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Bidding Farewell with Regret: Notes towards Affective Articulations and Inter-Asian Writing

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This paper proposes an alternative approach to the contemporary discussion of Asia, or more specifically East Asia. Rather than conceptualizing Asia as a geo-economic entity, as a cultural historical construct of Euro-centrism, and as a capitalist vision of the world market, this paper seeks to recapture “Asia” in what I call “affective articulations.” Specifically, I will examine Dazai Osamu’s Farewell with Regret (Sekibetsu, 1945) and Zhang Chengzhi’s Respect and Farewell with Regret (Jingzhong yu xibie, 2008) as two exemplars of inter-Asian writing in which Asia is represented as a loaded symbol of affect. Whereas Dazai’s book was written in the heat of Great East Asia War, to comply with the demands of the Japanese war effort, Zhang’s book was written at the no less challenging time of China’s rise to regional hegemony. Though they differ in style and purpose, both texts hold up a vision of Asia which is distinctly grasped in affective encounters, symbolized by the act of “bidding farewell with regret” (xibie). Intrigued by the affective significance of bidding farewell with regret, this paper first considers “farewell” as a method to recast the discussion of Asia in regional and geopolitical terms, and then performs an analysis of the texts in question so as to identify crucial moments when Asia, despite its internal heterogeneity and complicated history, is grasped in the affective articulation of Sino-Japanese encounters. Such moments, I believe, are real, sincere, and indispensable for our attempt to re-imagine Asia as a translocal solidarity.


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