts between Western audiences and Chinese readers. The thesis suggests that through negative depictions of China, ethnic Chinese bestsellers in the West concede to a Western positional superiority which assigns China to the position of culturally and politically inferior Other. This in turn often entails criticism of the West and a rejection of these books in China or in the ethnic Chinese community in the West.