Shu-mei Shih, Visuality and Identity. Sinophone Articulations across the Pacific

A Professor of comparative literature at the University of California , Los Angeles (UCLA), and a specialist in gender studies, Shu-mei Shih, in this new book, adopts an original approach to the question of identity in today’s Sinophone world. At 244 pages in length, Visuality and Identity. Sinophone Articulations across the Pacific comprises an introduction and six parts: the first deals with globalisation and its effects on minorities, and the second with the more specific case of transnational feminism in the Sinophone milieu, which opens up a more general discussion on the relationship to cosmopolitism and to the idea of empire, which is treated in the remaining parts. More fundamentally, Shih’s thesis is to demonstrate that the Chinese communities situated on both shores of the Pacific adhere more to linguistic and emotional values mediated through a global and visual culture than to ethnic or national references.

The idea is seductive and starts out from an established finding: the Sinophone world is a plural one whose cultural and economic enrichment is developing in a complex network that remains, on the surface, outside the realm of sovereignty of any state. To back up her argument, Shi draws inspiration from the theories of Gilles Deleuze (that of the rhizome in particular) and of Paul Virilio (relating to the ubiquity of urban cultural phenomena), but also from the works of Françoise Lionnet on the Francophone world, and of Fredric Jameson, who posits that experience, since the middle of the 20 th century, is passed on through images. Elsewhere, Shih makes recourse to visual sources (contemporary art, television productions, the Internet), a commendable initiative given the fact, underlined by the author, that “Many contemporary Western thinkers share the suspicion of the visual and take different notions from poststructuralism to elaborate a contemporary visual theory

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