Constructing a white mask through English: the misrecognized self in Orientalism

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Abstract

By examining relationships between language and race within Bourdieu's theoretical concept of “misrecognition”, this article highlights distinctive ways in which the mental structure of a minority individual becomes Orientalized in relation to a racialized identity construction. Specifically, it examines how English becomes misrecognized as the key to a desired white identity in the case of one prominent Korean intellectual of the 19th century, Yun Chi-Ho (1864–1945). To this end, this article analyses the English diaries written by Yun, which began during his sojourn in the United States (1888–1893). The analysis of the diaries illustrates how Yun subjected himself to an Orientalized gaze in 19th century America, a society marked by racial and language boundaries and how his inferiority complex led him to pursue a white identity with English as a primary tool. While Self-Orientalism is regarded as both a cause and outcome of Asian participation in the construction of the Orient, this article reconceptualizes Self-Orientalism as a process of misrecognition born out of the colonial context of superior-inferior distinction characterized by the boundedness of language and race. The article concludes by broadening out from the case of Yun to illustrate the impact of misrecognition on the continued covert operation of Self-Orientalism in contemporary times.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-34
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Journal of the Sociology of Language
Volume2021
Issue number271
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sep 2021

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2021. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.

Keywords

  • colonialism
  • English language ideologies
  • Korea
  • misrecognition
  • self-Orientalism

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