Li Tuo’s “The Pandemic and Contemporary Capitalism”

I’m happy to announce that Boundary 2has released my translation of Li Tuo’s provocative interview, “The Pandemic and Contemporary Capitalism,” originally published in the Beijing Cultural Review 文化纵横 last summer. The interview ranges across a broad series of topics, but, at its core, engages the profound difficulties for critical thinking in the contemporary world. How, Li Tuo asks, do we think about capitalism today in the wake of its long, entangled history with struggles for socialism? Does Bernie Sanders or America’s Occupy Movement offer resources for thinking the future otherwise? If not, then where can we look? Finally, where does China figure in all of this and why do so many thinkers exclude it from their analyses altogether?

Harlan Chambers

Asian Collections outside Asia

Edited by Iside Carbone and Helen Wang
Online publication, open access:

Carbone, Iside and Helen Wang (eds), 2020. Asia Collections in Museums outside Asia: Questioning Artefacts, Cultures and Identities, Transcultural Perspectives 2020, issue 1, thematic issue in Kunsttexte. Humboldt University. Berlin.

Introduction to Special Issue: Asia Collections outside Asia: Questioning Artefacts, Cultures and Identities in the Museum
–   Iside CARBONE and Helen WANG

Challenging the Framing of Asia and the Role of the KVVAK (Royal Asian Art Society in the Netherlands): The Asian Pavilion of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam
–   Annette LOESEKE

Imagining the Orient: Early Collecting at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
–   Laura VIGO

The Museo Nacional de Arte Oriental in Buenos Aires: From European Taste for Oriental Art to Genuine Interest in the East

The Collections of the Orient Museum (Fundação Oriente-Museu do Oriente): Polysemy and Metonymy
–   Sofia CAMPOS LOPES Continue reading

Remembering and Forgetting the Traumatic Past

My essay, “Remembering and Forgetting the Traumatic Past,” which reviews Lingchei Letty Chen’s The Great Leap Backward: Forgetting and Representing the Mao Years and Margaret Hillenbrand’s Negative Exposures: Knowing What Not to Know in Contemporary China, has been published by the MCLC Resource Center. The review appears below and at its online home: My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, our literary studies book review editor, for his editorial interventions.

Kirk Denton, editor

Remembering and Forgetting the Traumatic Past:
A Review Essay

The Great Leap Backward: Forgetting and Representing the Mao Years, by Lingchei Letty Chen
Negative Exposures: Knowing What Not to Know in Contemporary China, by Margaret Hillenbrand

Reviewed by Kirk A. Denton
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright January, 2021)

Margaret Hillenbrand, Negative Exposures: Knowing What Not to Know in Contemporary China Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2020. 292 pp. ISBN: 978-1-4780-0800-2 (paper); ISBN: 978-1-4780-0619-0 (cloth)

Lingchei Letty Chen, The Great Leap Backward: Forgetting and Representing the Mao Years Amherst, NY: Cambria Press, 2020. 304pp. ISBN 9781604979923 (cloth)

In The Fat Years (盛世), a novel by Koonchung Chan 陳冠中, a character named He Dongsheng tries to explain to his captors—it’s too complex to explain here—why the Chinese people have forgotten an entire month: “What I want to tell you is that, definitely, the Central Propaganda organs did do their work, but they were only pushing along a boat that was already on the move. If the Chinese people had not already wanted to forget, we could not have forced them to do so. The Chinese people voluntarily gave themselves a large dose of amnesia medicine.”[1]

Much has been made of efforts by the state in the People’s Republic of China (PRC)—famously referred to by Louisa Lim as the “People’s Republic of Amnesia”[2]—to repress memories that do not fit the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) politically-driven historical narrative, which emphasizes its central and singular role in driving the revolutionary past and modernizing the  present. It propagates this narrative through museums, party historiography, state-sponsored “main melody” films, textbooks, mainstream news media, etc. And it suppresses other forms of history that seek to recover memories of the Anti-Rightist Campaign, the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution, the 1989 Tiananmen protest movement, and the plight of migrant workers in more recent times. Continue reading

Method as Method review

Source: Cha: An Asian Literary Journal no. 46 (1/15/21)
By Liang Luo

Carlos Rojas (special issue editor), Method as Method, V16: N2 of Prism: Theory and Modern Chinese Literature. Duke University Press, 2019.

