Session Abstract: Animals have been deeply entangled with human life and constitute a fundamental feature of cultures. Animality, or how we perceive and represent animals, has been considered as a historical product of various social forces. Recent studies from multiple disciplines have demonstrated how the analysis of animality sheds new light on the perceived modes of cultural production and human existence. This panel proposes to critically rethink “East Asia” and “animalities” together as a prism to investigate the transcultural and trans-species politics that are urgent to our time. East Asian animalities highlight transnational links as well as various roles of animals and animalities in the formations of symbolic, political, and lively capital, the emergent order of biopolitics, and the shaping of modernities in East Asia.
From Meiji Japan to Republican China and contemporary Tibet, panelists ground their analysis in rich empirical cases. Youjia Li analyzes the competition between anthropomorphized beasts and mechanicalized men in Meiji Japan’s bustling urban space. The accumulation and expansion of “animal capital” in Japan and worldwide intensified the pressure to reform Chinese animality, as Guangshuo Yang discusses the emergence of a biopolitical institution in early Republican China that aimed to subjugate insects for commercial and national interests. Xi Chen further uncovers the epistemic violence in the semiotic system of biopolitics through an analysis of animal representations in Republican Chinese popular science essays. As China moved towards reopening, the commercial network that connected the global market and borderland poaching became the focus of Jin Wang’s analysis.
Paper Presenter: Guangshuo Yang – Northwestern University
Paper Presenter: Xi Chen – Tsinghua University
Paper Presenter: Youjia Li – Northwestern University
Paper Presenter: Jin Wang – University of Toronto