Chinese Migration and the Imagination of Pacific Worlds (December 4 - 7, 2023)

Heike Friedman's picture
Type: 
Call for Papers
Date: 
May 15, 2023
Location: 
California, United States
Subject Fields: 
Chinese History / Studies, Asian History / Studies, Borderlands, Indigenous Studies, Immigration & Migration History / Studies

December 4 - 7, 2023

International Workshop & Lecture Series, Berkeley & Stanford | Conveners: Sören Urbansky (Pacific Office Berkeley, GHI Washington) and Nino Vallen (Pacific Office Berkeley, GHI Washington)

In recent decades, politicians, academics, and journalists have predicted the dawn of a Pacific or Asia-Pacific century. Together with the rise of China as an economic and political superpower, they foresee the center of global politics moving from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Although the prospect of such a shift in the international order has waned somewhat because of deglobalization trends, the Pacific continues to play a significant role in debates about the future. Whether concerning discussions about U.S. responses to China’s growing influence in the region, the future of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or new developmental projects, what appears to be at stake is not the mere organization of interregional relationships but designs for the different worlds that people there inhabit.

Adopting a historical perspective, this workshop explores the role of the Pacific in the making of new worlds through the lens of Chinese migrants. Since the mid-nineteenth century, the Chinese have immigrated in great numbers to Southeast Asia, the American West, the Russian Far East, Latin America, and other Pacific shores to chase fresh opportunities. These migratory movements had a profound impact on the making of the international order, conceptualizations of racial hierarchies, and notions of the nature of labor. At the same time, the interactions of Chinese indentured laborers, merchant elites, politicians, and intellectuals with local communities produced new and little-known worlds of their own.

We are calling for contributions that examine the role of Chinese migrants as both contributors to and subjects of these worldmaking processes. How did experiences with Chinese migration inspire new notions of global order and the (im)mobilities of human beings? Through what practices were racialized visions of the Chinese ingrained in cultures throughout the Pacific, profoundly shaping the ways in which people grasped the world? How did the Chinese themselves respond to these visions and, over time, envision their own role in the world and conceptualize views of race? What was the significance of the transpacific networks they built in this process? In what ways did interactions across the Pacific shape anti-imperial agendas? And what meaning did the presence of these migrants have for the world’s indigenous populations across the region?

As we deal with these questions, we seek to move beyond the view of the Pacific as the battleground over hegemony between the United States and China. Rather, we want to draw attention to an entirely different challenge: the necessity of producing new narratives that recognize the plurality of actors and various ways they inscribe themselves in the world.

This workshop will be held in conjunction with the annual lecture series “Global Challenges in the Asia-Pacific – Past & Present,” organized by the Pacific Office of the German Historical Institute Washington at the University of California Berkeley and by Stanford University. This event is generously funded by the ZEIT-Stiftung Ebelin und Gerd Bucerius.

The organizers will cover basic expenses for travel and accommodation to Berkeley.

Please upload a brief CV and a proposal of no more than 500 words by May 15, 2023, to our online portal. Proposals should include a clearly formulated research question and a reflection on how answering this question contributes to historiographical debates about Chinese migration and/or worldmaking processes.

Those chosen to take part in the workshop will be asked to submit an 8,000-word paper by November 1, 2023, to offer a 15-minute presentation at the workshop, and to play an active role in the discussion. We will pursue publication of selected papers from the workshop in a special issue of a peer-reviewed academic journal.

Please contact Heike Friedman (friedman@ghi-dc.org) if you have any difficulties submitting your information online. 

Contact Info: 

Heike Friedman

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