Radically decentered in the Middle Kingdom: interpreting the Macartney embassy to China from a contact zone perspective

Sample, Joseph
Major Professor
W. Donald Payne
Committee Member
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This dissertation examines artifacts produced by individuals who participated in the Macartney embassy to China from a contact zone perspective. Chapter one claims that works written by Westerners who traveled to and wrote about China and the Chinese are not often included in studies concerned with the rhetoric of othering or Western representations of non-Western others. Chapter 2 of provides a literature review of research related to the Macartney embassy, examining those texts primarily in terms of the methodology that the authors use to interpret embassy artifacts. Chapter 3 considers how Pratt's reading strategies can be applied to both the embassy in general and to the dynamics of the kowtow incident in particular. The historical circumstances that distinguished the Macartney embassy to China makes comparison with other contact zone encounters problematic; therefore, Chapter 3 also identifies seven important features of a contact zone encounter that exist above and beyond specific historical circumstances. In Chapter 4, I use Pratt's ways of reading to identify "moments" in the travel narratives where genre and ideology intersect. Chapter 5, the (slightly decentered) centerpiece of the dissertation, examines a meeting-of-the-heads-of-state scene as depicted in an English satirical engraving from 1792. The print is an extraordinary depiction of a contact zone encounter, yet its proximity from the actual event demonstrates the potential of the contact zone as an analytical tool for interrogating a range of cross-cultural representations. The last chapter of the dissertation argues that the embassy and the kowtow incident were, in some ways, the realizations of preconceived visual and literary metaphors. The features of a contact zone encounter identified in Chapter 3 should help researchers to access and interpret systematically and comprehensively those visual and literary metaphors associated with a contact zone.