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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 Six. Rey Chow’s Alter-Native Conclusions

Extract

At a symposium in September 2012 focusing on the work of Rey Chow, an event organized by Patrizia Calefato at the University of Bari, I was asked two questions by my interlocutor, Floriana Bernardi. First, she asked me: in the context of all I have ever said and written about Rey Chow’s early arguments that “China” is in more than one sense at the heart and at the foundations of cultural studies, did I think that there is or will be a “Chinese turn” in cultural studies. Second, given the use that I regularly make of Stuart Hall’s essay “Cultural Studies and Its Theoretical Legacies” (1992) whenever I articulate my understanding of cultural studies, she asked me this: if cultural studies is conceived as a political project, as it is in Stuart Hall’s account, what is the place, position or importance of Rey Chow’s academic work?

These are both significant and challenging questions. Moreover, they are provocative and productive. Both of them look backwards and ask us to take stock of the present in its light, and yet—importantly—they ask about the present in terms of our orientation, asking about directions, hopes, intentions and aspirations. Accordingly, I would like to engage with Bernardi’s questions as a way to conclude this present study.

However preposterous it may seem to some to put it like this, I would propose that the “question of China” in this context is simpler to answer than the question of Rey Chow’s...

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