Twenty years ago, as a graduate student newly arrived in the United States from mainland China, I was propelled to wrestle with issues such as “Chineseness as a theoretical problem”, “the ethnic supplement”, “the logic of the wound”, and “the hegemony of Mandarin”, as discussed by Rey Chow in her introduction to Modern Chinese Literary and Cultural Studies in the Age of Theory. Many of the issues raised in that volume still resonate in the field today, not least in the recent revamping of the Journal of Modern Literature in Chinese (established in 1997) into Prism: Theory and Modern Chinese Literature (inaugurated in 2019). As the second issue and the first special issue of the journal, Method as Method not only actively intervenes in the ongoing debate on theory and modern Chinese literature, but also energises the field with fresh insights, signalling a “methodological turn” in modern Chinese studies.

Taking Lu Xun’s work as its starting point, Carlos Rojas, in his editor’s introduction to the volume, titled “Method as Method”, proposes to denaturalise both theories and objects and attend to their mutual formations by inviting us to focus on methodologies. Here method is presented as a way to enable objects and theories to speak to each other in productive ways. In his essay “Translation as Method”, Rojas tests this promise by reading translation as a method for negotiating not between different languages or dialects but rather between difference voices. This translational approach, he argues, offers a way of examining the possibilities and limits of fictional writing when it attempts to manifest the voices of socially marginalised figures. For Rojas, both Lu Xun and Yan Lianke attempt to grant their readers a voice or a vision they want to convey but they themselves may not share or have access to (232). He further argues that a similar translational framework may be at work when critics attempt to access fiction’s own attempts at rendering these marginalised voices. Continue reading

New editorial team

After more than twenty years as editor of MCLC, I will be stepping down this spring. In December of last year, the editorial board met via Zoom to discuss the relative merits of four proposals submitted by parties interested in taking over the editorship. It was a difficult decision, but in the end we chose a two-person editorial team–Natascha Gentz and Christopher Rosenmeier–of the University of Edinburgh. I am delighted to welcome them as the journal’s new editors.

The new editors will begin their duties with the fall 2021 issue. However, effective immediately, they will be overseeing the submission review process. All new submissions to the journal should be directed to the new editors and sent to the following email address: At least for the time being, I will continue on as manager of the MCLC Resource Center, running the MCLC LIST/BLOG and supervising book reviews and editing online publications.

Details about the journal’s future publisher and the handling of subscriptions still need to be worked out, but they should be finalized by the beginning of 2022. Printing, subscriptions, and distribution will remain the same until that time.

It has been my honor and pleasure to serve the field over the years. With Professors Gentz and Rosenmeier in charge, MCLC will be in good hands.

Kirk A. Denton
Editor, MCLC

Photo Poetics review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announced publication of Jiangtao Gu’s review of Photo Poetics: Chinese Lyricism and Modern Media Culture, by Shengqing Wu. The review appears below and at its online home: My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, our literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk A. Denton, editor

Photo Poetics:
Chinese Lyricism and Modern Media Culture

By Shengqing Wu

Reviewed by Jiangtao Gu

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright January, 2021)

Shengqing Wu, Photo Poetics: Chinese Lyricism and Modern Media Culture New York: Columbia University Press, 2020. 384 pp. ISBN: 9780231192217 (paper); ISBN: 9780231192200 (cloth); ISBN: 9780231549714 (e-book)

Reading Shengqing Wu’s new book Photo Poetics: Chinese Lyricism and Modern Media Culture, is like looking into a kaleidoscope of texts and images drawn from the late Qing and early Republican periods. The reading experience can be disorientating at times, but ultimately pleasurable and enriching, especially considering our otherwise barren knowledge of photo practices in China during this period.

