New Zealand Journal of Asian Studies

Volume 5, No. 2, December 2003


Paper Abstracts


Connecting Cultures: Hong Kong Literature in English, the 1950s, pp. 5-25
Elaine Yin
A study of Hong Kong writing in English during the 1950s, with particular attention to poetry by Edmund Blunden and Wong man as well as Richard Mason's novel The World of Suizie Wong.

A Short Walk on the Wilde Side: Kipling's First Impressions of Japan, pp. 26-32
Harry Ricketts
As one of Kipling's biographers, Rickett's explores Kipling's response to Japan.

Not Knowing The Oriental, pp. 33-46
Douglas Kerr
This paper marks the twenty-fifth year of Edward Said's Orientalism by reconsidering the knowledge/power paradigm that has dominated much thinking about colonial discourse after Said. In addition to cases of ‘sublime' ignorance, when the Orient was felt to be too vast, daunting and mysterious ever to be contained by western knowledge, there were also moments, and even strategies, of prophylactic ignorance, in which the western observer stepped back from venturing into the hinterland of Oriental experience, for fear of being overwhelmed, contaminated, compromised, assimilated or consumed. In such cases, colonial authority depended on not knowing too much. The theme of colonial ignorance is pursued in an investigation of one of Said's prime witnesses, the Earl of Cromer, for twenty-five years de facto governor of Egypt, whose authoritative Modern Egypt insists nonetheless that ‘the Egyptian Puzzle' must remain insoluble by the Englishman. The argument here is that this is a strategic ignorance that protects or insulates the Englishman's power. The second part of the essay turns to Rudyard Kipling's Indian fiction, in which knowing the Oriental is a glamorous but dangerous pursuit. Kipling's policeman hero Strickland seeks insider knowledge to increase his power over Indians, but in doing so he jeopardizes the distance on which his difference from them, and authority over them, depends. This compromises his status with both Indians and his fellow British. Sometimes it is ignorance of the Orient that secures power. Kipling's colonial characters are frequently caught in this dilemma – knowledge of the Oriental is dangerous, but ignorance is insupportable.

Imagining a Nation: Lloyd Fernando's Scorpion Orchid and National Identity, pp. 47-55
M.Y. Chiu
This article examines the construction of national identity in Lloyd Fernando's Scorpion Orchid, a postcolonial novel that consciously mobilises the knowledge of culture and history to forge a sense of community. Weaving together Western narratives and Asian texts, Fernando creates, through several mutually reinforcing levels, the image of a pluralistic, multi-ethnic society. Scorpion Orchid, neatly exemplifying some of the basic mechanics of nation formation, can be regarded as an instance of national identity engineering.

Configuring the Dynamics Of Dispossession in Rohinton Mistry's A Fine Balance & Arundhati Roy's The God Of Small Things, pp. 56-76
Doreen D'Cruz
This essay engages in a comparative study of how the politics of caste and gender operate in Rohinton Mistry's A Fine Balance (1995) and in Arundhati Roy's The God of Small Things (1997). Through reference to some key anthropological texts, it sets up the context for its discussion by investigating the logic underpinning the defilement associated with Untouchables and women on account of their constructed proximity to certain biological processes. Notwithstanding the guarantees made by India's secular constitution towards Untouchables and women, both novels show the continuity of native structures of oppression that are immune to or appropriative of both democratic and Marxist models of social, political, and economic reform. Since, for both authors, the fantasy of power and its attendant paranoia have their source in the problematic relationship with the body, both turn to the intimate stage, where the drama of "small things" are played out, in order to refigure this relationship. Through surveys of their different narrative strategies, both novels are interpreted as ultimately subscribing to an inclusive ethic.

Yuan Hongdao's "A History of the Vase", pp. 77-93
Duncan Campbell
This article offers the first complete English translation of Yuan Hongdao's (1568-1610) "A History of the Vase" (Pingshi), completed in 1599. This work, in 13 sections and dealing with aspects of the nomenclature, hierarchy and care of cut flowers, is an important and influential early example of the burgeoning late-Ming dynasty literature of connoisseurship. A short introduction seeks to situate this text within the trajectory of Yuan's developing ideas about the nature and role of literature. An Appendix provides a table of corresponding common and botanical names for all the plants and flowers mentioned in the text.

Hoshi Shinichi and the Space-Age Fable, pp. 94-114
Sayuri Matsushima
In Japan, the works of Hoshi Shinichi can be said to be synonymous with science fiction and the short short story. However, such an association place them in categories that may hinder them from being valued as works possessing the kind of literary worth they deserve. Hence, in this paper, firstly, the terms science fiction and the short short story will be looked at in relation to Hoshi Shinichi's works. Following this, space age fable and folk tale are considered as terms that more accurately describe the features of his works that are noteworthy. Two of Hoshi's short short stories, ‘Manê eiji' and ‘Kata no ue no hisho' are then introduced in order to demonstrate that a feature in Hoshi's works that give them depth is the incorporation of satire. The methods used include exaggeration, future/speculative settings, irony, absurd humour, and identifiable stereotypes.

Beyond Boundaries: Centre/Periphery Discourse in Oe Kenzaburo's Dojidai Gemu & Witi Ihimaera's The Matriarch. pp. 115-144
Christopher Isherwood
In 2001 Japan experienced a tremor that shook the very foundations of its society. The new history textbook written by order of the Ministry of Education was condemned in a scandal that reverberated throughout Asia. The authors, along with the government, were cordially told what they had forgotten to mention. And while the history pundits swiftly pointed out the gaps and silences, one point lay ominously quiet, concealed within the word colonization. Although the word colonization has been used to explain Japan's military expansion into Asia and the United State's postwar occupation it can also help to explain Japan's transition from a closed feudal society to a modern nation-state. Ironically, this process had been thoroughly analyzed more than three decade before the history textbook fiasco. According to author and Nobel laureate Oe Kenzaburo the missing piece to the puzzle lies in a different understanding of history that can only be viewed from the periphery of society. In his novel Dojidai Gemu Oe delves deep into the marginalized spaces of Japanese sociopolitical history to reveal the machinations of Japan's centralization as a form of "internal colonization". These themes in Oe's work have remained strangely silent, partly due to his isolation by politically motivated groups and partly due to an increasing emphasis in Japan to bolster a unified identity based on a national literature. On the other side of the Pacific New Zealand Maori writer Witi Ihimaera tackles many of the same issues including colonization, historical injustices, national myths, and alienation to name a few. In his novel The Matriarch Ihimaera writes against "official" history revealing in his own imaginative way a story that has been largely forgotten. While they write from different locals Oe and Ihimaera are essentially after the same thing: recognition. In this paper I attempt to reveal Oe's entirely new interpretation of modern Japanese history as a form of internal colonization by offering a comparative literary analysis of centre/periphery discourse in his novel Dojidai Geemu and Ihimaera's work The Matriarch. Ultimately it is only by going beyond national boundaries and by resituating Oe within the larger sphere of Asia Pacific literature that such recognition can be achieved.

Alison Wong, An Introduction to Dunedin

Review Article

HEAVENLY CREATURES? LEWIS MAYO (University of Melbourne)