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The Ends of Comparison: Global Engagement, Asymmetries, and Relationality across Asia

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Organizer: Alvin K. Wong

Co-Organizer: Angie Chau

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In the past decade, comparative literature scholars have increasingly argued for the importance of making visible the various historical entanglements, encounters, and networks of relationality previously overlooked in accounts of cultural history that perpetuate essentialist binaries (ie local/global, east/west), by focusing instead on the "interdependence, relatedness, and coproduction of communities" (Lowe and Manjapra 2019, 26). Theorists like Gayatri Spivak, Wai Chee Dimock, and Pheng Cheah have similarly called for more imaginative categories for comparison, including planetarity, deep time, and worlding. Working toward the extension of global connections beyond the contemporary moment and discretely bound locations, our responsibility as comparatists can and should aim for a form of critical global engagement that recognizes both the asymmetries and relatedness across connected spaces and historical periods, what Shu-mei Shih terms “comparison as relation.” As Lowe and Manjapra suggest, since the modern university has played a crucial role in how regions, areas, and fields of study such as "East Asia" have been institutionalized, a reframing of global humanities requires the rethinking and repurposing of areas "in terms of genealogies of contact, influence, and exchange, unmooring them from their colonial and Cold War epistemologies" (2019, 27).

Our panel explores new approaches to rethinking China, the Sinophone, and Asias more broadly through the unevenness and instability of concepts like time and space that emphasize the multilayered dynamic relations and irregularities associated with terms such as colonialism, race, gender, and indigeneity. How can those working in the field of Sinophone and Chinese studies continue to push for more recognition of the connections and conflicts within Asia, while also being cognizant of questions of diaspora, settler colonialism, indigeneity, Sinocentrism, empire,  and beyond? We are especially interested in research that highlights creative forms of global entanglements by challenging/asserting/subverting/resisting power dynamics, and interrogating notions of justice and equality.

We invite interdisciplinary contributions from scholars working on a variety of media, including but not limited to literature, film, and visual art.

Possible topics include:
Ethics of translation and networks of circulation
Migration, diaspora and travel
Memory and storytelling
Ecocriticism, technology and SF
Theorizing indigeneity in and across Asia
Sinophone studies in global perspectives
Postcolonialism and its discontents
Deep time and queer temporality across regions in Asia
Borderlands and inter-imperiality 


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