The Ghostly Other: Understanding Racism from Confucian and Enlightenment Models of Subjectivity

Asian Philosophy 25 (4):384-401 (2015)

Abstract

The overwhelming motif of nineteenth century anti-Semitic discourse is the metaphor of the Jew as a ghost. In all cultures, the ghost represents the antithesis of what is categorically human: it represents the other par excellence. By using the heuristic of the ghost to interpret how Enlightenment discourse has dealt with the other, this article will argue that the Enlightenment model of the self and its relation to others was a contributing factor to Modern Racism. Enlightenment discourse on subjectivity finds its counterpart in Confucian notions of subjectivity. By looking at how ghosts are understood within Confucian discourse and how they are evoked in popular literature, I argue that Confucian philosophy’s model of subjectivity contributed to the success of the Chinese empire’s assimilation project

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