The Stranger and the Chinese Moral Imagination by Haiyan Lee

By Haiyan Lee

Within the final 20 years, China has turn into a dramatically extra city society and thousands of thousands of individuals have replaced place of abode within the strategy. relations and communal bonds were damaged in a rustic as soon as referred to as "a society of kith and kin." there was a pervasive experience of ethical main issue in modern China, and the hot industry financial system does not appear to supply any strategies. This booklet investigates how the chinese language have coped with the of modernity during which strangers are in many instances thrust jointly. Haiyan Lee dismisses the straightforward solutions claiming that this "moral obstacle" is only smoke and mirrors conjured up by means of paternalistic, overwrought leaders and students, or that it may be easily chalked as much as the topsy-turvy of a marketplace financial system on steroids. fairly, Lee argues that the notion of drawback is itself symptomatic of a deeper challenge that has roots in either the Confucian culture of kinship and the trendy kingdom administration of stranger sociality. This bold paintings is the 1st to enquire the determine of the stranger―foreigner, peasant migrant, bourgeois highbrow, type enemy, unattached lady, animal―across literature, movie, tv, and museum tradition. Lee's target is to teach that wish lies with a strong civil society within which literature and the humanities play a key function in polishing the ethical schools and apprenticing readers within the paintings of dwelling with strangers. In so doing, she makes a historic, comparative, and theoretically trained contribution to the on-going dialog on China's "(un)civil society."

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Sample text

Thus, even as it warns against dangerous strangers in the paternalistic voice of the Hankou police, the state exudes confidence that stranger sociality can be reined in by its normative visions of the good life and harmonious society. Lei Feng versus Lévinas: A Morality Play The state’s weapon of choice in domesticating stranger sociality is the socialist service ethic whose public face is none other than Lei Feng, a People’s Liberation Army soldier who devoted his young life to selfless service and was anointed a national hero after his accidental death at the age of twenty-two.

His altruistic deeds may have truly warmed the hearts of those who have come into physical proximity with him, but the Lei Feng of the Lei Feng Spirit is not summoned by any “face” to moral responsibility, and to that extent he is not an autonomous moral agent. Instead, he is, proudly, a cog in the revolutionary wheel, doing his bit part for the socialist enterprise that requires obedience and standardization as much as initiative and dedication. In keeping himself “rustless,” he may be more durable and serviceable, but he enters into no special relationship with any other screw or bolt and is infinitely replaceable, thus taking himself out of any moral party.

At the same time, the occultation of this emergent class formation accounts for much of the nostalgia for a supposedly more wholesomely “egalitarian” time. The centrality of “class” (defined by past relations of production) at the political level made the class enemy the most persecuted stranger in socialist China. By contrast, ethnicity was depoliticized and disallowed to define collective identity under the policy of “solidarity of the nationalities” (minzu tuanjie) (Bulag 2002). The ethnic minorities in the vast borderlands of China who in recent years have sought to politicize their identities did not in the early socialist decades impinge on the majoritarian consciousness as internal others to be feared and loathed.

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