This week's review proposes the idea of "post-Chineseness," challenging the essentialization of Chinese identity.

Post-Chineseness: Cultural Politics and International Relations

Shih, Chih-yu. SUNY Press, 2022
358p bibl index, 9781438487717 $95.00, 9781438487700 $32.95, 9781438487724

Post-Chineseness: Cultural Politics and International Relations book cover.

Shih (National Taiwan Univ.) challenges conventional wisdom about Chinese identity and asks fundamental questions about Chineseness. In this turbulent world, China is pitted against the West in both popular and government narratives. However, what “China” refers to in these narratives is often ambiguous. Does “China” mean the whole Chinese nation, the Communist Party, Chinese culture, the Chinese race, Chinese society, or something else? The binary opposition of China and the West exacerbates the murkiness of the term. Instead of a binary, Shih suggests that Chineseness is a fluid concept, evolving through the agency of businesspeople, priests, politicians, journalists, netizens, diplomats, and artists. Drawing on empirical research, international relations theories, China studies, and ethnic studies, Shih proposes the concept of post-Chineseness to refer to the ongoing process of becoming Chinese, with all the nuances it entails. This concept both deconstructs and reconstructs the basic meaning of China and Chineseness, revealing how these terms are constantly negotiated and reproduced to reflect and cater to the different perceptions or needs of individuals. This is a fascinating and unique book, offering deep insight into Chinese culture, history, religion, philosophy, nationalism, politics, and foreign relations.

Summing Up: Highly recommended. Advanced undergraduates through faculty; professionals.
Z. Zhu, Bucknell University
Interdisciplinary Subjects: Asian and Asian American Studies
Subject: Social & Behavioral Sciences – Political Science – International Relations
Choice Issue: Feb 2023

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