Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, racism against Chinese and other East and Southeast Asian communities has surged globally. At the same time, Chinese communities in different parts of the world have mobilised themselves to raise awareness of and fight against Sinophobia and anti-Asian racism. Social media hashtags such as #StopAsianHate or #StopAAPIHate have attracted a large following and galvanised unprecedented political energy. In this process, we observe a simultaneous mobilisation of and a conscious departure from Chinese identity. Some people hold on to the notion of Chinese identity, believing in its political and social relevance, whereas others view the identity as clichéd and out of date, and with suspicion and scepticism. Many harbour an ambivalent feeling towards Chinese identity and remain undecided about what to do with it at such an uncertain historical moment. Meanwhile, alternative identity categories such as Asian, Asian American, Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI), East Asian, East and Southeast Asian (ESEA) and the Sinophone have been mobilised to challenge a perceived homogenous and hegemonic Chinese identity. All these have taken place in a global pandemic and in the context of a fast-changing global geopolitics, where world political maps are being redrawn and cultural identities are being reimagined.
At the current historical conjuncture, how is Chinese identity understood and used in different ways? How do we understand the ambivalent attitudes towards Chinese identity and even the conscious departure from it? Is ‘Chinese’ still a useful category for political mobilisation and scholarly analysis? How can we use it in capacious, productive, and non-essentialised ways? What are some of the major critical positions and possible alternatives? How can we make sense of the heterogeneity of Chinese experiences on the one hand and the strategic mobilisation of a transnational Chinese or Asian identity on the other? What are the convergences and divergences of Chinese experiences in different parts of the world during the pandemic? How can people living inside and outside China talk to and understand each other’s disparate concerns and distinct politics? How can we talk about China and against Sinophobia without sounding or feeling guilty, apologetic or defensive? How do we make use of the term ‘Chinese’ without losing our critical stance towards both China and the West?
For Chinese Studies, the stakes of the above questions cannot be higher at the current historical moment. We therefore invite Chinese and Asian Studies scholars—broadly defined—to take stock and offer critical reflections on these questions in the format of short position papers. You may answer one or more of these questions—or indeed any other—from the perspective of your specific research expertise in no more than 1,000-1,500 words. This can be submitted either as article or as audio recording (mp3). Audio recordings should be scripted and clear, at a reasonable speed, following the same word limit. Examples of position papers can be found on the British Journal of Chinese Studies website. See a collection of position papers (essays) on the topic of ‘What use is Chinese studies in a pandemic?’ in Volume 10 of the journal.
While these short contributions will not go through peer review, we will nonetheless apply editorial oversight to ensure balanced contributions from as many different perspectives as possible.
This collection of position papers will be published in the January 2022 issue of the British Journal of Chinese Studies. Submissions should be made via the journal’s online system and should follow the style guide. Please specify ‘position paper’ in your submission.
Please submit your contribution by 15 August 2021. Please contact Dr Hongwei Bao (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Professor Gerda Wielander (G.Wielander@westminster.ac.uk ) with any questions you may have.