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3 The Age of -Isms in China

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Chapter Summary

Chapter 3 is about the Chinese appropriation of Western cultural capital and the concurrent historical events. In particular, it deals with the creation of the category of -isms (zhǔyì) based on Western and Japanese models and how it was deployed in public discourse, giving rise to a new kind of speaking and reasoning, an ‘ismatic rhetoric’. The chapter gives a chronological account of historical developments, treating social and conceptual history in parallel. From a more general discussion of the historical situation in late Qing China it turns to the importation of Western cultural capital and finally zooms in on the ideologization of public discourse and its connection to modern politics. Particular attention is devoted to how ‘zhǔyì’ (‘-ism’) became a key concept in early twentieth-century China. The final section of Chapter III explores different Chinese reactions to ismatic discourse. As a whole, the chapter documents the modernization of Chinese discourse conceptually and linguistically, all the time with reference to the historical context in which it took place.



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