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Rescuing History from the Nation: Questioning Narratives of Modern China Paperback – January 1, 1997

ISBN-13: 978-0226167220 ISBN-10: 0226167224 Edition: First Edition (US) First Printing
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Prasenjit Duara is chair of the department of history at the University of chicago. He is the author of Culture, Power, and the State: Rural North China, 1900-1942 and Sovereignty and Authentcity: Manchukuo and the East Asian Modern.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 286 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; First Edition (US) First Printing edition (January 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226167224
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226167220
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #128,795 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Prasenjit Duara is the Raffles Professor of Humanities and Director, Asia Research Institute at National University of Singapore. He was born in Assam, India; educated in Dehra Dun and Delhi in North India; received his PhD in Chinese history from Harvard University; and was previously Professor and Chair of the Dept of History and Chair of the Committee on Chinese Studies at the University of Chicago. In 1988, he published Culture, Power and the State: Rural North China, 1900-1942 (Stanford Univ Press), which won the Fairbank Prize of the AHA and the Levenson Prize of the AAS, USA. Among his other books are Rescuing History from the Nation (U Chicago 1995), Sovereignty and Authenticity: Manchukuo and the East Asian Modern (Rowman 2003), an edited volume, Decolonization: Now and Then (Routledge, 2004) and A Companion to Global Historical Thought co-edited with Viren Murthy and Andrew Sartori (John Wiley, 2014). His work has been widely translated into Chinese, Japanese, Korean and the European languages.

His new book, The Crisis of Global Modernity: Asian Traditions and a Sustainable Future was published

Customer Reviews

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17 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Xinping Zhu on August 2, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book is highly theoretical and inspiring work in modern Chinese history studies. I read this book with great pleasure and comfort. No doubt Professor Duara is both a wonderful historian and narrator of conflicting forces inside the Baboon Curtain. As an Indian-born historian, he made very interesting comparation between Indian and Chinese history. As we all know, most historian were hired by the government( in Duara's word " nation-state"), so in their works, China is supposed to be enjoying a monolithic power in the middle of world. But with the method of Duara, we see more distinctive accounts of the so called colonial age in ancient Chinese History. One of most important argument which Duara made in his book is that Enlightment historian suppose ancient China based on a homogenous community that corresponds to the instrumental ideology of the modern state. He pointed out there are some basic difference in Modern China and ancient Chinese traditions
especially after the May,4th movement. Another point which I agree is that it is awkward to impose some Western classification machanism on the Chinese history. A lot of China-centered historians are well trained by Western ideology and tradition which is radically different from Asian heritage. For example, some historian argues that there is no real "feudalism" existed in Ancient China. So in this field, attempts to analyze the forces behind the account is very prone to be western-minded. Another claim he made is that the so called "nationlism" is far from from unique in the history. In this work, some important currents in the Pre-modern and Modern notion and figured are discussed, such as Imperialism and Anti-Imperialism, Mao and Communism, Fictions in the 1920s etc.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By olihist on November 2, 2005
Format: Paperback
Prasenjit Duara weaves together theoretical and historical material on China and India in this insightful look at how history has become "nation-centric." Although historical writing has a long, diverse history beyond the nation-state, "modern history" in the Western sense began with the rise of the European nation-states in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries.

Duara presents a series of brilliant, yet challenging arguments regarding the prevalence of the Nation in historiography. His main argument is that "national history secures for the contested and contingent nation the false unity of a self-same, national subject evolving over time (page 2)." This basically means that history, in the nation-centric sense, homogenizes difference, while separating itself from the "Other." After expanding on this argument, Duara lays out several counter-narratives, primarily focused on periods in Chinese "nation-building" history, that attempt to "bifurcate" (i.e. complicate)the simplistic "Enlightenment history" that has become the staple of Chinese historiography. His essays on civil society and provincial narratives (Chapters 5 and 6) are especially interesting.

I enjoyed reading Duara, and found his arguments very useful towards writing history that's not so nation-oriented (e.g. world-history, comparative studies). His writing was clear, but still difficult because of the many postmodernist terms (be sure to read Foucault or at least have a postmodernist dictionary at hand). I'd recommend reading Benedict Anderson's "Imagined Communities" first, if only because Anderson serves as a useful introduction to the debates over the nation-state concept/discourse.
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Pearl on June 29, 2014
Format: Paperback
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