ISBN-10:
0674019954
ISBN-13:
9780674019959
Pub. Date:
04/15/2006
Publisher:
Harvard
The Clash of Empires: The Invention of China in Modern World Making / Edition 1

The Clash of Empires: The Invention of China in Modern World Making / Edition 1

by Lydia H. Liu

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Overview

What is lost in translation may be a war, a world, a way of life. A unique look into the nineteenth-century clash of empires from both sides of the earthshaking encounter, this book reveals the connections between international law, modern warfare, and comparative grammar—and their influence on the shaping of the modern world in Eastern and Western terms.

The Clash of Empires brings to light the cultural legacy of sovereign thinking that emerged in the course of the violent meetings between the British Empire and the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). Lydia Liu demonstrates how the collision of imperial will and competing interests, rather than the civilizational attributes of existing nations and cultures, led to the invention of "China," "the East," "the West," and the modern notion of "the world" in recent history. Drawing on her archival research and comparative analyses of English—and Chinese—language texts, as well as their respective translations, she explores how the rhetoric of barbarity and civilization, friend and enemy, and discourses on sovereign rights, injury, and dignity were a central part of British imperial warfare. Exposing the military and philological—and almost always translingual—nature of the clash of empires, this book provides a startlingly new interpretation of modern imperial history.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674019959
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 04/15/2006
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 334
Sales rank: 907,922
Product dimensions: 6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x 0.75(d)

About the Author

Lydia H. Liu is Helmut F. Stern Professor of Chinese Studies, University of Michigan.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

Acknowledgments

Introduction: Civilizations Do Not Clash; Empires Do

1. The Semiotic Turn of International Politics

2. The Birth of a Super-Sign

3. Figuring Sovereignty

4. Translating International Law

5. The Secret of Her Greatness

6. The Sovereign Subject of Grammar

Conclusion: The Emperor's Empty Throne

Appendix: Lin Zexu's Communication to Queen Victoria

Notes

Glossary of Chinese Characters

Index

What People are Saying About This

An original and brilliant contribution to history, linguistics, international relations, law and post-colonial studies, this book changes our world by changing the way we look at ourselves. It is destined to become a classic.

Timothy Brook

Lydia Liu's The Clash of Empires explores the powerful impact of "sovereign thinking" or the "desire of the sovereign" in colonial, semicolonial, and postcolonial situations, focusing on late 19th century China. Her point of departure is Benedict Anderson's Imagined Communities. Appreciative of his move to theorize the formation of nationalism in Creole contexts, she points out nonetheless that Anderson does not inquire into why nations that dream to be free dream in terms of the right to state sovereignty. Rather than take this urge as self-evident and not in need of explanation, she turns to the period of Chinese history she knows best to explore the situations in which sovereign thinking gets expressed. The author has an intriguing voice, taking the reader across many analytical landscapes and through wonderfully telling examples of sovereign thinking to show its overwhelming power on nations becoming states.
Timothy Brook, author of The Confusions of Pleasure

Dorothy Ko

An original and brilliant contribution to history, linguistics, international relations, law and post-colonial studies, this book changes our world by changing the way we look at ourselves. It is destined to become a classic.
Dorothy Ko, author of Cinderella's Sisters: A Revisionist History of Footbinding

Haun Saussy

Extending the investigations begun in her Translingual Practice, Lydia Liu here scrutinizes the linguistic and semiotic perturbations that accompanied the rise of one empire and the tottering of another. Words here function as gifts, as missiles and as mirrors-- and sometimes as all three at once. In law, grammar, religion, diplomacy, media, and other domains, Lydia Liu uncovers the mutual implication of Asian modernity and a colonial ideal of sovereignty, the better to enable us to imagine a future that might be different.
Haun Saussy, author of Great Walls of Discourse and Other Adventures in Cultural China

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