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Abstract

This paper addresses the politics of language, identity, and diasporic Chinese writing in old and emerging Chinese migrant literature. I opt for the idea of a “migrant subject” as brought up by Ha Jin to underscore a diverse verbal strategy and mobile literary creativity: that of the migrant writer who initiates linguistic and literary perversions to actively intervene in the cultural politics of both the host country and the motherland. The article proceeds to recuperate the diasporic narratives of Sinophone authors Bai Xianyong and Nie Hualing as two earlier examples of migrant writers before Ha, which exemplified the Cold War phase of overseas Chinese American writing. Whereas writing in an adopted tongue of English, as attested by Ha himself, unleashes his creative and critical urges, for Bai and Nie writing in Chinese in a foreign land as America does likewise and ushers in the critical distance cherished by the migrant writers to work on such subject matters as exile and cultural alienation. Originally written in Chinese or English, their migrant voices bring in a minor language to major traditions (Chinese literature and American English literature). Tracing the historical trajectory of migrant literature, in which Sinophone and Anglophone texts are increasingly translated and circulated between cultures, I stress the gains in translation and intercultural writing as the migrant subject can stand valid as a position for writers of transnational literary creativity.

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