The Center for Asian Research announces 2021 Lecture on Asia

Co-Sponsored by SHPRS Anti-Racism Committee, and Instutite for Humanities Research

To Access the Recording, please CLICK HERE

Date & Time: March 16, 2021 at 4:00 pm

presented by

Aihwa Ong, Professor and Robert H. Lowie Distinguished Chair in Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley

Not-So-Crazy Rich: Elite Asians & the Re-Worlding of American Racial Hierarchy

In an age of unsurpassed mobility, the meaning of "Asian" is mutating within global mediascapes that entangle images, narratives, and normas.

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The ubiquity and visibility of diverse elite Asians in global spaces destabilize Western models that have long viewed things "Asian" as exotically poor and backward. I compare media images of two categories of circulating Asian elites -- the super-rich and the avant garde -- who variously disrupt global cultural normativity of white supremacy. The differential reception of these elite Asian subjects in cosmopolitan spaces, I suggest, reveals the workings of a racial biopolitics that pivots on contrasts of visibility/invisibility, and animal/human.

Asian displays of opulent lifestyles in popular media, I argue, are generally embraced as a successful mimicry of Western forms. At the same time, to far-flung peoples of Asian ancestries, elite Asian materialist culture has become a badge of global respectability and evidence of a rising Asian global class.

By contrast, in the storied realm of American museums, contemporary Chinese artists are subjected to a more rigorous test of acceptable cosmopolitanism. I discuss a famous exhibition that encountered protests and the subsequent banning of artworks deemed cruel to animals. To custodians of Western aesthetics, contemporary Chinese artists cannot escape the whiff of animals.

My question is, by intruding into global spaces and upsetting Western assumptions linking race, wealth, and aesthetics, do elite Asian subjects become further ensnared in a racializing logic of humanity? The reworlding of American racial hierarchy seems ensured when representative regimes endorse the parasitic acquisition of entrenched materialism while deflecting moral claims to humanity. 

A Seminar Discussion with Professor Aihwa Ong

Biopolitics: The Construction of the Human

Date & Time: Wednesday, March 17 at 4:00 pm

Credit: BGI Genetics photo of a Chinese researcher collecting a blood sample from an ethnic Tibetan man Participating in a DNA study

Professor Ong's recent work on biopolitics, post-genomic theories and governance in Asian and western contexts will provide points of departure in this transdisciplinary and transregional conversation with ASU faculty and graduate students.

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Early registration is encouraged as participation is limited.

Recommended Readings:

PDF icon global_assemblages_introduction.pdf

PDF icon near_humans_monkeys_babies_ssrc_website_1.pdf

PDF icon excerpts_-_fungible_life-_experiment_in_the_asian_city_of_life.pdf