Embodied Modernities

Author : Fran MartinAri Larissa Heinrich



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    From feminist philosophy to genetic science, scholarship in recent years has succeeded in challenging many entrenched assumptions about the material and biological status of human bodies. Likewise in the study of Chinese cultures, accelerating globalization and the resultant hybridity have called into question previous assumptions about the boundaries of Chinese national and ethnic identity. The problem of identifying a single or definitive referent for the "Chinese body" is thornier than ever. By facilitating fresh dialogue between fields as diverse as the history of science, literary studies, diaspora studies, cultural anthropology, and contemporary Chinese film and cultural studies, Embodied Modernities addresses contemporary Chinese embodiments as they are represented textually and as part of everyday life practices. The book is divided into two sections, each with a dedicated introduction by the editors. The first examines "Thresholds of Modernity" in chapters on Chinese body cultures in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries—a period of intensive cultural, political, and social modernization that led to a series of radical transformations in how bodies were understood and represented. The second section on "Contemporary Embodiments" explores body representations across the People’s Republic of China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong today. Chapters examine topics such as the hotly contested cultural history of foot binding; transformations in understanding gender and sexuality and the impact of European colonialism in turn-of-the-century China; cross-dressing traditions in popular Chinese theatre and fiction; contemporary representations of the organ trade; body performance among young fans of Taiwanese puppetry serials; and the complexly inscribed text of Bruce Lee’s transnationally mobile body. Embodied Modernities showcases cutting-edge research by leading figures in Chinese cultural studies as well as representatives of a new generation of younger scholars. By enabling new critical conversations across disciplinary boundaries and bringing the dynamic corporeal cultures of today into conversation with those of the recent past, the work both advances and transforms current scholarly understanding of the making and meaning of bodies in modern Chinese societies.

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