China without Coasts

Photo for China without Coasts
Thursday, May 2, 2024
3:00 PM - 4:30 PM
Online via Zoom

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In the traditional historiography about China as a regionalism, mountains and rivers appear central, but less often do coasts. Instead, the coasts are generally invisible, lost to landlessness, lawlessness, and foreign exploitation. This conceptualization not only erases coastal knowledge and experiences, but also displaces the energies of water frontiers, borderlands, and diasporas as “external” or “overseas.” Troubling these biases, this talk brings attention to the intercoastal Nanyang, a history of the south seas scattered across different archives in China and beyond. It will discuss two broad phenomena, a north-south trade based in Hong Kong and Chinese sailors working on steamships, to argue that a China without coasts is to deny continuums, interfaces, and ambiguities as a basis to write history.

Shelly Chan is a historian of transnational and modern China and Associate Professor at UC Santa Cruz. She is the author of Diaspora’s Homeland: Modern China in the Age of Global Migration (Duke 2018). Her current research explores the disappearance of the Nanyang as a lived and imagined geography.

Sponsor(s): Center for Chinese Studies