If you read the 1ac 100% in Mandarin you would probably run into arguments like this: The Western perception of a one dimensional Chinese literature is displayed by the recognition of Mandarin as the sole language of China, leading Western Scholars to commodify fluency as a sign of validating their connection to Chinese literatureChow, the Anne Firor Scott Professor of Literature at Duke University, 2000 [Rey, "Introduction: On Chineseness as a Theoretical Problem," in Modern Chinese Literary and Cultural Studies in the Age of Theory: Reimagining a Field ed. Rey Chow (Duke University Press), pg 7-9
One assumption that binds the discipline of Chinese studies is that of a so-called standard language, by which is meant the language spoken in Beijing, Mandarin, which has been adopted as the official ‘‘national language’’ since the early twentieth century. Known in the People’s Republic by its egalitarian-sounding appellation Putonghua (common speech), the hegemony of Mandarin has been made possible through its identification moreor less with the written script, an identification that lends it a kind of permanence and authority not enjoyed by other Chinese speeches. Even in the instrumental uses of language, though, Chineseness—just what is Chinese about ‘‘standard Chinese’’—inevitably surfaces as a problem. As John DeFrancis writes, ‘‘the ‘Chinese’ spoken by close to a billion Han Chinese is an abstraction that covers a number of mutually unintelligible forms of speech.’’ 14 The multiple other languages—often known subordinately as ‘‘dialects’’—that are spoken byChinese populations inChina and elsewhere in the world clearly render the monolithic nature of such a standard untenable. 15 In theWest, meanwhile, this untenable standard is precisely what continues to be affirmed in the pedagogical dissemination of Chinese. When there are job openings in the area of Chinese language and literature in North American universities, for instance, the only candidates who will receive serious consideration are thosewho have verbal fluency inMandarin. A candidate who can write perfect standard Chinese, who may have more experience writing and speaking Chinese than all the Caucasian members of a particular East Asian language and literature department combined, butwhose mother tongue happens to be (let’s say) Cantonesewould be discriminated against and disqualified simply because knowledge of Chinese in such cases really does not mean knowledge of any kind ofChinese speech or even command of the standardized Chinese written language but, specifically, competence in Mandarin, the ‘‘standard’’ speech that most white sinologists learn when they learn to speak Chinese at all. Such, then, is the fraught, paradoxical identity of a non-Western language in the postcolonial era:Mandarin is, properly speaking, also the white man’s Chinese, the Chinese that receives its international authentication as ‘‘standard Chinese’’ in part because, among the many forms of Chinese speeches, it is the one inflected with the largest number of foreign, especiallyWestern, accents.Yet, despite its currencyamong nonnative speakers, Mandarin is not a straightforward parallel to a language such as English. Whereas the adoption of English in non-Western countries is a sign of Britain’s colonial legacy, the enforcement of Mandarin in China and theWest is rather a sign of the systematic codification and management of ethnicity that is typical of modernity, in this case through language implementation. Once we understand this, we see that the acquisition of the Chinese language as such,whether by environment or by choice, is never merely the acquisition of an instrument of communication; it is, rather, a participation in the sys- Introduction . 9 tem of value production that arises with the postcolonized ascriptions of cultural and ethnic identities. In a context such as British Hong Kong, for instance, itwas common for Chinese people in Hong Kong to grow up with a reasonable command of theChinese language even as theywere required to learn English.Nonetheless, with the systematically imposed supremacy of English in the colony, the knowledge of Chinese possessed by the majority of Chinese people, however sophisticated it might be, was generally disregarded as having any great value.16 But the same was not true of Westerners: the rare instance of aWesterner knowing a few phrases of Chinese, let alone thosewho had actually learned to speak and read it, was instead usually hailed with wonderment as something of a miracle, as if it were a favor bestowed on the colonized natives. Similarly, in theWest, knowledge ofChinese among non- Chinese sinologists is often deemed a mark of scholarly distinction (in the form of ‘‘Wow, they actually know this difficult and exotic language!’’), whereas the Chinese at the command of Chinese scholars is used instead as a criterion to judge not only their ethnic authenticity but also theiracademic credibility. For thewhite person, in other words, competence in Chinese is viewed as a status symbol, an additional professional asset; for the Chinese person, competence in Chinese is viewed as an index to existential value, of which one must supply a demonstration if one is not a native of Beijing. And, of course, if one is not a native of Beijing and thus not bona fide by definition, this attempt to prove oneself would be a doomed process from the beginning. Those who are ethnically Chinese but for historical reasons have become linguistically distant or dispossessed are, without exception, deemed inauthentic and lacking.
