HDDH | "haunting," led by Professor Jack (John Kuo Wei) Tchen

Thursday, November 5, 2015

In 1943 Fei Xiaotong, "the father of Chinese sociology," wrote "America" (after walking the halls of the University of Chicago) was "a world without ghosts." In this Hemispheric Dialogue, Dr. Tchen explored "haunting" from the vantage of the repressed civic dysgenics of the Chinese Exclusion Acts (1882-1965), as a means of coaxing a working theory from Anglo-American Protestant rationality and its violent obliviousness as a political culture of perpetual loss, generating a mythos more profoundly haunted than disavowed Catholic, "heathen," and "pagan" socialities.

Our facilitator suggested the following readings in preparation for this discussion:
— Fei Xiaotong, "The World Without Ghosts," Land Without Ghosts: Chinese Impressions of America to the Mid-Nineteenth Century, eds. Arkush & Lee (1989).
icon Click to download Fei Xiaotong, "The World Without Ghosts" (1.25 MB)

— Judith Butler, "After Loss, What Then?," Loss, eds. Eng & Kazanjian (2003).
icon Click to download Judith Butler, "After Loss, What Then?" (1.27 MB)
— Claudine Rankine, "Mahalia Jackson is a genius...," Don't Let Me Be Lonely: An American Lyric (2004).
icon Click to download Claudine Rankine, "Mahalia Jackson is a genius" (331.86 kB)

Jack (John Kuo Wei) Tchen is a facilitator, teacher, historian, curator, re-organizer, and dumpster diver. He works on understanding the multiple presents, pasts, the futures of New York City, identity formations, trans-local cross-cultural communications, archives and epistemologies, and progressive pedagogy. He also works on decolonizing Eurocentric ideas, theories, and practices and making our cultural organizations and institutions more representative and democratic. Professor Tchen is the founding director of the Asian/Pacific/American (A/P/A) Studies Program and Institute at New York University and part of the original founding faculty of the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis, NYU. He co-founded the Museum of Chinese in America in 1979-80 where he continues to serve as senior historian. He is author of the award-winning books  New York before Chinatown: Orientalism and the Shaping of American Culture, 1776-1882 (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001) and Genthe's Photographs of San Francisco's Old Chinatown, 1895-1905 (Dover Publications, 1984). He is the co-author, along with Dylan Yeats, of Yellow Peril! An Archive of Anti-Asian Fear, which was published by Verso in 2014. Professor Tchen was awarded the Charles S. Frankel Prize from the National Endowment for the Humanities and, in 2012, received the NYU MLK Jr. Humanitarian Award. He is co-principle investigator of “Asian Americas and Pacific Islanders Facts, Not Fiction: Setting the Record Straight,” produced with The College Board. He has been building research collections of Asians in the Americas. In doing so, he has critically examined practices of collections and archives to make sense of how we come to know what we know, and don't know.. He is currently co-chairing the effort at the Smithsonian Institution to form an Asian Pacific American Center. Professor Tchen is now working on a book about New York City that focuses on the unrecognized tradition of the intermingling of people, creativity, and improvisation of everyday residents. He regularly collaborates with filmmakers and media producers, artists and collectors, and, through the A/P/A Institute, sponsors and produces hundreds of programs and performances. Most recently, he co-curated the Museum of Chinese in America’s core exhibition: “With a single step: stories in the making of America” in a space designed by Maya Lin.

Hemispheric Dialogues invite key thinkers to lead discussions about some of the pressing issues of our time. The series envisions informal yet sustained dialogue among faculty, graduate and undergraduate students, artists, and members of the community.

Hemispheric Institute of Performance & Politics
20 Cooper Square, 5th Floor
New York, NY 10003