Cold War and the Chinese Revolution: The Rise and Fall of "May Fourth Studies" in the U.S.

Wednesday, Apr 24, 2019

Thu, May 2, 2019, 4:30 pm, 202 Jones.  SPEAKER: Carlos Yu-Kai Lin.  The question about how to interpret the nature of May Fourth Movement has been at the center of many debates concerning the development of Chinese history, culture, and politics. Yet the studies of “May Fourth” had met with new challenges in the twenty-first century due to a number of reasons.

First, the movement became a subject of studies in the U.S. in the 1960s, in which scholars began to inquire into the nature and rise of Chinese communism. A key question debated at the time is whether the movementis responsible for, or analogous to, Chinese Cultural Revolution. The rise of “May Fourth studies” is thus essentially a reaction to the Cold War in the 1960s and 70s, a political situation that is very different from today’s world. Second, many slogans and key ideas once associated with the movement such as anti-imperialism, anti-traditionalism, science and democracy had gradually lost their critical edge in reflecting as well as addressing the political reality of contemporary China, which is no longer a small and weak nation struggling for survival but a formidable power on a global stage. The ethos of patriotism and nationalism that the movement once embodied thus lost its necessity under the new circumstances. Third, the recent trend of Sinophone studies have also challenged the literary paradigm laid by the May Fourth writers. While the former embraces the value of dialects and articulates a de-centered perspective on Chinese culture at large, the latter envisions a standardization and nationalization of Chinese language and literature. The ultimate different visions of the two discursive paradigms thus warrant our consideration. In face of these challenges, I argue that the primary task for intervening “May Fourth studies” is to designate a set of new keywords to reshape and redefine the field. It is also imperative to perceive and present May Fourth Movement as not only a cultural-political symbol of China, but also a relatable example of modern knowledge production that can be used and reflected upon in other fields of studies.

冷戰與中國民族主義革命:

五四研究在美國的興起與衰落

林毓凱

普林斯頓大學東亞系

過去一個世紀以來,關於“五四”的研究一直是探討中國文化、政治、歷史發展的辯論焦點之一,但在二十一世紀的今日,“五四研究”卻面臨多重的挑戰,近年來常有論者認為“五四運動”是個被過度詮釋、過度評價的運動,“五四研究疲乏說”因此成為部分論者的時髦論調。本文以“五四研究”在美國的興起與衰落為例,說明“五四研究”在二十一世紀的三大挑戰:(一)國際情勢丕變、(二)舊五四關鍵詞的觀點限制、(三)以及新論述典範的崛起。本文認為美國“五四研究”的興起與衰落與冷戰有著密切的關聯,該領域因此是特定時空與歷史脈絡的產物,如何因應新的國際情勢與在地的文化政治因而是“五四研究”的新課題與存活關鍵。