SGRA Kawaraban (Essay) in English
CHEN Xi “Live in Plural Hometowns”
It was the 2013 autumn that I came to Japan for studying abroad. As I liked to study in Japan from the beginning, I applied for an application and was selected luckily as a government-financed scholarship student. I started my research life at graduate school in Tokyo. It was not easy to live surrounded by foreign languages and continue my research in a foreign language. However, I do not remember I have been in a difficult situation with language. There are two reasons.
The first: I had the experience to study the Japanese language in university before I came to Japan and communicated with teachers and foreign students. Thanks to such experience, I could be familiar with Japanese life comparatively smoothly.
The second reason: I transferred schools often in Guizhou State when I was little. It was languages that I struggled with first because there were several languages in Guizhou State though it is one state. As Mandarin Chinese was not so popular at that time, it was usual that we use several dialects not only in daily life but in the classroom also. So, time and elaboration were necessary for kids to adjust to the local languages.
What I realized through my repeated change to schools was that speaking languages are different depending on the place. Common knowledge in certain places is not common in other places. I have had a kind of feeling that, in my childhood, what people trust in their ideas or ways of thinking is not absolute but relative.
Lu Xun (魯迅) said, “I venture out to find different people in different places walking the different roads.” Following his words, I chose to study abroad in Japan and could meet several “different” people luckily in Japan. Being supported and under the corporation of such “different people”, I could finish my doctoral thesis on the Corona Virus. And I got a bachelor’s degree and took the first step as a researcher.
As I wrote a doctoral thesis with limited time and talent, I do not think it is enough to find materials and analyze textbooks. I think I could consider other viewpoints and the point of the issue. Such reflection will be the next issue for me.
What I realized often in my study abroad life is I have no homeland to which I can return. As I spent in Guizhou in my childhood, Guizhou maybe, roughly speaking, be my homeland. However, I left Guizhou when I went to university and spent six years in Tianjin and eight years in Tokyo. I kept living in distant lands from Guizhou. Without realizing it, Guizhou, my native land, became one of the places where I have lived for a short while.
However, it is not unlucky. Because I could get plural hometowns by losing my native land instead.
There is a book titled “Mille Plateaus” written jointly by philosopher Gilles Deleuze and psychoanalyst Pierre-Felix Guattari. Those two thinkers say in this book that the histories of human languages, cultures, and natures are not held up by a single theory. In other words, human beings are alive in various languages, cultures, natures, and histories. Deleuze and Guattari advocated a theory of “diversity” or “plurality”.
I think a theory of “plurality” means not only the simple fact that human beings have diversity but human beings have hidden potential which can change the world also. And I like to keep my standpoint practicing “living in plural hometowns” having a certain responsibility.
CHEN Xi / 2021 Raccoon, Specially Appointed Researcher at East Asian Academy for New Liberal Arts of the University of Tokyo
Translated by Kazuo Kawamura
English checked by Sabina Koirala