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The question of cross-cultural understanding in the transcultural travel narratives in post-1949 China Open Access


Other title
cultural translation
travel narratives
cross-cultural understanding
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Chen, Leilei
Supervisor and department
Williamson, Janice
Examining committee member and department
Department of English and Film Studies

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
My dissertation, “The Question of Cross-Cultural Understanding in the Transcultural Travel Narratives about Post-1949 China,” aims to intervene in the genre of travel writing and its critical scholarship by studying a flourishing but under-explored archive. Travel literature about (post-) Communist China is abundant and has been proliferating since 1979 when China began to implement its open-door policy. Yet its scholarship is surprisingly scanty. Meanwhile, in the field of travel literature studies, many critics read the genre as one that articulates Western imperialism, an archive where peoples and cultures are defined within conveniently maintained boundaries between home and abroad, West and non-West. Others—in the field of literary and cultural studies as well as other disciplines—have started to question the binary power relationship. However, some of this work may well reinforce the binary opposition, seeking only evidences of the traveller’s powerlessness in relation to the native; and some, conceiving travel only on a geographical plane, seems unable to transcend the dichotomy of home and abroad, East and West at a theoretical level. My project is committed to further interrogating the binarism constructed by the genre of travel and its scholarship. My intervention is not to argue who gets an upper hand in a hierarchical relationship, but to challenge the stability of the hierarchy by foregrounding the contingency and complexity of cross-cultural relationships. My dissertation engages with the key issue of cross-cultural understanding and explicates various modalities of the traveller’s interpretation of otherness. By reading Canadian journalist Jan Wong, geophysicist Jock Tuzo Wilson, US Peace Corps volunteer Peter Hessler, American anthropologist Hill Gates, and humanist geographer Yi-Fu Tuan, I examine the ways in which the Western traveller negotiates and interprets foreignness, and probe the consequences of transcultural interactions. The overall argument of my dissertation—in dialogue with other scholarship in the field—is that travel not only (re)produces cultural differences but also paradoxically engenders a cosmopolitan potential that recognizes but transcends them.
License granted by Leilei Chen ( on 2010-07-21T20:40:46Z (GMT): Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of the above terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis, and except as herein provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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