Counter-paranoid modes of inquiry and ‘New’ Confucianism: the 3rd Bentobox Lecture of 2018-2019

13 Nov 2018

The third FAH Bentobox session of the 2018-2019 academic year was held in our faculty on Thursday the 8th November. The session attracted more than 35 participants who contributed to the fruitful discussions. This time we had Profs. Jeremy de Chavez (English) and Ting-Mien Lee (Philosophy and Religious Studies Programme) as speakers.

Jeremy’s paper discussed the strong paranoid orientation of Postcolonial criticism and wonders if a more enabling and affirmative alternative critical model is possible. Jeremy suggests that an almost exclusive dependence on a critical model that privileges suspicion and skepticism has cultivated confusion within Postcolonial criticism between representations in the mimetic sense with representation in the political sense (which he refers to as an “imaginary politics”, using the term of John Guillory). Drawing on the work of Eve Sedgwick, Jeremy offers the reparative mode of inquiry as an alternative to the paranoid position.  He then provided a reading of two poems, Alfred Lord Tennyson’s “Ulysses” and (according to Jeremy) Ocean Vuong’s response to it, “Telemachus”, to demonstrate how a Postcolonial reparative approach might be utilized. According to Jeremy, Vuong’s “Telemachus” is particularly resistant to paranoid approaches but is hospitable to more reparative readings, and in so doing, troubles the notion of ‘imaginary politics’ and eschews binaries such as good/bad and center/margin that have dominated postcolonial critique.

In her talk “The Rise of China and the Rise of New Confucianism,” Ting-Mien introduces a recent trend of thought known as “Mainland New Confucianism” (or “Political Confucianism”) by contextualizing it in the still on-going “Confucianism Fever” movement in Mainland China (since the 90s onwards). She first describes how China’s economic growth gives rise to the “Confucianism Fever” and in certain ways influences the evolution of the Confucian studies in mainland Chinese during the movement and the emergence of “Mainland New Confucianism.” Ting-Mien then explains the notable ideas and features of Mainland New Confucianism and how these ideas and features eventually lead this trend of thought to a paradoxical situation: on the one hand, it is perceived to be an advocate of the authority’s idea of envisaging a political system with Chinese characteristics; on the other hand, it is also regarded as sensitive as its pro-reformation perspectives are regarded as being antithetical to the authority’s “pro-revolution” narratives.

This was the last Bentobox of the first semester. The next one will be held on 24 January, with Mr. Kevin Maher (English Language Centre) and Prof. Edison Gastaldo (Centre for Personnel Studies/Fort Duque de Caxias – Brazil) as speakers. Mr. Maher’s talk is titled: “Literature Circles: Student Collaboration for Reading Comprehension”; and the title of Prof. Gastlado’s talk is: “Games and Play in Brazilian Culture”.

Looking forward to seeing you there!