Past Event

CANCELED: The Asian American Character of Logistics

April 22, 2024
12:00 PM - 1:30 PM
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School of International and Public Affairs, 420 West 118th Street, Room 918, New York, NY 10027

Speaker: Paul Nadal, Assistant Professor of English and American Studies, Princeton University

Moderator: Nicole CuUnjieng Aboitiz, Visiting Scholar, WEAI, Columbia University

This paper reinterprets Asian American literature as a literature concerned with the art and practice of logistics, the set of contingent space-making techniques undergirding the global distribution of commercial goods. Comparing two pre-1965 Asian American texts, Carlos Bulosan's America Is in the Heart (1946) and Jade Snow Wong's Fifth Chinese Daughter (1950), it reads how their thematic preoccupation with narrating a bounded ethnic self depends on an idiosyncratic practice of literary character: namely, the figuration of racialized personhood through a distributed network of logistical supply chains that was historically ascendent in the US during the early Cold War. Alongside archival research into the history of Cold War logistics, I show that “literary character” in Bulosan’s and Wong’s canonical Asian American memoirs arises out of a midcentury crisis of personhood that logistics as a social practice produced in its attempt to systematically disaggregate and diffuse all of social life into a number.

This event is hosted by the Weatherhead East Asian Institute.

Contact Information

Julie Kwan