Performing ‘Chinese-Ness’: Articulating Identities-Of-Becoming In The Works Of Four Sinophone Theatre Director-Playwrights In The 1980S

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This dissertation is the first full-length comparative study of contemporary drama that attempts to reflect the diversity of the Chinese-speaking world. By presenting a circuit of Sinophone creativity that differs substantially from that assumed by conventional literary history, which focuses on the People's Republic of China, I investigate the formation of identity in the 1980s through the works of four important diasporic theatre director-playwrights - Gao Xingjian (China), Stan Lai (Taiwan), Danny Yung (Hong Kong) and Kuo Pao Kun (Singapore). I focus on the problem of "Chinese-ness," arguing that the foregoing dramatists share an interest in problematizing essentialist notions of Chinese identity. In the aftermath of the Cold War, the Iron Curtain not only divided the "two Chinas" across the Taiwan Straits, but also impacted the two former British colonies. Two imagined scenarios emerged - a re-sinification and eventual handover to China, and a clamp down on Chinese education due to the Red Scare - that forced the ethnic Chinese majorities of each state to respond to the accelerating emergence of China on the world economic and political scene on the i one hand, and simultaneously grapple with the ever-changing internal paradigm of the differing circumstances among each of the four sites on the other. While these dramatists were performing resistance against their individual ideological state apparatuses to monopolize identity through their theatre praxis, I argue that their formulation of cultural identities alternative to those sanctioned by their respective states is a reaction against cultural forces beyond national borders. Since the didactic function inherent in theatre produces, reconstructs, and problematizes identities in ways that other genres do not, my privileging of drama in the production of a global Chinese consciousness contributes to the discussion of Chinese-ness by providing a comparative vantage that highlights the diversity of Chinese-ness scripts in play. By mapping out the problem of Chinese-ness concretely and historically through my investigation of four geographically dispersed playwrights, therefore, this dissertation challenges the notion of a unified Chinese-ness that underscores a transnational perspective by which to view the question of identity construction as a postcolonial issue vis-à-vis China's ascendance that impacted the East Asia and Southeast Asia region. ii
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identity; Chinese-ness; theatre and performance
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Sangren,Paul Steven
Committee Co-Chair
Gunn,Edward Mansfield
Committee Member
Warner,Sara L
Paterson,Lorraine Marion
Liu,Petrus Yi-Der
Degree Discipline
East Asian Literature
Degree Name
Ph. D., East Asian Literature
Degree Level
Doctor of Philosophy
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dissertation or thesis
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