Region, cultural studies, friends
Tani E. BARLOW
I had a colleague once who specialized in the German Enlightenment and one year he accepted an invitation to join counterpart, Asia-based, Europeanist, Hegel specialists in Beijing for a meeting. His reaction has stayed in my memory, undigested, for a while. Shock! Amazement! Excitement! Horror! Wariness! Aggression! Eagerness! Fear! They speak German there, he said. Really, really good German. They are completely familiar with Hegel. I bit my lips. Later, I asked him to sponsor one of his new Beijing experts-in-Hegel friends to come to the University and give a talk: on Hegel. My suggestion met with his apparent utter incomprehension.
Yet, conversely, what I hear from scholars and students in the various “studies” (women’s, sexuality, cultural, Asian, American, Asian American, migration, empire, etc.) is the reverse. In ten years Inter-Asia Cultural Studies has accomplished the difficult task of making Asia-based projects rather usual, as conventional as Subaltern Studies, among former British colonies’ and the United States cultural studies scholarly communities. The irony of this I will address momentarily but suffice now to say that the journal has, as advertised, successfully “re-center[ed] cultural studies outside the Anglo-American axis and participates in cultural politics at a local level, but with an international agenda” (Taylor and Francis (n. d.). The steps that IACS scholars and editors have taken to insinuate this project into international acclaim and readership start with reestablishing that English is an Asian language. One can say, necessarily crudely, yet again, that after two hundred years of use, Indian English is an English like Australian or North American English. Or we can just go on using it and a polyphony of Englishes are available in the journal and its reader, The Inter-Asia Cultural Studies Reader (2007).
Tani E. Barlow is T. T. and W. F. Chao Professor of Asian History, and the director of Chao Center for Asian Studies at History Department, Rice University. She is also senior editor of the journal positions: east asia cultures critique.