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Memory and Postcolonial Studies

Synergies and New Directions

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Edited By Dirk Göttsche

In the postcolonial reassessment of history, the themes of colonialism, decolonisation and individual and collective memory have always been intertwined, but it is only recently that the transcultural turn in memory studies has enabled proper dialogue between memory studies and postcolonial studies. This volume explores the synergies and tensions between memory studies and postcolonial studies across literatures and media from Europe, Africa and the Americas, and intersections with Asia. It makes a unique contribution to this growing international and interdisciplinary field by considering an unprecedented range of languages and sources that promotes dialogue across comparative literature, English and American studies, media studies, history and art history, and modern languages (French, German, Greek, Portuguese, Russian, Serbian-Croatian, Spanish).

Combining theoretical discussion with innovative case studies, the chapters consider various postcolonial politics of memory (with a focus on Africa); diasporic, traumatic and «multidirectional memory» (M. Rothberg) in postcolonial perspective; performative and linguistic aspects of postcolonial memory; and transcultural memoryscapes ranging from the Black Atlantic to the Indian Ocean, from overseas colonialism to the intra-European legacies of Habsburg, Ottoman and Russian/Soviet imperialism. This far-reaching enquiry promotes comparative postcolonial studies as a means of creating more integrated frames of reference for research and teaching on the interface between memory and postcolonialism.

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The reconstruction of history and cultural memory in contemporary Chinese-American women’s life-writing: A comparative study of two memoirs (Fang Tang)

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Fang Tang

The reconstruction of history and cultural memory in contemporary Chinese-American women’s life-writing: A comparative study of two memoirs

Abstract

This chapter aims to explore the value and limitations of Chinese-American life-writing. It addresses the way in which these writings have the potential to provide an alternative version of history that gives voice to subjects marginalized through racism and sexism, both in China and the West, yet at the same time risk reinforcing negative stereotypes and a false image of Chinese history and culture. It compares works by two of the most prominent Chinese-American authors of different backgrounds: Adeline Yen Mah (b. 1937), who immigrated to the United States from China as an adult; and Maxine Hong Kingston (b. 1940), who was born and grew up in America and has distanced herself from her ancestral homeland. This chapter will argue that while they employ different approaches in their narrative, those who grew up in China present a more historically factual account of history, coloured by their own personal experiences, while the America-born generation offer a more fantasized version blended with memories handed down to them; yet ultimately the story remains largely the same. That is, while on the one hand they both attain a level of self-empowerment and become a voice for the marginalized group they represent, neither are able to completely break with the power of Orientalism, stereotypes, or the Orientalist expectations of the Western publishing market.←275 | 276→

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