Guest Lecture: The Complexity of Difference – March 2010

Zhang Longxi, City University of Hong Kong gave a talk on Monday 22 March at 6pm in the Confucius Institute for Scotland. A podcast of this talk will be added soon.

His topic was The Complexity of Difference: A Methodological Issue in Cross-Cultural Studies.


Difference is a basic fact in life and in our understanding of life, as people are all different as individuals and as social groups and communities. In humanities and social sciences, however, differences are often ignored on the individual level, while emphasized on the collective level. This is particularly true in understanding different cultures. By examining some recent works in East-West cross-cultural studies, Zhang will argue that we should pay attention to the complexity of difference and what Geoffrey Lloyd calls the “multidimensionality” of things so as to avoid the mistake of subsuming individual differences under collective categories, and to go beyond the simplistic claims of universalism as well as the relativist dilemma of cultural incommensurability.


Zhang Longxi is Chair Professor of Comparative Literature and Translation at City University of Hong Kong and Foreign Member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities.

ZHANG Longxi holds an MA from Peking University and a Ph.D. from Harvard. He taught at the University of California, Riverside, before moving to City University of Hong Kong, where he is currently Chair Professor of Comparative Literature and Translation.

His research area is East-West comparative studies, and his major book publications include `The Tao and the Logos: Literary Hermeneutics, East and West` (Duke University Press, 1992), which won honorable mention for the Joseph Levinson Book Prize; `Mighty Opposites: From Dichotomies to Differences in the Comparative Study of China` (Stanford University Press, 1998); `Allegoresis: Reading Canonical Literature East and West` (Cornell University Press, 2005); `Unexpected Affinities: Reading across Cultures` (University of Toronto Press, 2007), and most recently, 《比較文學研究入門》[`An Introduction to Comparative Literature`] (in Chinese, Fudan University Press, 2008).

He was elected a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities in 2009.

Booking is not essential but an advisory email or phone call to help us with planning is appreciated. Please email or call 0131 662 2180.