Writing the South Seas: Postcolonial Literature and the Nanyang Imagination

Manuscript Review: Brian Bernards







Friday, December 7, 2012

2:00 PM to 5:00 PM

Ahn Family House (AHN), USC

Professional development seminar for graduate students and faculty from USC and the community. RSVP required by Friday, November 30, 2012.  

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 Chen, Associate Professor of Modern Chinese Literature and Chair of the East Asian Studies Committee at Washington University in St. Louis.

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. 

More about the EASC Manuscript Review

Event Flyer

Additional support from USC Korean Studies Institute 


  • East Asian Studies Center
  • 3454 Trousdale Parkway
  • College Administrative Services Building (CAS) 100
  • Los Angeles, CA 90089-0154