The “Foreigner with Expert Knowledge” and the “Local Chinese”: Arthur Miller’s Death Of A Salesman and Gao Xing-jian’s Absolute Signal

By Kay Li.

Published by The International Journal of Critical Cultural Studies

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: August 5, 2015 $US5.00

This paper focuses on a point in time when the polarization between the Chinese and the foreigner with expert knowledge seemed biggest, in spring 1983 after China emerged from the Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976 and entered a new era under the policy of reforming economically and opening to foreign trade. Many foreigners with expert knowledge were invited to China, including Arthur Miller, who went to China to direct “Death Of A Salesman” (1949) in the Beijing People’s Art Theater. There he attended a production of a contemporary Chinese play, “Juidui xinhao” or “Absolute Signal,” referred to by Miller as “Warning Signals” (1982). This Chinese play, as it turns out, was by Gao Xing-jian, an obscure Chinese at that time who later turned out to receive world-wide recognition as the 2000 Nobel Laureate for Literature. While Miller tended to focus on the difference between the West and the Chinese, Gao’s play shows a lot of similarities to Miller’s. The difference between the “foreigner with expert knowledge” and the “local Chinese” is not that absolute. The assumption of difference is a constructed, contrived perspective. Arthur Miller realized the necessity to see from the other side to facilitate full cross-cultural understandings.

Keywords: Cross-cultural, Drama, East-West Studies

The International Journal of Critical Cultural Studies, Volume 13, Issue 3, September 2015, pp.1-12. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: August 5, 2015 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 413.895KB)).

Dr. Kay Li

Adjunct Professor, York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada