Identities on the Move: Immigrant Experiences in Chuang Hua’s Crossings
|Keywords:||移民;《渡》;華裔移民;身分認同;放逐;跨國;全球化;流動性;immigration;Crossings;Chinese American;identity;exile;transnational;globalization;mobility||Issue Date:||2005||Abstract:||
本論文除了在後半部將英文寫成的《渡》翻譯成中文之外，在前半部的英文評介部分，一共分為四個章節：第一章透過華裔移民歷史的回顧與整理，提供一個歷史的縱深，並對莊華唯一的小說做一深入淺出的簡介。第二章則針對此本小說的主人翁老四阿珍 (Fourth Jane)，從父權體制的抵抗及自願性放逐的主題中，提出分析與批判，強調父權體制本身的武斷與矛盾，並指出放逐空間的積極性、正面性意涵。第三章則從族裔、國籍、疆域的跨越出發，檢視主人翁處於世界之間 (between-worlds) 身分選擇所面臨的尷尬與東方主義給予的刺激。第四章則希望補足前兩章在閱讀此本小說時不足的面向，強調的是家的移動概念，並希望透過全球化的情境與角度，來指出《渡》作為 global writing/global narratives 的可能性。
Since the late 1960s, Asian American studies began to become a significant discipline and a common response to the past immigrant experiences, but most of the discussions unbalancedly focus on reacting against the past racial and ethnic discrimination imposed on the minority immigrants; that is why the assertions such as “claiming American” (to quote Maxine Hong Kingston) or “uncovering the buried past" (to quote Japanese American historian Yuji Ichioka) are advocated vehemently in their search of an (American) identity.
However, the category of Asian American or Chinese American and the position against a hegemonic majority, is no longer sufficient and even not adequate for a more recent and diverse group of emerging Asian immigrants, who may not be primarily concerned with the to-be-or-not-to-be dilemma or worlds-choosing. Since Asian immigrants historically have been considered transnational and diasporic, Asian American studies' focus on either the American experiences of Asian immigrants or the rootedness of Asian Americans in the United States needs to be reevaluated. In other words, what emerges out of the hyphenated-status discussion is the demand to rethink and reconceptualize the original ideal of an Asian American identity rooted in the U.S. experience and the need to include a variety of Asian American experiences that go beyond the national boundary of the United States. Like what Evelyn Hu-DeHart and Arif Dirlik maintain in Across the Pacific: Asian Americans and Globalization, important issues, such as how Asian American studies involve more relevance to a transnational and immigrating aspect and also incorporate diasporic linkages in Asian immigrant experiences, need to be emphasized and scrutinized.
The thesis is composed of two parts, attempting to incorporate textual analysis with the Chinese translation of the novel. The first part the thesis is composed of four chapters. In the first chapter, I provide a brief account of Chinese immigration history to serve as a background understanding of Chuang Hua’s Crossings. Besides, a succinct introduction of Crossings is presented too, partly to emphasize its significance and its difference from other Chinese immigrant narratives better known, and partly to spell out the issues of identity and exilic status.
In Chapter Two of this thesis, my focus is on the protagonist, Fourth Jane, the patriarchal principles she has to obey, and the “system of balances” she is cast in. For this middle child in her traditional family, she experiences cross-cultural narratives about being a daughter and a female in an unyielding familiar structure and in a stagnant love relationship with her unnamed Parisian lover, as well as being a Chinese émigré in Europe in the 1960s. Her own individual displacement is a mobility not merely crossing from homecoming to wandering as a defiant female, but also crossing from England to America to Paris as a Chinese.
Furthermore, I argue for a different reading of exile to elucidate the minority mobile subjects’ identities. Conventionally, exile is experienced as a dislocation, both physical and psychic. However, exile may also offer liberating possibilities. Amy Kaminsky notes that the experience of physical and emotional rupture can lead to personal growth and transformation. Through the discovery of an inner capacity “to survive and grow in the new environment” (37), one may find a greater independence and confidence and thus gain a more fulfilling self-affirmation and realization. This act of self-discovery to rebirth can be seen as an emergence of new personhood and subjectivity.
