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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 Four. Rey Chow’s Method and the Orientations of Cultural Studies


Rey Chow’s method is always surprising, unexpected, revelatory; involving unpredictable connections, to produce illuminating results. But she has not, to date, spent a great deal of time discussing the whys and wherefores of her method. It is clearly connected to cultural theory and to cultural studies. It is clearly derived from an ethics of rigorous yet sensitive reading. And it clearly involves some kind of sophisticated understanding or implicit argument about the stakes and consequences of knowledge production in and as culture and politics. But what are the features and characteristics of these often tacit orientations?

In what follows, I want to try to amplify what I believe are some of the stakes and understandings that inform Chow’s methodological orientations. I will do so in a perhaps unexpected manner: I will first turn from a direct focus on Rey Chow’s work and instead reflect on the questions of research, pedagogy and politics in cultural studies—questions which I hope will both cast new light on the hows, whys and wherefores of an approach such as Chow’s, whilst also allowing us to broach further aspects of Chow’s work in the next chapter.

To begin, let us pause to consider the current ways in which we may think about pedagogy, about teaching and learning, research, academic work in general, and the place and purpose of the university in society. It is worthwhile to do so because—as well as being an important matter in its own right—such...

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