And if you provided a translation you might run into this: Translations from Chinese to European languages strip the text of the meaning carried both in the composition and properties of the inscription, declaring the West as superior understanders and internalizers, as well as rendering the original text invisible and non-exist.Saussey, Professor in the Department of Comparative Literature at the University of Chicago, 2007 [Haun, "Impressions de Chine; or, How to Translate from a Nonexistent Original," in Sinographies: Writing China eds. Eric Hayot, Haun Saussey, and Steven G. Yao (University of Minnesota Press), pp. 75-79]
The first stele of the collection, “Sans marque de règne” (Without reignmark) writes itself against the commemorative inscriptions usually found on stone tablets. Classically, an inscription presents itself as having been issued “in the name of” and “in the time of” some authority, established in date and place like a sealed contract. But the speaker of “Sans marque de règne” describes himself as “Attentive to what has not been spoken; submissive to what has not been promulgated; kneeling towards what has not yet come into being,” a cultivator of potential and forgotten things that occur (if “occur” is the word) outside the roster of dynasties. His negation of particular times, eras, and events redounds to the credit of a project of personal autonomy, to be dated “from that singular era, without date and without end . . . which every man establishes in himself and hails, / In the dawn which sees him become Sage and Regent of the throne of his heart.” “Without signature or date” means “without any particular signature or date,” i.e., “always and everywhere.” The poem’s writing proceeds through enumeration of the externals that it proposes to negate, to their reinscription as metaphorical constituents in an allegorical scenario, the coronation of the self as a consciousness outside of time. Segalen’s writing here is based on a reading: the reading of signs that are rejected as uninteresting (chronicles, names, dates) fashions autonomy by negation of their specificity, historicity, limitedness. Imagined China (the interior throne room) is superior to the real one, present though the real one may be as descriptive detail or quoted vestige (“that era . . . which every man establishes”; “the throne of his heart”). The narrator of Segalen’s steles can say, like Jesus before Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world.”17 Translation produces not an equivalent, but a transformed, message.18 To put it as a case in sociolinguistics: Exploiting the unequal situation of translations from Chinese into French, at his time, for his audience, Segalen tests the complicity of the French reading public with a lyric program that declares them the superior understanders, the philosophical internalizers of that all too empirical China. The triumph of the translation would be to become, if there is any sense in saying so, absolute: to show that the original on which it is based has never existed, is not a part of the reality that counts. It appears, then, that Segalen’s practice takes away what his preface had promised. Reading matters: the Chinese graphs that had supposedly “become the thought of the stone whose grain they adopt” are, in the end, objects for a conscious subject. The stele’s message can move from stone to paper to the reader, from history to symbolism, from the spatial China to the mental one, only on condition of being read, and the poem enacts the movement of that reading (the transformation of matter into information). Whatever happened to the stele that simply “is,” that doesn’t care to be read? If the inscribed stone is not concerned about reading, then, symmetrically, this reading discards all empirical stones in its founding of a new interior realm. If anything, “Sans marque de règne” confirms the Hegelian story of the reading of the East as inadequate history by an observer who has benefited from the historical processes, including the formation of independent subjectivity, which can only happen in Hegel’s West. Although, says Hegel, “the outward physical sun rises in the East, and sinks in the West, yet the inner sun of self-consciousness rises here and sends forth a higher brilliance.”19 To generalize: If the plot of a poem (as in “Sans marque de règne”) is the internalization, via metaphor, of a Chinese pretext, then the “translation” tells the story of the emergence of consciousness from materiality (the materiality of the stone, of the letter, of the empirical history so sovereignly rejected, of China in sum). The narrator—who is a reader—performs the translation of the Chinese stone, and the reader, in scanning the narrator’s words, repeats the drama. The other of inscription is consciousness. And consciousness is inscription’s “own other,” its mate.20 A stele-poem is an ironic, self-aware citation of an object without consciousness. It per-forms an absolutization of its translating work, freeing the product from its source, rendering the source non-existent. “Material writing”—the Chinese writing on the stones—would then be only a stage to the surpassing of materiality. This seems to leave Stèles looking very much like a poetic transformation of the great Hegelian plot, and its preface a mere gesture without consequences. If there is a difference between Hegel’s and Segalen’s Oriental imaginations, it needs to be clarified on the level of process, not of overt statement. To read Stèles rightly we must observe the contrary pull of its com- ponent rhetorics, the stony rhetoric of inscription and the ricocheting movement of consciousness. Segalen’s writing emerges from a process of reading, translation, appropriation. A “stele” is a variation on a given theme, most often the fragment of Chinese text given up at the top near the title, but sometimes just a topos (as here: the topos of commemoration that underlies all normal steles). It emerges from that given by saying No to some of its implications, and fashioning a new statement out of this refusal. To mark the difference with Hegelian world history, though, Segalen’s steles are not a chain of developments but a collection of reversals, one major thematic reversal generally providing the basis