Spying on East Asia: Intelligence and Surveillance in the Age of Information

Krystel Mowery's picture
Call for Papers
May 15, 2020
Missouri, United States
Subject Fields: 
Chinese History / Studies, East Asian History / Studies, Film and Film History, Japanese History / Studies, Korean History / Studies

Spying on East Asia: Intelligence and Surveillance in the Age of Information

October 31-November 1, 2020


Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures, Washington University in St. Louis


This two-day conference will focus on secret agents and hidden control during hot, cold, and information wars in East Asia throughout the twentieth century to the present. Competition over information formed an invisible yet vitally important battlefield that had paramount effects on the war front in the first half of the twentieth century. Newly invented media technologies, such as radio, telegram, and tape recording, were mobilized to gather, reproduce, and disseminate intelligence. Secret agents and spies crossed institutional, regional, and national boundaries, destabilizing senses of truth and trust. The prevalence of the espionage genre in East Asia reflects the heightened political tension that persisted throughout the cold war, and also contributes to contemporary imaginations of wartime. Today, new technologies of surveillance and information control have largely reshaped people’s social experience and sense of security, raising pressing questions about power, privacy, and identity.


Bringing together scholars from various disciplines, this conference presents a collective effort to unveil the secrecy and significance of information circulation and control in changing historical contexts. How did hidden forms of control impact the trajectory of social history as well as everyday life? How is the secret world of espionage represented in popular culture? In what ways do new media technologies shape social relations and the production of identity? Topics contributors may wish to consider include:

  1. Spy novels, films and TV dramas
  2. Wartime and Cold War espionage trainings and activities
  3. Disguised identity and the issue of collaboration
  4. Media technology (radio, telegram, recording devices, computer, facial recognition, Artificial Intelligence, etc.) in information gathering and circulation
  5. Surveillance and control
  6. Security and privacy

Related creative approaches and inquires are welcome.


We invite scholars and Ph.D. students in the humanities and social sciences to attend the conference, to be held on the campus of Washington University in St. Louis, October 31-November 1, 2020. Please email an abstract of no more than 300 words to Dr. Yuqian Yan (yyuqian@wustl.edu) by May 15, 2020. Graduate students should also submit a short curriculum vita (1-2 pages) to receive full consideration. Successful applicants will be notified before June 1, 2020, and will be asked to submit a completed draft of their papers by October 10, 2020 for pre-circulation purposes.


Local accommodations including food and lodging will be covered by the conference. We regret that we are unbale to cover faculty participant’s travel costs. Graduate students will be reimbursed up to $300 to cover travel expense.

Contact Info: 

Dr. Yuqian Yan
East Asian Languages and Cultures
Washington University in St. Louis

Contact Email: