MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Sijia Yao’s review of Transpacific Attachments: Sex Work, Media Networks, and Affective Histories of Chineseness (Columbia UP, 2018), by Lily Wong. The review appears below, but is best read online at: http://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/sijiayao/. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, MCLC book review editor for literary studies, for ushering the review to publication.
Kirk A. Denton, editor
By Lily Wong
Reviewed by Sijia Yao
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright June, 2018)
The book is composed of an introduction and three parts. Parts I and II contain two chapters each, and Part III has one chapter and a coda. The three parts cover three historical intervals, respectively: imperialism/anti-imperialism in the early twentieth century; the Cold War era; and the contemporary global neoliberal order. Like Haiyan Lee in her Revolution of the Heart: A Genealogy of Love in China, 1900-1950, Wong historicizes and politicizes emotion and affect, which are usually understood as private rather than public. Building on the work of Lee, Lisa Rofel, and others, Wong tailors Raymond Williams’s “structure of feeling” framework to address three affective structures associated with each part of the book: “Pacific Crossing,” “Sinophonic,” and “Dwelling” (17).Intimately bound up with issues of affect, gender, race, geopolitics, politics, ethics, and modernity, the figure of the sex worker can be a poignant, complex, and defiant signifier in literature, film, and new media. Lily Wong’s new study takes a transpacific perspective on the sex worker and Chineseness, probing deeply beneath the discursive surface of this signifier and its history from the early twentieth century to the present. Wong’s Transpacific Attachments: Sex Work, Media Networks, and Affective Histories of Chineseness “identifies shifting formations of ‘Chinese’ attachments, or ‘Chineseness,’ through depictions of the sex worker in popular media” on both sides of the Pacific (6). Wong adopts the transpacific paradigm from Yunte Huang’s Transpacific Imagination to delineate the enduring features and persistent malleability of “Chineseness” in the oceanic framework. She also responds to Jing Tsu’s call to explore the understudied space between national or regional boundaries. Responding as well to the Sinophone critical interventions of Shu-mei Shih and David Der-wei Wang against Sino-centricism and the hegemonic narrative of Chineseness and its national literature, Wong theorizes a transcultural imagined Chinese community through analyses of five cases in popular Sinophone media. Drawing on a broad range of theories of affect, emotion, Sinophone studies, media studies, and cultural studies, Wong undertakes close readings of these cases, contextualizing, historicizing, and interpreting their reproduction, circulation, and reception. Continue reading