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Stateless Subjects: Chinese Martial Arts Literature and Postcolonial History

162 Stateless Subjects
Petrus LIU
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Known in the West primarily through poorly subtitled films, Chinese martial arts fiction is one of the most iconic and yet the most understudied form of modern sinophone creativity. Current scholarship on the subject is characterized by three central assumptions that I will argue against in this book: first, that martial arts fiction is the representation of a bodily spectacle that historically originated in Hong Kong cinema; second, that the genre came into being as an escapist fantasy that provided psychological comfort to people during the height of imperialism; and third, that martial arts fiction reflects a patriotic attitude that celebrates the greatness of Chinese culture, which in turn is variously described as the China-complex, colonial modernity, essentialized identity, diasporic consciousness, anxieties about globalization, or other psychological and ideological difficulties experienced by the Chinese people. |  274 pages


Acknowledgments | Introduction: Stateless Subjects

  1. The Vicissitudes of Anticolonial Nationalism
  2. Women and Martial Arts: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon's Marital, Martial, and Marxian Problems
  3. The Permanent Arms Economy: Jin Yong's Historical Fiction and the Cold War in Asia
  4. Jin Yong's Islam in the Chinese Cultural Revolution
  5. A Tale of Two Chinas: Gu Long and Anomalous Colonies

Bibliography | Index


  • "A brilliant and far-reaching book. Liu works deftly with popular fiction, modern Chinese history, critical and social theory, and contemporary narrative theory, to build a complex and compelling analysis of the oblique way that gay sexuality becomes crucial to the articulation of the nation." -- Judith Butler, UC Berkeley
  • "Stateless Subjects is magisterial in its scholarly ability to write the cultural and literary history of the martial arts novel, to trace its transformations, and to illuminate the complex political, social and gendered histories that provide the context and text of the novel." -- Lisa Rofel, UC Santa Cruz
  • "Stateless Subjects, by Petrus Liu, is a well-researched book that offers innovative perspectives on the compelling subject of Chinese martial arts literature of the twentieth-century. Through excellent summaries of individual texts—both film and fiction—as well as contemplative consideration of selected historical events in the socio-political milieu during which they were produced, the author’s research aims to challenge both early May Fourth (negative) views of martial arts fiction and to transcend canonical analysis of the genre 'as the ideological instrument of Chinese nationalism' (2-3). Liu provides excellent background analysis of the tensions between pop fiction and May Fourth literature, and in the process brings postmodern comparative literature perspectives to bear in his 'intervention' into the dominant May Fourth literary discourse. Readers interested in interconnections between diverse sociopolitical issues such as intellectual history, feminism in martial arts film, the Cultural Revolution, the Cold War in Asia, and tensions in Taiwan/Hong Kong martial arts literary discourse will find many points of departure for further research. Especially notable are the unorthodox subjects from the martial arts literary canon addressed in the five chapters that comprise this book, including Islam, gender issues, and homosexuality. Liu should be applauded for addressing such seemingly taboo subjects in early twentieth-century literary discourse and supplying interesting readings that demonstrate a creative comparative literature approach."

    — Paul Foster, MCLC Resource Center August 2013


  • Petrus LIU received his BA from the University of California, Berkeley, triple major in German Literature, East Asian Languages, and Comparative Literature (1997); MA and PhD in Comparative Literature (2000 and 2005). He was previously Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature at Cornell University from 2005 to 2012. He is currently Associate Professor and JY Pillay Fellow at Yale-NUS in Singapore. 

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