Distinct from dominant discourses on the topic, which often privilege photography’s relationship with progressive and revolutionary cultures, Wu’s book is uniquely focused on the Chinese literati tradition and its engagement with the then-nascent medium. Counter to many May Fourth intellectuals’ disparagement of the tradition’s obsolescence and decay, Wu insists that the literati practice of lyricism was by no means “an ossified or dead entity” (27). Front-loaded with this argument, the book then asks us to consider the literati’s absorption of photography as evidence of the tradition’s longevity and vitality despite rapidly changing technological and social conditions. Continue reading

Vol. 32, no. 1 of MCLC

MCLC is pleased to announce publication of vol. 32, no. 2. Below find a table of contents, with links to essay abstracts. Those of you who are subscribers will be receiving your print copies in the next few weeks. If you have any questions about the status of your subscription or if you would like to initiate a new subscription, please contact Jennifer Nunes, my new editorial assistant, at


Kirk Denton, editor

Volume 32, Number 2 (Fall 2020) 

New party in HK calls for stability (and raises suspicions)

Source: NYT (1/16/21)
In Hong Kong, a New Party Calls for Stability (and Raises Suspicions)
Democracy advocates have called the Bauhinia Party a “Trojan horse” for the Chinese government. But Beijing’s local allies are wary of it, too.
By Keith Bradsher and Vivian Wang

Hong Kong’s Legislative Council in November. Businessmen in Hong Kong with ties to mainland China have created a new political party that some consider a “Trojan horse” for spreading mainland Chinese influence. Credit…Kin Cheung/Associated Press

BEIJING — They are businessmen, born in mainland China, who serve on top advisory committees to Beijing and profess patriotism for the motherland. One recently traveled to an obscure village in southeastern China to study Xi Jinping’s doctrine for guiding the country to greatness.

Now, they are seeking to bring that ardor to Hong Kong, as the founders of the city’s newest political party. They are calling for social stability to unify a deeply fractured society and mend a damaged economy.

“You cannot have a protest every day,” said Li Shan, the founder and chairman of the party.

The arrival of the Bauhinia Party has fueled furious speculation about the future of Hong Kong’s once-vibrant, at times unruly, political scene. The party, led by business executives who moved to Hong Kong from the mainland, is entering the fray amid forceful moves by the Chinese government to quash dissent, after huge pro-democracy protests in 2019 challenged its rule. Continue reading

Wu Fuhui dies at 82

Professor Wu Fuhui 吳福輝, a leading scholar of modern Chinese literature, passed away on January 15, 2021. He was 82. Wu was born in Shanghai in 1939 and grew up in Liaoning Province. He graduated from Peking University with a degree in Modern Chinese Literature in 1981. Wu’s research redefined the concept of “haipai wenxue” 海派文學 with a focus on the modernist writings by authors active in the 1920s-40s, such as Ye Lingfeng, Liu Na’ou, Mu Shiying, Shi Zhecun, Xu Xu, Wumingshi, and Eileen Chang. In the 1980s, Wu joined Qian Liqun, Wen Rumin, and Wang Chaobing to write and publish the landmark monograph, Three Decades of Modern Chinese Literature 中國現代文學三十年. He was the founding deputy director of the National Museum of Modern Chinese Literature. His latest publications includes A Cultural History of Modern Chinese Literature (Cambridge University Press, 2020). David Der-wei Wang wrote an introduction to this book, in which he presents the following overview of Wu’s life and work: Continue reading

Seeing the CCP clearly

fffSource: NY Review of Books (2/11/21)
Seeing the CCP Clearly
For Chinese dissidents, the end of Washington’s deference to Beijing has been a long time coming.
By Perry Link

Al Drago/Bloomberg/Getty Images. Chen Guangcheng speaking at the Republican National Convention, Baltimore, Maryland, August 26, 2020

In a speech at the Republican National Convention last August, Chen Guangcheng, a blind, iron-willed human rights lawyer and dissident from China whom the Obama administration brought to the United States in 2012, said:

Standing up to tyranny is not easy. I know. When I spoke out against China’s One Child Policy and other injustices, I was persecuted, beaten, sent to prison, and put under house arrest….

