In ASIA AS METHOD noted cultural theorist Kuan-Hsing Chen rethinks the aftermath of imperialism and colonialism in East Asia in relation to contemporary studies of globalization. Chen argues that colonialism, imperialism, and the Cold War have become one and the same historical process. He proposes that in order to move beyond them East Asia must undergo a trio of interlinked processes that he terms de-colonization, de-imperialization, and de-Cold War. He explores these three processes in depth, tracing out their relation to one another and describing their impact on contemporary culture in Taiwan. In order to provide a historically-grounded explanation of the current problematic state of decolonization, Chen considers a few key moments from the last half-century in Taiwan, and proposes that, in order to move forward, scholars from both ex-colonies and ex-imperial countries must rethink and reexamine their own colonial and imperialist histories. He urges Asian scholars to take up this work and to contribute to the growing fields of cultural studies and Asian studies in Asia. By encouraging Asian scholars to engage in dialogue with each other rather than with academics in America or Europe, Chen seeks to shift the analytic terrain of postcolonial and cultural studies and to pose a different set of questions to world history.
The book begins by laying out the current state of cultural decolonization in Taiwan. The first chapter traces the historical logics by which this state of mind came into being via the post-WWII formation of Taiwanese nationalism. It concludes by suggesting that decolonization in Taiwan has not yet taken place. The next chapter describes the practices of decolonization in other Third World contexts to illustrate why a decolonization movement has not yet unfolded in Taiwan. Here Chen proposes a strategy of “critical syncretism” that would allow Taiwan to move beyond the limits of colonial identification on the one hand and the postcolonial politics of resentment on the other. He then turns to focus on the complex relation between colonialism and the Cold War, arguing that the confluence of these two forces has shaped the characteristics of modern Asia. Chen then explores the problem of de-imperialization, arguing that if ex-colonies are to recover from colonialism and the Cold War, then the question of imperialization must be brought back to fore. The final chapter places the arguments of the book in dialogue with cultural theory, postcolonial critique, and globalization studies. It puts forward “Asia as method” as a critical approach, suggesting that using “Asia” as an imaginary reference point will allow Asian societies to reconstitute their subjectivities in relation to one another and will provide alternative horizons and methods to scholars around the world.