Call for Papers: Postcolonialism and China


The workshop will be held from 20th to 21th of January 2017 in Cologne, Germany.

Deadline for Applications: 30.9.2016


Language: English

Felix Wemheuer, Sinology, University of Cologne
Marius Meinhof, Sociology, University of Bielefeld
Junchen Yan, Sociology, University of Bielefeld
Lili Zhu, History, University of Bielefeld
With the Support of GSSC Cologne

Postcolonialism has become one of the most influential paradigms in cultural studies as well as in various area studies, and their influence in the social sciences seems to be on the rise in the last decades. However, the English language discourses on China payed little attention to postcolonial theories so far. In spite of some fruitful critique of the earliest postcolonial authors such as Edward Said, China studies and related fields seem to have widely ignored the debates in postcolonial studies, and seem to be unaware of most of its recent developments.

However, a (critical) engagement with postcolonial theory seems to be, almost unavoidable for future debates on China: Memories of colonialism have a relevance in China that cannot be plausibly reduced to anti-western propaganda. At the same time, it is unclear even today how to address these colonial experiences and the way they shaped Chinese history since the 19th century: As a variety of colonialism, as semi-colonialism, or as multiple colonialisms and semi-colonialisms within the same country? How could colonialism leave a heritage that is visible even in current debates about national modernization and development, and the mission of overcoming Chinese “backwardness”. When answering this question, it seems necessary to consider the possibility of globally entangled, multiple power structures, in which Chinese people might simultaneously be dominated and dominating, represented and representing, peripheral and central – especially given the “rise of China” within a still western dominated world order.

Our workshop on Postcolonialism and China, organized with support of the GSSC Cologne, attempts to discuss whether and how postcolonial perspectives can be useful for studying China. By presenting and discussing various working papers, we will try to evaluate and discuss the feasibility and relevance of postcolonial perspectives and of the conception of China as part of a postcolonial world. We welcome papers and contributions that discuss postcolonial theories in relation to these or similar topics:

  • Colonial histories of China as well as current perspectives on them.
  • Colonial and Postcolonial Asymmetries, Decolonialization and Postcoloniality in China.
  • Forms of colonialism and Orientalism/ Occidentalism/ Self-Orientalization/ internal Orientalism.
  • Development or Modernization as Ideology in China.
  • Intersectionality, negotiation and global entanglement of regional, ethnic and class relations in China.
  • The role of postcolonial theory in China or in China Studies, as well as self-reflexive questions on colonial or cold-war heritages in current China Studies.
  • Negotiation of Chinese identities and belongings, especially with respect to historic narratives.

We especially welcome works that attempt to cast light on the shifting, multiple and entangled power structures between different positions inside and outside of China rather than limiting their perspective on an assumed dichotomy of china/west, state/people or Han/minority. We encourage works that explicitly discuss the limitations of postcolonial approaches on China or that draw from “southern”, albeit not explicitly postcolonial theory.

We especially encourage young researchers and PhD students to apply.

The workshop will be held from 20th to 21th of January 2017 in Cologne, Germany.

Researchers interested in participating in the workshop should submit an English abstract of not more than 250 words , as well as a CV of maximum one page to . The deadline for applications is 30.9.2016 . Proposers will be informed by 15 October 2016 whether their abstract has been accepted.

All invited applicants are asked to hand in a working paper, essay, article or chapter of not more than 8000 words for discussion by 15.12.2016, and to prepare a short presentation of their paper for the workshop.

Invited participants will receive financial support for their travel expenses, accommodations will be provided by the organizers.