The CCP [Chinese Communist Party] is an enemy of humanity. It is terrorizing its own people and it is threatening the well-being of the world…. The United States must use its values of freedom, democracy, and the rule of law to gather a coalition of other democracies to stop CCP’s agression. President Trump has led on this, and we need the other countries to join him in this fight—a fight for our future.

Within hours, Teng Biao, an old friend of Chen’s who is also a Chinese human rights lawyer based in the US, tweeted, “I completely oppose what he is doing.” Teng, too, is a veteran of persecution, beating, and imprisonment at the hands of the CCP, and he would not disagree with what Chen said about the CCP. What he opposed was Chen’s bow to Donald Trump. “For Chinese human rights defenders, there is zero logical consistency to supporting Trump,” Teng tweeted. Continue reading

Rethinking the Modern Chinese Canon

Rethinking the Modern Chinese Canon: Refractions across the Transpacific by Clara Iwasaki (Cambria Press)
Cambria Sinophone World Series (General Editor: Victor H. Mair)
Hardback  9781621965473  $104.99  244pp. (Save 25% off hardback—use coupon code SAVE25).
E-book editions start at $30.99—Order from Cambria Press.

The texts that are examined in this study move in and out of different languages or are multilingual in their origins. Texts and authors do not move randomly; rather, they follow routes shaped by the history of contact between different nations of the transpacific. As these texts move into and out of the Chinese language or become multilingual, they necessarily do not always remain Sinophone. The works of the authors discussed are refracted out of Chinese literature into American, Malaysian, and Japanese literatures and, in some cases, back into Chinese again. Following their paths through multiple languages makes visible the ways that these trajectories are informed by, are arrested by, and bend around historical and geopolitical barriers across the Pacific. To this end, examining the path that these texts from a transpacific perspective allows for the possibility of not only multilingual but multidirectional movement. Continue reading

Whither Taiwan’s universities

Source: Taipei Times (1/4/21)
Wither, Taiwan’s universities?
If the central government did not keep private universities liquid with subsidies, many of them would be forced to close
By Michael Turton / Contributing reporter

Music students from National Tsing Hua University in November experiment with a sound board. In Taiwan most students want to go to a public university, where tuition is a pittance and the education and facilities are generally better. Yet typically only well-off local families can afford the intensive education necessary to put a child into a good university. Photo courtesy of Tsing Hua University

This week brought more doleful news on the university front. Ministry of Education (MOE) statistics widely quoted in the media showed that a dozen universities had less than 60 percent enrollment (up from 6 the previous year), while 121 university programs, including 79 graduate programs, had zero students enrolled. The ministry announced that more than 40 schools, from high schools to universities, are on their critical list.

Because MOE subsidies are based on enrollment, schools with low student enrollment receive reduced subsidies from the government, forcing them to close sooner or later.

This outcome had long been predicted, the inevitable result of Taiwan’s low birthrates and surplus of universities. After educational reforms in the mid-1990s, the number of universities boomed. Vocational schools, technological universities and junior colleges upgraded to “universities.” Continue reading

MLA 2022 panel submissions

Dear colleagues,

As the incoming chair of the MLA’s forum on modern and contemporary Chinese literature, I’d like to invite you to consider submitting a proposal for the 2022 MLA conference in Washington, D.C. Calls for papers can be submitted now and will be accepted through February 28: submitting a call through MLA brings your session to the attention of potential participants (as described here). CFP are optional: complete special session proposals (described here) are due on April 1. The conference is committed to participant access and was completely virtual this year; I suspect that the risk of coronavirus will make next year’s conference hybrid physical/virtual. I will also point out that the MLA is one of the few conferences which allows for non-English presentations; I am available to revise proposal translations (which must be in English) for MCLC members and people in the field, just contact me off-list.

The forum leadership under outgoing chair Lee Haiyan has made some exciting plans for next year’s program. We would love to see you in D.C. (or online) in January.


Nick Admussen
Cornell University Continue reading