Brian Bernard's EASC Manuscript Review

Postcolonial Literature and the Nanyang Imagination 


Date: December 3, 2012

Time: 2-5:00 PM

Location: Ahn House


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, entitled Writing the South Seas: Postcolonial Literature and the Nanyang Imagination. Manuscript discussants include Laurie J. Sears, Professor of History and Director of the Southeast Asia Center at the University of Washington, and Lingchei Letty ChenAssociate Professor of Modern Chinese Literature and Chair of the East Asian Studies Committee 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

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. 

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Hosted by East Asian Studies Center with additional support from the Korean Studies Institute.

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