Asia’s Unreliability: Literary and Historical Positings of the Asian Human from the American Century to the Pacific Century


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




This dissertation uses the literary device of ‘voice’ to track the interactions between Asia’s racial form and the human’s universal form. Looking at characterizations of Asianness in contemporary novels and in US Cold War foreign policy, it examines how the unreliable Asian literary narrator indexes an Anglo-American Cold War program committed to managing the Asian voice. Specifically, the project reads Asian voice through unreliability as a long-running Oriental trope and as a formal signifier of humanness. By doing so, it asks how the evocation of the ‘Asian human’ as a literary effect and as a historical contradiction forces us to rethink a racial form defined in negative relation to the universalistic claims and moral utopianism that inhere in human rights.