Beyond the “White Man’s Burden”? Representations of the “Far East” in the English-Speaking World since World War II

Lori Maguire's picture
Call for Papers
December 15, 2018
Subject Fields: 
Asian History / Studies, Colonial and Post-Colonial History / Studies, Cultural History / Studies, Diplomacy and International Relations, Journalism and Media Studies

In 1899, Rudyard Kipling published a famous poem significantly entitled “The White Man’s Burden: The United States and the Philippine Islands” in which he called on America to follow other Western nations and assume the imperial mantle. His memorable title quickly became a summary for the major justifications of imperialism. Indeed, Kipling sees the West as possessing a superior civilization and, for this reason, having a duty to guide other parts of the world to move, as he terms it, “towards the light”.

Interestingly, it was in the same year, 1899, that Joseph Conrad published Heart of Darkness, a novella that uses fiction to provide a complementary perspective by suggesting that the colonizer may be more of a savage than the colonized. But African writers have suggested that it is, in many ways, just as racist as Kipling.

Narrative (by a Westerner), counter-narrative (also by a Westerner) followed by criticism from a non-Westerner that the counter-narrative is not really that different from the narrative.

The research group TransCrit at the University of Paris 8 is organizing a one-day workshop on representations of the “Far East” since World War II in the English-speaking world. The workshop will be held on 14 June 2019.

This one-day workshop seeks to examine the shifting image of the “Far East” in the English-speaking world, including - but not limited to - news, film, museums, exhibitions, travel literature and television. In part, it seeks to complement the study of media representations with a tentative assessment of their reception, and by examining the overlapping areas between media representations and historical events.

The period since the Second World War has seen profound changes in the “Far East”, notably because of decolonization, the creation of independent nation-states and the increasing power of China, Japan and India. This workshop will examine the persistence (or not) of the “white man’s burden” in a post-imperial age. It seeks to give an overview of some of the most prevalent of these representations and try to examine the extent to which they continue to have an impact on people in the English-speaking world who interact with Asia.

How do the different images, both regional and Western, of the "Far East" intersect, inspire or compete with each other? What cartographies have come to replace the ordered and apparently rational maps produced by the colonial powers? How do the English-speaking media filter non-local and local representations? How do Western actors, such as diplomats, government officials, NGOs and churches, perceive the countries in which they work? How have representations of conflicts involving Western powers (such as the Indochinese wars or the Malaysian intervention) and decolonization changed over time?


Please submit an abstract (in French or English) of 250-300 words plus a one-page CV by 15 December 2018 to

Organizing committee: Susan Ball, Juliette Bourdin, Sébastien Lefait and Lori Maguire, TransCrit EA1569, University Paris 8

Contact Info: 

Organizing committee: Susan Ball, Juliette Bourdin, Sébastien Lefait and Lori Maguire, University of Paris 8, France