Taijiquan and the search for the little old Chinese man: ritualizing race through martial arts
Frank, Adam D.
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This dissertation is an ethnographic study of the martial art of taijiquan as it is practiced in Shanghai, China, and the United States. Drawing on a growing literature on ethnicity, critical race theory, the phenomenology of race, and globalization, the author discusses racial formation as a process of ritualization, which he defines as the exercise of power through the formal transmission or receipt of knowledge. Chapter 1 focuses on race and community formation in the monthly meetings of the Jianquan Taijiquan Association (JTA) in Shanghai. The chapter is also concerned with folklore and origin stories about taijiquan; with the history of Daoist studies in and outside of China; and with the social and individual embodiment of the key concepts of "qi" (vital energy) and "yi" (mindintent). Chapter 2 chronicles the authorís study of taijiquan with JTA teachers, touching on both the process and poetics associated with mastering the art. Chapter 3 explores the social milieu of practice in Shanghai city parks and the processes through which race, ethnicity, and gender are embodied during public park practice. Drawing on recent literature in urban studies, Chapter 4 focuses on taijiquan in the context of Shanghai's history and development, positing it as a form of public art that reflects Shanghai people's simultaneous negotiation of past, present, and future. In Chapter 5, the author approaches taijiquan as a master symbol of the Chinese nation. He combines historical analysis of the JTA with a discussion of tournaments and popular martial arts tourist destinations such as the Buddhist Shaolin Temple and Chen Family Village. He also discusses the Chinese Communist Partyís attempt to include taijiquan as an Olympic event. Chapter 6 focuses on the world of poetry, kung fu movies, novels, and oral tradition that influence martial arts practice in China. Chapter 7 draws on recent debates about transnational processes to trace the entrance of taijiquan into the United States and the transformation and hybridization of the art in the American context. The dissertation concludes with a discussion of how processes of individual experience, urban life, nationalism, and globalization inhabit the body, contribute to the sensual experience of race, and, ultimately, raise fundamental questions about the relationship between "doing" and "being."