The concept of “identity on the move” can also be associated with the immigrant’s position in exile and between worlds, and the unfixed ethnicity should be put within this framework of discussion as well. Chapter Three of the thesis reexamines the framework of “between-worlds” and the search of self under the “Orientalist” stereotype and in dislocation. The feeling of being between worlds, totally at home nowhere is a duality that is characteristic of all people on the move and in a minority position. The feeling of being between worlds is at the core of many ethnic minority writers and, consequently, of the books they write. Superficially, Chuang Hua’s Crossings deal with the “between-worlds” ambiguity fostered in the protagonist’s mind; however, Chuang Hua tries to accomplish more to carve out a new position for Fourth Jane while confronting the “between-worlds” complex and suffering from a personal fragmentedness. The between-world complexity is indeed a paradox, for Fourth Jane the female émigré is simultaneously subordinate and central, victimized and heroic and active. On the one hand, being caught between worlds can be interpreted to mean occupying the space or gulf between two banks; then, one is in a state of suspension, accepted by neither side and therefore truly belonging nowhere, which could lead to identity fragmentation. On the other hand, viewed from a different perspective, being between worlds may be considered as having footholds on both banks and therefore belonging to two worlds at once. One not only has less but also enjoys more. What is interesting is that Fourth Jane entirely experiences the two aspects of being between worlds, and the two aspects seem to be a linear procession from belonging to nowhere to owning both worlds. This is a path to epiphany. The space of alienation and the interstitial position between worlds become the space of self-liberation and self-exploration.
Also, in the context of globalization and internationalization, not only the role of Asian American studies but the migrating subjects are going through an identity shift. The duality of the between-world condition and the hyphenated identity definitely need to be reexamined in dealing with narratives by Asians in exile. The traditional negotiation of being between “two” worlds and the embarrassment of hyphenated identity now seem to be limited and inconvincible while we read works of Asian immigrating writers. More and more critics have attempted to redefine the place of these hyphenated Asians, and to describe them in different ways. Sau-ling Wong, for instance, uses the term “denationalization” to explain the easing of cultural national concerns and the shifting from a domestic to a diasporic perspective. Shirley Geok-lin Lim in her essay “Immigration and Diaspora” employs the categories of “immigrant and diasporic” to view U.S. minority literature and cosmopolitan, metropolitan literature (290). These different perspectives could be a help for us to read the narratives of Asian immigrant writers of recent decades without identifying them as merely conventional ethnic minority and immigrants.
As an immigrant narrative read within the parameters of Chinese American literature, the transnational and global constituents embedded in the novel can be neglected easily; thus in the concluding chapter, I attempt to discuss whether it is possible to view Chuang’s Crossings as a “global narrative,” with the hope to carve out a different way to read Chinese immigrant literature. In dealing with narratives by Asians in the diaspora, Eleanor Ty contends that “global novelists” or “global writing” is a more accurate term. Crossings, like the global narratives, highlights movement, instability, and the importance of standpoint or location. To a certain extent, it reveals the way transportation/moving, transnational crossing and globalization has shifted and changed the meaning and the signifier “Asian American” or “Asian European.”
What I am also interested in looking at in the final section is narratives by Asians in the diaspora whose works fall outside of this hyphenated paradigm of Asian-plus-adopted-country. In the last few decades, Asians in the diaspora have produced books and films which deal not only with immigration or being caught “between worlds” but also with transnational mobility and exile. They contribute to the creation of what D. N. Rodowick calls a “globalized cosmopolitan public sphere,” a “contradictory and heterogeneous transnational space” (14). He argues that “postmodern forces of globalization have shifted or, more precisely multiplied and complicated centers of power so as to diminish the forms of self-identity conveyed or constructed by nationality” (14). Thus mobile identities and mobile citizens, including “expatriate intellectual” and the “new cosmopolitans,” emerge out. Chuang Hua’s Crossings does deal with questions of identity and subjectivity of the Asian subject, but it does not limit the subject in the adopted America or in the native China respectively, but relocates the subject in the suspension and duration of different continents. Chuang in a way brings a global perspective to the otherwise narrowly defined parameters of hyphenated identities of Asian American or Chinese American. I am not arguing for an abolition of the label Asian American or the Asian-plus-adopted-country paradigm per se. What I want to call attention to in this final section is the fluidity of subjectivity and positions available to Asian Americans. Stressing the unstable and cosmopolitan identity aspects of the novel is another way of pointing out the transnational, transcultural, and fluid potential that I think liberating in Crossings and in works by Chinese American or Asian American authors.
|Appears in Collections:||外國語文學系|
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