Scholars will present on instances of Asian internationalism imbued within socialist movements in China, the Soviet Union, and the U.S. The panel will be moderated by Marilyn Young, Professor in the Department of History at NYU.
The panel will feature:
A Soviet Script for Asian America: Roar China
Assistant Professor, English, UC Berkeley
Steven Lee will discuss the 1930 New York staging of a Soviet play entitled Roar China. An indictment of Western imperialism in 1920s China, as well as an attempt to counter exoticist portrayals of Asia, the play was one of the most successful and well-traveled propaganda pieces of its time. It was also the first large-scale New York production to feature a predominantly Asian American cast.
Si-Lan Chen and Afro-Asian Anticolonialism in Moscow
Ph.D. Candidate, American Civilization, Brown University
Ani Mukherji will speak from his paper on Sylvia (Si-lan) Chen, the Afro-Chinese Trinidadian daughter of Sun Yat-Sen’s Foreign Minister Eugene Chen. Chen’s family lived exiled in Moscow after the failed Chinese Revolution of 1925-1927. She criticized racial injustice in the American South, imperialist militarism in Asia, and the excessive masculinity of fascist culture in Europe in her dance work. In addition to this cultural work, Chen also attempted to embody her vision of proletarian internationalism in her personal life, as evidenced by the construction of an inter-racial, anticolonial romance in her love letters to the African American poet Langston Hughes. The analysis of Chen’s life and labor in Moscow sheds light on the uses of modern dance as a political form in the interwar period, the culture of Afro-Asian anticolonialism, and the limits of proletarian fraternalism.
Fragments of the U.S.-Sino Cultural Front, or How to Save Ding Ling’s Life
Richard Jean So
Visiting Assistant Professor, Comparative Literature, Williams College
Richard Jean So will examine the brief and partial formation of an unprecedented American-Chinese leftist “Cultural Front” in the early 1930s. He will focus on the ACLU and China League of Civil Rights’ campaign to liberate the Chinese author Ding Ling, who was abducted and held captive by the Nationalist Government (KMT) from 1931 to 1937. This campaign, organized by Song Qingling (Madame Sun Yat-Sen) and ACLU director Roger Baldwin, drew its support from American, Russian, and Chinese leftists, and spanned three continents. It served to galvanize the emergence of a new and dynamic “transnational” anti-fascist intellectual front.
Indigeneity and Transnationalism in Contemporary Asian American Literature
Assistant Professor, English, Columbia University
Wen Jin will turn to a contemporary incarnation of twentieth-century Asian internationalism. Chinese American writer Alex Kuo, who remains an under-studied figure despite his long association with the Asian American movement, published his second novel Panda Diaries in 2006, almost 17 years after it was completed. Through its juxtaposition of the histories of indigenous peoples in the U.S. and China, the novel provides a transnational critique of the racial cost of national expansion. This critique, arguably, continues the work of earlier forms of Asian internationalism but in an era in which state socialism has become increasingly understood as integral to global capitalism, rather than an alternative to it.