Richard Jean SoJan 23, 2017
America, China, and the Rise and Fall of a Cultural Network
Columbia University Press 2016
Richard Jean So's new book studies a group of American and Chinese writers in the three decades after WWI to propose a conceptual framework for understanding intellectual and cultural relations between China and America in the twentieth century and beyond. The period that So focuses on was crucial for a number of reasons, including a transformation in US-China relations, transformations in the world economy and international politics, the rise of a new era in media technologies (including the formation of a massive technological infrastructure between the US and East Asia, due in part to radio and telegraph technology and a transpacific transportation system) and the related emergence of a discourse of communications.
In Transpacific Community: America, China, and the Rise and Fall of a Cultural Network (Columbia University Press, 2016), So argues that literary histories of U.S.-China cultural encounter in the twentieth century must also, in part, be histories of media. So recasts the Pacific in the twentieth century as a site of mediation and traces the engagement with concepts of democracy through the work of such writers as Agnes Smedley, Pearl Buck, Paul Robeson, Lin Yutang, Ding Ling, Liu Liangmo, Lao She, and Ida Puitt. It's a focused, compelling account with resonance for Asian studies, Asian American studies, and broader debates about literature, translation, networks, and media in the twentieth century.