Decentering Sinas: Poststructuralism and Sinology

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In Of Grammatology Jacques Derrida describes the "necessary decentering"that took place inWestern philosophy following "the becoming-legible of non-Western scripts,"when the European intellectual tradition was forced to confront its civilizational others. Derrida positions himself as contributing to this decentering, displacing the value-laden binary opposition central to structuralism. But as Derrida explained, the "first decentering limits itself"by "recenter[ing] itself upon"what he calls "the 'Chinese' prejudice: all the philosophical projects of a universal script and of a universal language [which] encouraged seeing in the recently discovered Chinese script a model of the philosophical language thus removed from history."How has the approach to Chinese language and literature of that decentering known as poststructuralism limited itself or recentered itself, and how has sinology responded to the influence of poststructuralism? Insofar as the Chinese term for the Sinae (China) at the root of sinology is itself "middle"or "central"({Chinese character presented}), how susceptible to decentering can sinology be? This article begins with a survey of poststructuralist writings about China by renowned post-structuralists, alongside responses to their work by sinologists and comparatists, arguing that poststructuralist writings tend to recenter themselves on a binary opposition between China and the West. The author then addresses the influence of poststructuralism on Chinese literary studies, to argue that the most successful poststructural decentering occurs in sinology when sinologists disseminate their decentering through a dissipated poststructuralism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)79-104
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Chinese Literature and Culture
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 1 2022


  • French theory
  • Poststructuralism
  • literary theory
  • sinology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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