To view this PAPER PRESENTATION, search for the session title in the Browse by Titlelisting. (See the session title located immediately below ["In Session:"])
In Session: Queering Racialized Capital and Labor across Asian/Pacific Time and Space
3: “Sorry, Please, Thank You”: US-China Trade War and the Future of American Orientalism
Tuesday, March 23, 2021
12:00pm – 1:30pm EDT
Christopher Tzechung Fan
University of California, Irvine, United States
The waning of the American Century has been accelerated by the Trump administration and the COVID-19 pandemic, bringing new urgency to the question of how American orientalism has transformed in terms of its epistemological and representational mechanics. This paper begins with the premise that China’s post-WTO “rise” and US economic stagnation have interrupted the capacity of orientalism to operate as a rigged game underwriting the self-confidence of Euro-Americans along the lines of race, gender, sexuality, and economic subjectivity. This paper then hones in on our current moment of US-China tension, understanding “trade war”—from steel tariffs to Tik-Tok, Lighthizer to Biden—and “pandemic” as features of that same tension. Taking as focal texts Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert’s 2019 documentary American Factory and Ron Howard’s 1987 comedy Gung Ho, this paper unpacks the ways in which each film is exemplary of its historical moment, and especially how American Factory’s post-racial, queer aesthetic (homoglobalizationalist as well as distinct from Gung Ho’s celebration of liberal multicultural globalization) in fact reveals a reconfiguration of American orientalism. This reconfiguration has provided—and will continue to provide, through this US presidential election season—the affective terms for distinguishing a liberal anti-China position (Biden) from a right-wing anti-China position (Trump/Navarro), as well as new challenges for the US/Anglophone left, which has struggled to conceptualize US-Asia political economy in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis.