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« Repeat after me: A Father is more than a sperm-producing machine... | Main | A Taoist in all but name? »

June 13, 2007

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Excellent post. I hope you don't mind, but you've inspired me to go off on a rather long-winded rant in which I quote this post extensively.

Chris,
I read your post and generally agree. One concept that is sometimes invoked to get at the "proto-nationalism" of early "Chinese" identity, is "culturalism." This is meant to imply a process (not a state!) of cultural formation without some of the political connotations of modern nationalism. It might also better apply to an elite level cultural homogenization (again, a process, not an absolute state) as opposed to a mass national consciousness. The term culturalism - which suggests a commitment to a sense of civilization and universal humane values - was first used in this way by Joseph Levenson. It is a more open and inclusive idea (i.e. it is not based on race of ethnicity; anyone can become civilized...) than nationalism often is. Of course, others have pointed out the fuzziness of the boundary between nationalism and culturalism; one of my favorite pieces along these lines is: James Townsend, "Chinese Nationalism," in Ungar and Barme, eds, Chinese Nationalism (M.E. Sharpe, 1996). I might not put as much weight on the Xia as being a moment of cultural unity (it probably existed coterminously with Shang). In legend, the Zhou served more of that purpose, especially for Confucius. But the general point is well taken: "China" did not start with Qin; and what we think of "China" today was not what was happening (especially in terms of cultural and political unification and centralization) in pre-Qin times.

Thanks for that. This idea of culturalism is interesting, I might look into that some more.

"The term culturalism - which suggests a commitment to a sense of civilization and universal humane values"

Sounds almost Confucian to my very inexpert ears.

Absolutely interesting, I still can't understand why chinese people don't have serious social relationship with foreings I mean there's no mean with that, I know that chinese people it's not racist they just fear what they don't know as everyone in the world, well that's just my guess.

There were possibly "various nations of China;" and there was certainly not a modern mass nationalism..GOod Luck!

This theme has interested me! Thanks for that. This idea of culturalism is interesting, I might look into that some more.

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