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Rescuing history from the nation : questioning narratives of modern China / Prasenjit Duara

Main Author Duara, Prasenjit Country Estados Unidos. Publication Chicago : The University of Chicago Press, 1996 Description X, 275 p. ; 23 cm ISBN 0-226-16722-4 CDU 951
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Monografia Biblioteca Fernão Mendes Pinto
BFMP 951 - D Não requisitável | Not for loan 294459
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Enhanced descriptions from Syndetics:

Prasenjit Duara offers the first systematic account of the relationship between the nation-state, nationalism, and the concept of linear history. Focusing primarily on China and including discussion of India, Duara argues that many historians of postcolonial nation-states have adopted a linear, evolutionary history of the Enlightenment/colonial model. As a result, they have written repressive, exclusionary, and incomplete accounts.

The backlash against such histories has resulted in a tendency to view the past as largely constructed, imagined, or invented. In this book, Duara offers a way out of the impasse between constructionism and the evolving nation; he redefines history as a series of multiple, often conflicting narratives produced simultaneously at national, local, and transnational levels. In a series of closely linked case studies, he considers such examples as the very different histories produced by Chinese nationalist reformers and partisans of popular religions, the conflicting narratives of statist nationalists and of advocates of federalism in early twentieth-century China. He demonstrates the necessity of incorporating contestation, appropriation, repression, and the return of the repressed subject into any account of the past that will be meaningful to the present. Duara demonstrates how to write histories that resist being pressed into the service of the national subject in its progress--or stalled progress--toward modernity.

Table of contents provided by Syndetics

  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • 1 Linear History and the Nation-state
  • 2 Bifurcating Linear Histories in China and India
  • 3 The Campaigns against Religion and the Return of the Repressed
  • 4 Secret Brotherhood and Revolutionary Discourse in China's Republican Revolution
  • 5 The Genealogy of Fengjian or Feudalism: Narratives of Civil Society and State
  • 6 Provincial Narratives of the Nation: Federalism and Centralism in Modern China
  • 7 Critics of Modernity in India and China
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • Index

Reviews provided by Syndetics


Duara means to deconstruct early 20th-century nation building and nationalism in China and, to a lesser degree, India. He shows--sometimes originally, sometimes all too unexceptionably--that the Westernizing nationalist modernizers who early on commandeered Asian states favored centralism, uniformity, and individual liberation over religion, nativism, localism ("feudalism"), provincialism, and Gandhism. Suggestive battles between competing ideologies of nationhood (termed "narratives," after Paul Ricoeur and Homi Bhabha) are interestingly traced, and defeated Others (other narratives) are insightfully mourned. However, Duara's arguments--already underproved because of his broad, skimming approach--are overshadowed by deconstructive performance: he "problematizes" Chinese Westernizers and recent scholars of nationalism (e.g., Ernest Gellner and Benedict Anderson) instead of refuting or refining their views. Hegel's historical teleology is the straw man. Eliding the role of international relations in state making, Duara coins the term "discent" (= descent + dissent; or, "descent +/- dissent," a la Derrida) for non-Hegelian national origin myths, just to argue that China, unlike Angola, has an ancient national narrative, and that the Chinese republic's founders manipulated secret society beliefs. A good workout for a class in logic; otherwise, for advanced graduate students and professors of theory. J. C. Kinkley St. John's University (NY)

Author notes provided by Syndetics

Prasenjit Duara is chair of the department of history at the University of chicago. He is the author of Culture, Power, and the State: Rural North China, 1900-1942 and Sovereignty and Authentcity: Manchukuo and the East Asian Modern.

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