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Struggling productions : Ying Chen and the representation of cultural identity in Quebec, 1992-1999

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  • Linguistics
  • Literature
  • Political Science


In this thesis I explore the definition of cultural identity as 'representation', that identities don't exist as forms of fixed, absolute, and/or natural essence; instead, they are merely conceptual constructs, definitions of culture and cultural difference, produced in accordance with evolving historical situations and political intentions. I therefore examine a body of texts that constitutes representation of identity, in a specific historical--namely, 'diaspora'--context: the four novels published by Ying Chen, and the various critical and artistic responses inspired by these novels in Quebec. I argue that Chen's literary representations of identity are primarily characterized by a progressive conceptual trajectory towards anti-essentialist definitions. Meanwhile, the various secondary texts tend to re-inscribe the author and her works according to the metaphors of 'Chinese writer' and 'immigrant writer'. In the process, they inhibit key articulations in Chen's works from effective circulation in the Quebecois cultural milieu. These circumstances, I argue, reflect the confrontation of two historically distinct and opposing discourses of identity, and indicate a broader historical struggle for power in the social realm.

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