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Rescuing History from the Nation: Questioning Narratives of Modern China First Edition (US) First Printing Edition
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His new book, The Crisis of Global Modernity: Asian Traditions and a Sustainable Future was published
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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.
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.