Saturday, August 17, 2019

Chinese Image in the Western Academia: Chinaphobia and Neo-orientalism in Chinese Studies in the US After the Cold War Era

Chinese Image in the Western Academia:
Chinaphobia and Neo-orientalism in Chinese Studies in the US After the Cold War Era

Tugrul Keskin
Professor and Director of Center for Global Governance
Shanghai University

ABSTRACT: Edward Said’s theory of Orientalism sparked the rise of a more critical understanding and discussion within the social sciences and humanities on how Orientalist scholarship has produced a false image rather than providing any academic objectivity in the fields of history, anthropology and political science. However, the old colonial mapping and containment of culture embedded within Middle East Studies has not been critically evaluated and updated to address modern realities in the years after Said’s work on Orientalism, not just in Middle East Studies, but also as it applies to African, Asian and Latin America Studies. This is due to the large scholarly industry of area studies, which has grown and benefitted from the plethora of state institutions that support and provide grants for academic careerism. According to Wallerstein, post-war language training was “the major justification for post-war U.S. government financing of area studies” Probably one of the best examples of this trend has been demonstrated within and through Turkish and Ottoman Studies in the US. On the other hand, area studies itself has an embedded colonial structure. However, over the last fifty years the colonial approach has started to change, influenced by facets of neoliberal globalization, the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the emergence of modern China in the late 1980s. Instead of disappearing however, the old colonial model has been replaced with a new approach based on the neoliberal model of neo-orientalism and public scholarship. As a result, in the 1990s we started to see a more aggressive and hegemonic form of scholarship that uses a neoliberal understanding of human rights, academic freedom, religious freedom, democracy, and press freedom as tools in service to the neo-orientalist perspective. In the 1990s, modern China was emerging, while basic political concepts were reconfigured in Washington DC. These new economic and political realities have led to many important implications on academia, specifically for Chinese Studies in the US. In this article, I argue that the Neo-Orientalism perspective embedded in Western academia and also within the media and think-tanks, is a continuation of the cold war policy model.