China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
Works of contemporary Chinese writers reflect an awareness of the combined social and economic consequences of China’s post-socialist experience. These works portray the ruin of nature and the withering of human and non-human life under the uncontrollable forces of globalism. By focusing on the consequences of progress for the non-human world, many writers insist the interconnectedness of humans with all other living things. This paper looks at the role of animals in literary texts in post-Socialist China and draw examples from Jiang Rong’s Wolf Totem (2004) and Mo Yan’s Life and Death Are Wearing Me out (2006) and “Pow!” (2003) to illuminate the ways animals are juxtaposed with the Chinese people and become channels for desire, instinct and emotion.
This paper will first give an overview of the way animal metaphors for human actions are used to expose the cannibalism of the new China, highlighting the parallels between the commodification of animals and the reification of labor under market rule. Second, it will show that animals have become the means by which individuals, and post-socialist China as a whole, undergo the experiences of “becoming” and “desubjectification” that arise from crossing a threshold under the sway of progress. Animals (metaphorically linked to workers) are used to explore how we might reflect on the problems of the late capitalistic system and how we might relate to other animals as embodied subjects. The theories of scholars such as Gilles Deleuze, Jacques Derrida and Stacy Alaimo will form the foundation of this research.