Points of Contact: Crossing Cultural Boundaries
This collection of eight essays examines specific cases of contacts between Pacific Rim and western European cultures to explore the phenomena of appropriations, intersections, transculturations, and discrete identities. The exchange in ideas, religion, and culture resulting from contacts among these areas, whether through actual or virtual travel, indicate mutual affinities and occasionally interdependencies, but also separate and independent identities. Each of these essays concerns the portability, mutability, and adaptability of aspects of the exchange of ideas, and, in nearly all cases here examined, an affirmation of identity on the part of each culture in the exchange. The cases of intersections examined here generally indicate developments of cultures approaching one another and then retrenching. Yu Liu discusses Leibniz's profound study of Chinese Confucianism to demonstrate how it contributed to Leibniz's own ideas about the nature of the universe. Benjamin Elman illuminates the mutual respect and exchange of ideas between Jesuits and the Chinese literati in the Ming and Manchu dynasties. Julie Berger Hochstrasser examines the ceramics industry of China and The Netherlands to chart the commercial, aesthetic, and utilitarian exchanges made possible as soon as transportation and open markets were established. Valentina Jones-Wagner discusses how medieval French fictional chansons de gestes reveal attitudes toward the peoples considered exotic and eastern; in these literary works, Christian values become imposed upon the Orient, understood to encompass the territory from Spain to the Near East, and associated with pagans and Muslims. Thomas Smith discusses how directional arbitrariness leads Bruce Chatwin to blur the boundaries between his own wanderings and his cultural European base. Vaughan McTernan charts the swiftly growing Falun Gong, originating in China and combining elements of Taoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism, and discusses how this movement has prompted severe repression for political reasons form the Chinese government. Sheila Pinkel analyzes the extreme displacement of the Hmong, as a consequence of the Indochina wars, through the experience of two Hmong families, Todd Lavin explores the parallels and incongruities between Buddhism and Judaism with respect to the realization of a state of openness to divinity, a suppression of the individual as a materialistic being, and an attainment of compassion with all things. The cultural identities examined here are both resilient and adaptable; they resist simple definition, and tend, even with some flexibility, to maintain their individual qualities.
Contributors: Yu Liu, Benjamin A. Elman, Julie Berger Hochstrasser, Valentina Jones-Wagner, Thomas R. Smith, Vaughan McTernan, Sheila Pinkel, and Todd Lavin
About the editor:
Amy Golahny is Professor of Art at Lycoming College.
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