China and Inner Asia
Session Abstract: Scholarship on China-Africa relations has recently surged, generating vibrant academic attention and public discussion. While most scholarly and popular debates on the topic emphasize contemporary economic and political issues, this panel enriches our understanding of Sino-Afro engagement by articulating its cultural and historical dimensions. The papers revisit musical performances, architectural projects and visual representations as a means of cultural exchange not only between China and African countries, but also between Chinese and African Americans throughout the twentieth century. Incorporating a transmedial and interdisciplinary approach, the panel addresses the creation and circulation of cultural forms as significant resources of knowledge and meaning (re)making in Sino-Afro relations that stimulate discourses of decolonization and solidarity. Keisha A. Brown examines how the dissemination and impact of African American music such as jazz and spirituals shaped ideas of Blackness in twentieth-century China. Ling Zhang explores how African American singer Paul Robeson’s popularization of the Chinese song “March of the Volunteer,” which later became the PRC national anthem, was linked to anti-fascist and anti-colonial internationalism. Ye Liu investigates how socialist somatosensory experience and knowledge were produced in China’s architectural projects in Africa during the Third World anti-imperialist and decolonization movement in the 1960s and 1970s. Quincy Ngan analyzes a painting, inspired by Michael Jackson’s We Are the World, by tracking the work through multiple layers of acculturation in contemporary China. By situating these trans-continental dialogues in their historical contexts, these discussions deeply resonate with contemporary racial discourses and political shifts on a global scale.
Paper Presenter: Ling Zhang – SUNY Purchase
Paper Presenter: Keisha A. Brown – Tennessee State University
Paper Presenter: Ye Liu – The New School
Paper Presenter: Quincy Ngan – Yale University