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Imagining the Transcultural

Toward a Trans-textual, Interdisciplinary, Cross-cultural, and Transmodern Community

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Tonglin Lu
p. 44-45

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  • 1  See Enrique Dussel, “Beyond Eurocentrism: the World-System and the Limits of Modernity,” in Fredri (...)
  • 2  Fredric Jameson, A Singular Modernity, London, Verso, 2002, p. 12

1The current globalization process, intensified by the end of the cold war, has changed the geopolitical map.We no longer live in a world centered on the West as the reference according to which the rest of the world measured its modernity and progress, but in a trans-modern world (if we borrow the expression from Enrique Dussel) where different cultures links with each other through transnational ties.1 Does this trans-modernity mean that the value of the West has been universalized through the expansion of global capitalism—as suggested by Fredric Jameson?2 Or has the trans-modernity gradually pushed the pattern of single culture dominance to the background?

2The contemporary world has changed so quickly and often, so chaotically that it is difficult, if not impossible, to give a black and white answer to these questions. The cultural change brought about by the intensified process of globalization, however, is more visible outside the previous center, the West. Modernization in a non-Western culture was often considered tantamount to Westernization, namely, remaking its own culture in the image of Europe, which represented progress, rationality, and modernity. This was the case in China. Since the May Fourth movement at the beginning of the twentieth century, political parties and schools of thought in China have found reference points in the West across a wide ideological spectrum, from nationalism to communism. In this sense, we can say that modernity is measured not only by chronological development from past to present, but also by spatial distance from peripheries to the center. Thus, the modern age has also created the image of Europe as the center of the world, or the center of reference of “universal” values.

3By contrast, led by multinational corporations and relatively free from the restrictions of national boundaries, the current process of intensified globalization has a decentralizing effect as capital flows toward maximum profits. In this context, decentralization does not imply democracy, but merely indicates the absence of a moral center as the ultimate reference. Although this decentralization is designed to benefit the financial power of multinational corporations, the amorphous nature of this power has also gradually freed the collective imaginary in the developing world from the cultural complex created by the myth of modernity, Eurocentrism. As a result, instead of looking for salvation in the implicit or explicit center of ultimate reference, the previously marginalized world is in the process of developing multi-centers outside the West, as in the case of the Asian-pacific area.

4In other words, transnational ties have gradually replaced the binary division between the West and the rest. This change has been translated in new intellectual vision especially outside the West. For example, Traces, another multilingual journal of Translation and Cultural Theory, has been published in English, Chinese, Japanese and Korean. This journal emphasizes transnational ties among Northeast Asian cultures. The perception of the world of the binary opposition between the West and the rest, however, has still been deeply rooted in Western academy. Because of its institutional settings, and disciplinary divisions, as its members we are often slow to respond to the geopolitical changes occurred in recent years.

5Theorists like Jameson still talk about a singular modernity, modernity of Western capitalism, while scholars in postcolonial studies emphasize the victimization of non-Western cultures by the center. For Jameson, because capitalism originated in Anglo-Saxon society, any expansion means further universalizing its culture. But if not a single society monopolized feudalism, why should capitalism carry such a specific cultural trademark? Does this suggest that the centralized position of Western culture remains eternal despite any change occurred in global culture? Further, what is now perceived as Western culture, or more specifically Anglo-Saxon culture, can be traced back to historical influences of multiple non-western origins. Why should modernity exclusively be marked by one culture, while not a single culture can claim the same exclusiveness?

6It is easier to stick to the pattern of victimization to explain problems existing in cultures generally considered peripheral in the past. The question is: do so-called non-western cultures remain as voiceless in today’s increasingly globalized world as in their colonial past? Can we measure various cultures in terms of one single center disregarding transnational ties among them ? By doing so, do we contribute to reinforcing its image of the center by referring it as such even through negations? Further, does our effort to emphasize the powerlessness of these cultures serve more to empower our own voices than to understand these cultures in their historical and contemporary settings?

7As a Chinese film scholar, I particularly feel that this mode of thinking has become more and more inadequate in a decentralized global village. For example, Asian Cinema has recently achieved a high profile in international film culture. Despite its orientation toward transnational and global film production, however, scholars in Asian cinema especially in North America, still remains relatively separated in our research areas, roughly confined within the national (or regional, in the case of sinophone film for example) boundaries. In other words, limited by the notion of national cinema and the binary division between the West and the rest, Asian cinema as a scholarly field in Western academy is still defined mainly as the other of, or difference from, its Western counterpart.

  • 3  Stuart Hall, “Who Needs Identity ? “ in Stuart Hall and Paul du Gay (eds.), Questions of Cultural (...)

8The intensified process of globalization has inadvertently broken away from the pattern of single culture dominance mainly in order to facilitate the expansion of global capital. It is no longer possible to resist global capitalism by sticking to the old world map centered on a traditional imperialist center. At the same time, a multicultural discourse risking uncritically overlapping with the language of multinational corporations, thus, it may be absorbed in the system of global capitalism. Stuart Hall describes cultural difference as ambiguous and cultural identity as becoming.3 How can our journal contribute to the new becoming of a transnational, trans-textual, cross-culture, interdisciplinary, and transmodern intellectual community, to form a culture of resistance?

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1  See Enrique Dussel, “Beyond Eurocentrism: the World-System and the Limits of Modernity,” in Fredric Jameson and Masao Myoshi (eds.), The Cultures of Globalization, Durham, Duke University Press, 1998, pp. 3-31

2  Fredric Jameson, A Singular Modernity, London, Verso, 2002, p. 12

3  Stuart Hall, “Who Needs Identity ? “ in Stuart Hall and Paul du Gay (eds.), Questions of Cultural Identity, London, Sage, 1996, pp. 1-17

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Référence papier

Tonglin Lu, « Toward a Trans-textual, Interdisciplinary, Cross-cultural, and Transmodern Community », Transtext(e)s Transcultures 跨文本跨文化, 1 | 2006, 44-45.

Référence électronique

Tonglin Lu, « Toward a Trans-textual, Interdisciplinary, Cross-cultural, and Transmodern Community », Transtext(e)s Transcultures 跨文本跨文化 [En ligne], 1 | 2006, mis en ligne le 13 septembre 2009, consulté le 24 mars 2017. URL : ; DOI : 10.4000/transtexts.173

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Tonglin Lu

Lu Tonglin is Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Montreal where she teaches contemporary Chinese culture and cultural theory.Her last book Confronting Modernity in the Cinemas of Taiwan and Mainland China was published in 2001 by Cambridge University Press. Currently she is working on Chinese independent cinema.

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