Staging the World

Chinese Nationalism at the Turn of the Twentieth Century

Staging the World

Asia-Pacific: Culture, Politics, and Society

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Book Pages: 320 Illustrations: Published: April 2002

Author: Rebecca E. Karl

Asian Studies > East Asia, History > Asian History, Postcolonial and Colonial Studies

In Staging the World Rebecca E. Karl rethinks the production of nationalist discourse in China during the late Qing period, between China’s defeat in the Sino-Japanese War in 1895 and the proclamation of the Republic in 1911. She argues that at this historical moment a growing Chinese identification with what we now call the Third World first made the modern world visible as a totality and that the key components of Chinese nationalist discourse developed in reference to this worldview.
The emergence of Chinese nationalism during this period is often portrayed as following from China’s position vis-à-vis Japan and the West. Karl has mined the archives of the late Qing period to discern the foci of Chinese intellectuals from 1895 to 1911 to assert that even though the China/Japan/West triangle was crucial, it alone is an incomplete—and therefore flawed—model of the development of nationalism in China. Although the perceptions and concerns of these thinkers form the basis of Staging the World, Karl begins by examining a 1904 Shanghai production of an opera about a fictional partition of Poland and its modern reincarnation as an ethno-nation. By focusing on the type of dialogue this opera generated in China, Karl elucidates concepts such as race, colonization, globalization, and history. From there, she discusses how Chinese conceptions of nationalism were affected by the “discovery” of Hawai’i as a center of the Pacific, the Philippine revolution against the United States, and the relationship between nationality and ethnicity made apparent by the Boer War in South Africa.


“Highly recommended . . . .” — S.K. Ma , Choice

“The thesis that Rebecca Karl builds in Staging of the World is both novel and persuasive. . . . Eloquently expressed and solidly researched, this is a book that anyone with an interest in late Qing-early Republican history will profit from reading.” — Sino-Platonic Papers

"[A] tour de force, based on wide readings in late Qing political texts and theoretical issues, and it is rigorously argued. The writing is often elegant in its precision. . . . Karl is illuminating. . . .[T]he book should be required reading for graduate students and scholars of modern China-and one hopes more widely as well. The problems it raises apply to the whole twentieth century as well as to the late Qing, and probably to the twenty-first century." — Peter Zarrow , The China Journal

"[O]ffers us refreshingly new ways of looking at a crucial period of modern Chinese history." — Jens Damn, Berliner China-Hefte

"[T]his book definitely adds new insights to an interesting and important field of political and cultural history. Highly scholarly, it is well written and beautifully researched." — Colin Mackerras, Asian Studies Review

"It has . . . brought to light material on a number of—in Karl’s own words—ephemeral, but often fascinating, Chinese confrontations with modernity."
— Joan Judge , International History Review

"Karl adeptly explores the theoretical and practical issues surrounding the birth of Chinese nationalism. . . . Strap on your intellectual seatbelts and get ready for a demanding but stimulating read." — Thomas D. Reins, Canadian Journal of History

"Readers will find much to ponder in her ambitious book, which actually contains enough substantive material to fill two or three separate monographs. . . ."
— Emily M. Hill, Social History

"Rebecca E. Karl's study of early Chinese nationalism is an important and timely contribution to the study of modern China. This book challenges and enriches our understanding of the subject at a time when nationalism has become a hotly debated issue in both academia and mass media. . . . It is a book of importance to people interested in modern China, nationalism, colonialism, and the conceptual formation of 'Asia.'" — Madeleine Yue Dong , Journal of Asian Studies

"This book raises as many questions as it answers and will undoubtedly give rise to much debate. . . . Karl shows an impressive familiarity and technical competence in dealing with a wide range of material. . . . [I]t provides helpful background material. . . . [I]t provides a model for some of the alternative kinds of questions that world history should be prompting us to ask."
— Henrietta Harrison , American Historical Review

"This is an imaginative and thoughtful study. . . . [I]t is a meticulously researched intellectual history of the first order. . . . [Kang] obviously has a good command of the Chinese language and a firm understanding of modern Chinese history. . . . Staging the World is a valuable addition to the literature on modern China. Its value is enhanced by an extensive bibliography, including many hitherto under-used Chinese publications that should prove useful to scholars in the field."
— S. M. Chiu , History: Reviews of New Books

Staging the World fundamentally challenges the conventional assumptions of late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century intellectual history and proposes a creative, alternative imagining of the historiography of modern China. This is a rare work of intellectual ambition and righteous moral sense.” — Lionel M. Jensen, author of Manufacturing Confucianism: Chinese Traditions and Universal Civilizatio


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Rebecca E. Karl is Associate Professor of History at New York University. She is the author of The Magic of Concepts: History and the Economic in Twentieth-Century China and Mao Zedong and China in the Twentieth-Century World: A Concise History and co-translator (with Xueping Zhong) of Cai Xiang's Revolution and Its Narratives: China’s Socialist Literary and Cultural Imaginaries, 1949-1966, all also published by Duke University Press. She co-translated and coedited (with Lydia H. Liu and Dorothy Ko) The Birth of Chinese Feminism: Essential Texts in Transnational Theory.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Preface & Acknowledgments

Part I

1. Introduction: Shifting Perspectives on Modern Chinese Nationalism

2. Staging the World

Part II

3. Deterritorializing Politics: The Pacific and Hawaii as Chinese National Space

4. Recognizing Colonialism: The Philippines and Revolution

5. Promoting the Ethnos: The Boer War and Discourses of the People

Part III

6. Performing on the World Stage in Asia

7. Re-creating China’s World





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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2867-4 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2852-0
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