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From Anthropomorphism to Becoming-Animal: Animal Agency in Zhang Guixing's Nanyang Imagination



Taiwan-based Malaysian Chinese writer Zhang Guixing (Chang Kueihsing 張貴興) has long devoted his literary energy to crafting various types of animals in fictional works set in the Nanyang. Conventional critique seeing Zhang's fiction as a reflection of a deep-rooted animality in human nature implies a binary mode of thinking that prioritizes humans over animals. By reconstructing the genealogy of Zhang's animal writing and excavating the potentially subversive force of animal agency, this paper instead suggests that Zhang's animal writing provides a unique non-anthropocentric vision in dealing with human-animal relationships. Zhang's animal writing has been gradually deepened and complicated as his literary career has unfolded, but he has always been thinking with animals through a range of writing techniques. In early works such as the short story "Grassland Prince" (草原王子) and the novel Siren Song (賽蓮之歌), Zhang deploys anthropomorphism as a method of humanizing animals and thereby bringing about the possibility of human-animal interaction. This boundary-breaking trajectory extends to his subsequent works which could be read in light of Deleuze's philosophical notion of "becoming-animal." In The Naughty Family (頑皮家族), Elephants (群象), Monkey Cup (猴杯), and Wild Boars Cross the River (野豬渡河), Zhang creates a fluid kaleidoscopic space in his imagination of the Borneo rainforest, where humans and animals overlap with and even transmute into each other. By closely engaging critical animal studies within Sinophone literature, this paper also uses Zhang's animal writing to rethink the existing discourses on Sinophone literary studies that have been overshadowed by human-oriented issues such as linguistic politics, ethnic difference, and national identity. In an animalized Nanyang world that enacts multiple becoming, there are no static diasporic trajectories, but only vitality and changeability.

Parallel abstracts


Parallel keywords

馬華文學 張貴興 動物 擬人論 流變-動物


Bachner, Andrea. “Reinventing Chinese Writing: Zhang Guixing’s Sinographic Translations.” Global Chinese Literature: Critical Essays, edited by Jing Tsu and David Der-wei Wang, Brill, 2010, pp. 177-195.
Bernards, Brian. “Plantation and Rainforest: Chang Kuei-hsing and a South Seas Discourse of Coloniality and Nature.” Sinophone Studies: A Critical Reader, edited by Shu-mei Shih, Chien-hsin Tsai, and Brian Bernards, Columbia UP, 2013, pp. 325-338.
Bernards, Brian. Writing the South Seas: Imagining the Nanyang in Chinese and Southeast Asian Postcolonial Literature. U of Washington P, 2016.
Colebrook, Claire. Gilles Deleuze. Routledge, 2002.
Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari. Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. U of Minnesota P, 1983.