'Theorizing in Narrative Form': Premonitions of Orientalism and Racist Love in Bing Xin's 'The Photograph'
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This article makes a case for a new intersection between Chinese writer Bing Xin, Orientalist critique, and Asian American literary criticism. Bing Xin's 'The Photograph' (1934) anticipates the theoretical insights later articulated by postcolonialist and Asian American scholars. The narrative interweaves three strands of Orientalism-missionary denigration of the Chinese as inferior heathens, American construction of the Asian as the silent model (minority), and Chinese complicity in the enactment of the white stereotype. It furnishes a dual critique of American Orientalism and Chinese patriarchal familism as well as contributes to ongoing debates about the viability of a culturalist upbringing for adoptees from another country. Susan Sontag's observation that photography is often made to serve possessive colonialist ends is inverted by the eponymous photograph, through which the Chinese author shows that it is possible to use the master's tool to deconstruct the master's predatory vision. This transnational tale crosses the boundaries of Chinese, Chinese American, and postcolonialist studies; critiques both American imperialist assumptions and Chinese traditional values; and offers caveats against culturalist approaches to transracial adoption.