Self as Other: Indigenous Psychology and the Defining of a Chinese Subjectivity

Abstract : In China in recent years, some psychologists have tried to establish the basis of an “indigenous” or “native psychology” (bentu xinlixue 本土心理学), advocating the existence of a clear-cut dichotomy between Chinese and Western cultural minds, opposed as radical “others”. The bentu current presents itself as a reaction against the hegemony of psycho-related disciplines inherited from the West, that may be judged alien, invasive, and ill-adapted to Chinese conditions. As a response to this “hegemony”, bentu xinlixue presents many questionable biases. On a discursive level, it sometimes perpetuates enduring stereotypes about Chineseness, and tends to dogmatically align the self with pre-defined, ideological cultural traits, sometimes poorly supported by clinical facts. On a psychological level, the sense of one’s otherness should be analyzed less in terms of opposition between indigeneity and foreignness, than in terms of how traditional conceptions found themselves challenged by the influence of modern science. This influence produced a disruption in the traditional unity between the human being and his/her environment, which, in turn, confronted a given subject with a sense of self-alienation. In this context, the author of this article believes that bentu xinlixue points to a subjective rather than a ‘cultural’ crisis in a broad sense. For all their limitations, bentu-oriented theories should not be dismissed, though. They are valuable indicators of the difficulties that have accompanied the collapse of traditional Chinese views on the self since the beginning of the last century.
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Contributor : Rainier Lanselle <>
Submitted on : Saturday, July 22, 2017 - 9:02:20 AM
Last modification on : Wednesday, July 17, 2019 - 2:40:31 AM

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Rainier Lanselle. Self as Other: Indigenous Psychology and the Defining of a Chinese Subjectivity. Fred Dervin; Régis Machart. Intercultural Communication with China: Beyond (Reverse) Essentialism and Culturalism?, Springer, pp.41‑58, 2017, 978-981-10-4014-6. ⟨hal-01567284⟩

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