Article published in:Cultural China in Discursive Transformation
Edited by Shi-xu
[Journal of Asian Pacific Communication 21:2] 2011
► pp. 330–350
The Chinese America of Maxine Hong Kingston
The scientific breakthroughs of important theorists such as Sigmund Freud, Louis Althusser, Michel Foucault, etc., engendered a new concept of subject. Instead of the centered and integrated Cartesian subject, the postmodern individual is fragmented and multiple, affected by ideology and by his/her unconscious. This makes it necessary to analyze the historical and psychological dimensions to apprehend his/her complexity. In Maxine Hong Kingston’s The woman warrior — memoirs of a girlhood among ghosts, first published in 1976, it is possible to identify the multiple subject positionings of the main character, who is also the narrator. As a North American of Chinese descent, she portrays Chinese legends, myths, and family stories of her ethnic community through an American frame of mind. Growing up in the intersection of cultures, a position of in-between cultures, and having to deal with different customs and values, the narrator faces conflicts and paradoxes. Her contradictory and fragmentary identity reveals the hybrid and diasporic character of the Chinese American author. Kingston constantly brings together the discourses of her Chinese cultural heritage and the American ones presented in her environment. With this constant dialogue between different cultural elements, the narrator tries to forge a sense of wholeness, a unified cultural identity, of her various subjective positions. The result of this effort, however, is a culturally unstable identity: The woman warrior reflects the heterogeneous nature of the main character and the author, revealing to the reader the Chinese American “country” and culture in all its singularity and uniqueness. The theoretical framework used to analyze the different expressions of subjectivity in the main character of this fictional autobiography is based on critics of Postmodernism and on cultural studies about diasporas.
Keywords: hybrid and diasporic identity, in-between cultures, subject positions, diaspora, identity formation
Published online: 05 July 2011