Middleman minority: Ethics, ethnicity, and the chinese middleman in the woman who had two navels

Iping Liang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


By adopting the notion of the “middleman”—how the Chinese migrant merchants had straddled between the Spanish conquistadors and the local indigenous peoples in colonial New Spain, this paper investigates the representation and intermediation of the “middleman minority” in Nick Joaquín’s seminal novel, The Woman Who Had Two Navels (1961). While the mysterious Chinese deity adds spice to “pagan fatalism,” there is no doubt that the intermediation of the middleman minority plays an important role in the narrative tapestry. In this paper, by drawing on the work of David Parker, Nie Zhenzhao, Shirley Lim, Rey Chow, and Emmanuel Levinas, I look into the intermingling of ethics, ethnicity, and the representation of the Chinese “middleman” in Joaquín’s work. Moreover, I apply Edward Said’s thoughts on postcolonial exile to the setting in Hong Kong and investigate how the island space, as a site of Foucauldian heterogenic intermediation, is also a “middle place” that provides Filipino expatriates with a sense of postcolonial exilic agency.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)464-479
Number of pages16
JournalForum for World Literature Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Sept


  • Ethics
  • Ethnicity
  • Heterotopia
  • Middleman minority
  • Nick Joaquín
  • Postcolonial exile
  • The Woman Who Had Two Navels

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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