Modern Chinese Nationalism

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As briefly discussed in the introduction, the issue of the nation and nationalism should not be confined to hard politics. Indeed, recent scholarships have turned from the statist perspective to regional and even individual experience of the nation and nationalism, among other issues. More importantly, the cultural aspect of the individuals has drawn spotlight as well. Although political historians, such as Benedict Anderson, have pointed out the significance of cultural factors in the formation of the nation and the spread of nationalism, the lived experience of that culture by individuals rarely received attention among political scientists. Yet fields like history, anthropology, and literature, in recent decades, have begun to draw attention…show more content…
As mentioned above, the explanation of the historical development of the nation and nationalism is largely based on the modernization theory that the emergence of the nation and nation-state is said to be a result of a society’s progression towards modernity, and that nationalism, therefore, is also a modern phenomenon that represents the rupture from the past and the traditional. This is the main trajectory of how scholars on China have traced the history of the birth of the modern Chinese nation and nationalism. Beginning from Joseph Levenson’s influential work, Confucian China and Its Modern Fate: A Trilogy (1968), the theory of modern Chinese nationalism develops along the so-called “culturalism-to-nationalism” thesis. Culturalism is a particular approach to a collective identity in pre-modern China and assumed conceptually different from nationalism that nationalism arose to replace culturalism as China was threatened by the West since the mid-nineteenth…show more content…
The pivotal point lies in that one would tend to think of the nation as a unified and coherent subjectivity that it becomes an indisputable being in relation to the state, to others, and its people, and in turn, the historical complexity in its formation is lost. In this sense, not only is the preceding history that does not necessarily lead to the development of the modern nation ignored, but the individual’s personal experience in the historical formation of the nation is also glossed over. The breaking of the “culturalism-to-nationalism” thesis is thus helpful to move on from the notion of the nation as a coherent unit to taking into consideration the variables in shaping and defining the nation as well as the possibility of “nations” because of individuals’ different historical experience. The definition of the nation, therefore, becomes fluid, as Bhabha, quoted at the opening of the paper, argues. The variety of “nations” is likely to contend and negotiate each other at the site of nationalism where one’s nationalistic aspiration, concerns, and personal experience come into one, as quotation from Duara shows in the

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