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Reading Rey Chow

Visuality, Postcoloniality, Ethnicity, Sexuality

Paul Bowman

This is the first book-length study of the groundbreaking work of Rey Chow, whose work has transformed the fields of postcolonialism, cultural studies, film, ethnicity and gender. It describes and explains the features and the breadth of Chow's interventions and illustrates Chow’s arguments by way of the analysis of a range of engaging examples drawn from the fields of film, popular music, identity and popular culture. Chow’s work is of interest and importance to anyone working on questions of international and transnational film; popular culture; postcolonialism; poststructuralism; and Chinese, Hong Kong and Asian identity in different national contexts; as well as sex, gender and ethnic politics in general. This book elaborates on and illustrates Chow’s fascinating contributions to scholarship and knowledge across many different fields by arguing that her work can best be understood in relation to the «projects» of cultural studies and postcolonial studies. In this way, the work sets out both the enduring importance of these wider projects and the importance of Rey Chow’s contributions to them.
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Chapter Three. Cultural Politics before China; or “the foundation of contemporary cultural studies”

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If one shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, so academics shouldn’t “read” books by their titles. Yet they do. Rey Chow’s book titles have sometimes featured words such as “China” and “Chinese film”: Woman and Chinese Modernity: The Politics of Reading between East and West (1991), Primitive Passions: Visuality, Sexuality, Ethnography, and Contemporary Chinese Cinema (1995), and Sentimental Fabulations, Contemporary Chinese Films: Attachment in the Age of Global Visibility (2007), for instance. However, more often than not, Chow’s book titles do not mention China: Writing Diaspora: Tactics of Intervention in Contemporary Cultural Studies (1993), Ethics After Idealism: Theory, Culture, Ethnicity, Reading (1998), The Protestant Ethnic and the Spirit of Capitalism (2002), The Age of the World Target: Self-Referentiality in War, Theory and Comparative Work (2006), and most recently, in 2012, Entanglements, or: Transmedial Thinking about Capture (2012), for instance. Yet still, for many, Rey Chow is a name that is overwhelmingly associated with Chinese film studies, or rather with the (“American” or “Western”) study of Chinese films.

But, as we have already established in the previous chapters, there is much more to Rey Chow’s work than issues essentially related to China and Chinese film. Certainly, Chow frequently explores ideas, questions and problematics through issues involving “China” and analyses of Chinese film. She often examines questions of race, place, gender, sexuality, class, communication, translation, culture and politics through examples of and from Chinese film. However, a closer look reveals these examples to have been selected not because of...

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