Transpacific Attachments

Sex Work, Media Networks, and Affective Histories of Chineseness

Lily Wong

Columbia University Press

Transpacific Attachments

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Pub Date: February 2018

ISBN: 9780231183383

248 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $60.00£49.95

Pub Date: February 2018

ISBN: 9780231544887

248 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $59.99£49.95

Transpacific Attachments

Sex Work, Media Networks, and Affective Histories of Chineseness

Lily Wong

Columbia University Press

The figure of the Chinese sex worker—who provokes both disdain and desire—has become a trope for both Asian American sexuality and Asian modernity. Lingering in the cultural imagination, sex workers link sexual and cultural marginality, and their tales clarify the boundaries of citizenship, nationalism, and internationalism. In Transpacific Attachments, Lily Wong studies the mobility and mobilization of the sex worker figure through transpacific media networks, illuminating the intersectional politics of racial, sexual, and class structures.

Transpacific Attachments examines shifting depictions of Chinese sex workers in popular media—from literature to film to new media—that have circulated within the United States, China, and Sinophone communities from the early twentieth century to the present. Wong explores Asian American writers’ articulation of transnational belonging; early Hollywood’s depiction of Chinese women as parasitic prostitutes and Chinese cinema’s reframing the figure as a call for reform; Cold War–era use of prostitute and courtesan metaphors to question nationalist narratives and heteronormativity; and images of immigrant brides against the backdrop of neoliberalism and the flows of transnational capital. She focuses on the transpacific networks that reconfigure Chineseness, complicating a diasporic framework of cultural authenticity. While imaginations of a global community have long been mobilized through romantic, erotic, and gendered representations, Wong stresses the significant role sex work plays in the constant restructuring of social relations. “Chineseness,” the figure of the sex worker shows, is an affective product as much as an ethnic or cultural signifier.
Transpacific Attachments effectively infuses Sinophone studies with new theoretical energy by addressing questions of cultural identity and Chineseness through the lens of affect and sexuality. Andrea Bachner, Cornell University
An important contribution to transpacific studies, Asian-American studies, and Chinese studies, as well as to scholarship on literature, film, and new media, Transpacific Attachments insightfully sheds new light on how the prostitute figure has worked as a symbolic medium that both produces and problematizes configurations of sexual citizenship and social mobility. Karen Thornber, Harvard University
Transpacific Attachments marshals a dazzling range of literary and audiovisual texts to unpack the figure of the Chinese sex worker and the affective politics this figure refracts. The result is a powerfully refreshing understanding of "Chineseness" as a shifting "affective structure" that defies identity politics with its familiar attachments to nation, ethnicity, and language. Yiman Wang, University California, Santa Cruz
Transpacific Attachments elegantly and deftly traces structures of affect and sociality across the Pacific through the figure of the “Chinese” sex worker throughout the twentieth century. It offers one of the most nuanced discussions of “Chineseness” in English-language scholarship to date, registering its permutations and transformations by linking the two sides of the Pacific in their affective entanglements and disentanglements. It makes an important contribution to the interrelated fields of Sinophone studies, Chinese studies, queer studies, and Asian American studies. Shu-mei Shih, University of California, Los Angeles
List of Illustrations
Acknowledgments
A Note on Translation
Introduction: Sex Work, Media Networks, and Transpacific Histories of Affect
Part I. Pacific Crossings in the Early Twentieth Century
1. Desiring Across the Pacific: Transnational Contact in Early Twentieth-Century Asian/American Literature
2. Over My Dead Body: Melodramatic Crossings of Anna May Wong and Ruan Lingyu
Part II. Sinophonic Liaisons During the Cold War
3. Erotic Liaisons: Sinophonic Queering of the Shaw Brothers’ Chinese Dream
4. Offense to the Ear: Hearing the Sinophonic in Wang Zhenhe’s Rose, Rose, I Love You
Part III. Dwelling Desires and the Neoliberal Order
5. Dwelling: Affective Labor and Reordered Kinships in The Fourth Portrait and Seeking Asian Female
Coda: What Dwells
Notes
Bibliography
Index

About the Author

Lily Wong is assistant professor of literature at American University.