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Travels in the Body: Technologies of Waste in the Chinese Diaspora

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Published in Hoe, E.-Y.-L. & Kuehn, J. China Abroad: Travels, Subjects, Spaces. Hong Kong. 2009, p. 173-190
Abstract This essay analyses the toilet as an element of material culture that usually remains invisible and yet in Chinese diasporic literature is assigned an important cultural value as a site for cross-cultural encounters. It is the fact of travel -- whether as a tourist, an immigrant or a refugee -- that makes the disruption of toilet habits possible. The moment of cultural defamiliarization occurs when the body is placed in a situation of difference where "Chineseness" and all the cultural practices associated with being Chinese are placed into question. The threatened loss of meaning in the confrontation with foreign technologies of waste may be complicated by considering Julia Kristeva's concept of "abjection": the reaction to the loss of the distinction between subject and object or between self and other. The loss of control over the disposal of personal waste, the confrontation with one's own materiality as a body, are heightened in the situation of travel or of geographical dislocation. Abjection can clarify the role of toilets in Chinese diasporic cultural production on two levels: the cultural level where culture is revealed as separate from the "pre-cultural" and specific cultures are revealed in all their specificity; second, the individual level where abjection names the moment of separation from the mother/motherland, when we begin to recognize a boundary between "me" and other, between "me" and "(m)other."
Keywords DiasporaTravelChinaToiletsAbjectionOrientalismJulia KristevaFruit ChanLillian NgSimone LazarooHsu-Ming TeoMaxine Hong Kingston
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ISBN: 978-962-209-945-6
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MADSEN, Deborah Lea. Travels in the Body: Technologies of Waste in the Chinese Diaspora. In: Hoe, E.-Y.-L. & Kuehn, J. (Ed.). China Abroad: Travels, Subjects, Spaces. Hong Kong : [s.n.], 2009. p. 173-190. https://archive-ouverte.unige.ch/unige:20286

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Deposited on : 2012-05-07

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