Writing the South Seas: Postcolonial Literature and the Nanyang Imagination

Leading scholars in the field of Chinese literature will discuss a new book manuscript by Brian Bernards, Assistant Professor of East Asian Languages and Cultures at USC, titled Writing the South Seas: Postcolonial Literature and the Nanyang Imagination.

Leading scholars in the field of Chinese literature will discuss a new book manuscript by Brian Bernards, Assistant Professor of East Asian Languages and Cultures at USC, titled Writing the South Seas: Postcolonial Literature and the Nanyang Imagination. Manuscript discussants include Laurie Sears, Professor of History at University of Washington, and Lingchei Letty Chen, Associate Professor of Modern Chinese Language and Literature at Washington University in St. Louis. Graduate students and faculty from USC and the community are welcome to attend. Interested attendees must read the manuscript. To secure your spot and request a copy of the manuscript, please rsvp to eascrsvp@dornsife.usc.edu.

About the East Asian Studies Center Manuscript Review: The EASC Manuscript Review program endeavors to provide constructive feedback to faculty preparing monographs or other large academic works prior to submission for publication. Rather than simply requesting individual reviewers to provide comments on the work, EASC organizes a review workshop in which all the reviewers and the author can interact with each other and respond to each other's comments in order to collectively devise strategies for strengthening the final text. To maximize thoughtful and helpful discussion, EASC only asks that all participants read the entire manuscript, which will be provided as a PDF file upon confirming attendance, prior to the workshop. Manuscript Synopsis: Nanyang, the "South Seas," is the traditional Chinese term for Southeast Asia. Unlike "Southeast Asia," which reflects a Eurocentric continental epistemology, Nanyang is an archipelagic, though Sinocentric, concept. It envisions the tropical southern seascape as connecting rather than separating the peninsular and island landscapes of the region. The term's varied connotations reflect its rich history, including imperial maritime voyages to tributary, "barbarian" kingdoms, massive transoceanic migrations of Chinese populations during the era of Western imperialism and Japanese occupation, and twentieth-century convergences of competing diasporic, settler, and indigenous nationalisms in the region. Writing the South Seas traces the transcolonial legacy of Nanyang as a literary trope in modern Chinese literature and explores its transnational and translingual "afterlives" in the postcolonial literatures of Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand. In ways specific to each discursive context, the Nanyang imagination exposes the colonial origins of hegemonic racial, ethnic, cultural, and linguistic paradigms, critiques dominant diasporic and indigenous nationalisms as well as their definitions of national literatures, retraces histories of migration, settlement, and creolization, and articulates suppressed modes of affiliation with local and regional ecology.

  • Department of Anthropology
  • University of Southern California
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