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Beyond Imperial AestheticsTheories of Art and Politics in East Asia$
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Mayumo Inoue and Steve Choe

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9789888455874

Published to Hong Kong Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.5790/hongkong/9789888455874.001.0001

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Performing Absence, Translating “China”

Performing Absence, Translating “China”

(p.193) 9 Performing Absence, Translating “China”
Beyond Imperial Aesthetics

Chun-yen Wang

Hong Kong University Press

Fusing theories from performance studies and Naoki Sakai's theory of translation as social address, this chapter examines Taiwanese playwright Stan Lai's xiangsheng (crosstalk) work as it challenges the concept of "China" (the Republic of China and the People's Republic of China) as the nation-state. While Stan Lai was one of the leading participants of the modern theater renaissance in the 1980s that was influenced by both the "tradition" and "native soil" discourses in the 1970s, his plays, as this chapter argues, go beyond their nativist imaginations. This chapter examines how Lai's work points to the discontinuity in tradition and critiques the alleged sense of place in the "native soil" movement. It also analyzes how Lai's plays challenge the continuity of national history, turning it into a series of performative events in which repetitions carry the potential toproduce and proliferate difference without origin. The discontinuity of linear history and the absence of identifiable characters in Lai's experimental historiographical plays produce "China" as a fundamentally heterogeneous social space that does not cohere with any nation-state.

Keywords:   Performance studies, Naoki Sakai, Repetition, Stan Lai, Native soil (xiantu) movement

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