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The Nanyang Was Not Southeast Asia: A Transnational Interpretation

March 20 @ 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm

Speaker: Shelly Chan, Associate Professor, Department of History, University of California, Santa Cruz

Moderator: Sau-Yi Fong, Postdoctoral Research Scholar, Weatherhead East Asian Institute, Columbia University

Meaning the “South Seas” in Chinese, the Nanyang is often conflated with today’s Southeast Asia. While the conflation reflects scholarly concerns that the Nanyang seems China-centric in orientation, this talk argues that it is also a misrecognition. To take this view, one could note the irony of turning a sea-based concept such as the Nanyang into Southeast Asia, a land mass. A social and cultural geography both imagined and lived, the Nanyang was born out of intense coastal interactions across East and Southeast Asia from the late eighteenth century to the early twentieth century. A product of diasporic and oceanic connections, it was also contemporary to the trans-Pacific Gold Mountains, most recently explored by Mae Ngai, even as both geographies were subsequently lost to nation-based, state-centered, and land-bound understandings of history and culture. This talk will discuss how a transnational interpretation of the Nanyang as the South Seas can help restore a critical part of our knowledge of China as networked and fragmented, and of Chinese identity as distinct as it is ambiguous.

This event is sponsored by the Weatherhead East Asian Institute.

Registration: To register to attend this event in-person, please register HERE. *Please note that non-CUID holders need to show proof of their primary series and one booster dose of COVID-19 vaccines.

Contact Information

Julie Kwan


March 20
12:00 pm - 1:30 pm