At Home with the Peranakan Chinese


A review of The Peranakan Chinese Home: Art and Culture in Daily Life, by Ronald G. Knapp. Photography by A. Chester Ong. Tokyo, Rutland (Vermont) and Singapore: Tuttle Publishing. 2012.

Hybridity is the essence of cultural development, and it is largely for political and economic reasons that the process of cultural definition is carried, largely to include some and exclude others.

To name a culture and then seek its essence is therefore a practice that does not appear obviously vain only if culture is understood to be relatively timeless and unchanging. But that is not how culture necessarily works. Culture assumes change. To be more exact, culture is about evolution, understood as a process of responding to externalities. This progression is not palpable when cultures shift slowly in space and time. The changes are often too subtle and too gradual to capture political and academic attention.

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