of a single poem, even if the dimension in which the surpassing occurs is not time (which would result in world history, a sequence of moments each of which negates its predecessor) but meaning (which results in allegory, a complex of incompatible meanings attached to the same terms). In allegory the inadequate vehicle of meaning (for example, the fussy protocol of reign-titles and dynastic authority) is not left behind, but maintained in an ironic relation with a more adequate one (the self crowning itself over itself). Irony takes the place of a horizon of modernity or Absolute Spirit that the mind could cross in order to consecrate a final reading. Without the time factor to push the narrative from A to B, irony is symmetrical and bidirectional: A reflects B and B reflects A. It takes a long-established hierarchy of meanings, such as that in which consciousness outranks externals, to cause the logical movement of a poem, like “Sans marque de règne,” to go in one direction only. If the negations, the takings-of-exception, that generate a Segalen poem often situate matter in the “East” and consciousness in the “West,” an organization that seems to give the victory far too quickly to Hegel, an honest reading must recognize that the directionality of Segalen’s writing process is not always fixed; the situations are not always calculated (as Hegel’s situations quite monotonously are) to leave the “Western” consciousness in command. That is, Segalen accommodates an imagined “Eastern” consciousness as the author of certain stele-poems, as when he narrates the Christian nativity story in the language of the Shi jing (reversing thereby an old Jesuit practice of appropriating the Chinese classics), recounts in official Chinese phraseology the Nestorian variant of Christianity with its improbable theology, or carps at the strange beliefs and odors of Central Asian Manichaeans (“Eloge d’une vierge occidentale,” “Religion lumineuse,” “Les gens de Mani”21). All these steles are suitably lodged in the section of “Steles facing the south,” positioned to view the world from an imperial perspective. There is, then, a cultural experiment going on here, where the contrastive or selective reading process adopts the imaginary equipment of China to read the rest of the world, and transmit the conclusions to a Frenchspeaking readership. When this happens, the self-reinforcing plot of lyric reading—the transformation of materiality into consciousness, and of letters into thematic meaning—becomes endangered. A different form of consciousness is necessitated, by chiasmus: the historical consciousness that would take the customs of Europe as the opaque beginning and translate them into civilized usages. World history as known to Hegel and others here flows backwards. It is significant that at these points the French editors supply a commentary that warns the reader of “ironie” (despite the cognate, a tone more akin to sarcasm than to what we know in English as “irony”): if the text reverses the plot of the East’s subjection to the West, the notes must help the reader reverse the reversal by marking it as a trope, and not to be taken too seriously. On the contrary: the irony (in the English sense) requires the reversals to be equally probable whether it is A that supplants B or B that supplants A. Translation gives European readers a glimpse of themselves as others, as objects, as marks to be read. or, how victor segalen wrote certain of his poems Although the distinction between materiality and ideality—for example, sound and sense—is supposed to be self-evident in a well-regulated semiotic economy like that of ordinary language, experimental writing in the twentieth century has tried repeatedly to abolish it. One of the ways of doing so has been the destruction of content through its transformation into material. For instance, Raymond Roussel, in his artistic confessions, Comment j’ai écrit certains de mes livres (How I wrote certain of my books), tells of beginning a novel by writing the words: les lettres du blanc sur les bandes du vieux billard (the letters of chalk on the edges of the old billard table). Then writing: les lettres du blanc sur les bandes du vieux pillard (the white man’s dispatches about the hordes of an old bandit).22 None of this preparatory work actually finds a place in Impressions d’Afrique, a narrative that nonetheless connects the two sentences: it tells a story of shipwreck and imprisonment, of resourceful explorers who put on a show to distract their captors, of their eventual rescue and return home. We can, of course, reconstruct an imaginative origin for the novel, envisioning an old man in a billiard parlor who, asked about his travels to far lands, begins by tracing alphabetic characters with a piece of chalk on the green felt borders of the game table. Pointing to one letter after another, he recounts the tale of his dealings with the subordinates of an African warlord, which forms the substance of the novel. But such an imaginative reconstruction is gratuitous or at least secondary. After all, the whole novel emerges from a contingent, material fact about the French language: the difference between voiced and unvoiced forms of a labial consonant (b/p) discriminates between two letters, which distinguish two parallel statements, between which the plot of the novel takes place. Once the reader has discovered the secret of this passably automatic writing process, the assumed hierarchy of linguistic structures in the text is reversed: themes are here created to serve the dictates of phonetic material rather than words serving to articulate themes (Roussel did not necessarily set out to write a story about bandits, but the alternation of billard/pillard obliged him to do so); certain chunks of content in the novel are revealed to be the sequences of material from which other bits of content are extracted; the author is the servant of language and content is a side-effect of form. Material and content are now no longer distinguishable a priori, but intertwined and relative: being “material” is a position, not a quality. Any unit of content may become the material precondition for another unit of content, though it takes an archaeological dig to discover the relation of the two.