Reassessing Chinese Diaspora from the South: History, Culture and Narrative

Event details


Date & time

Thursday 15 April 2021




Multiple Speakers


CHL Communicate

Additional links

For decades, studies of Chinese Diaspora or Overseas Chinese have re-weight the relative influence, both historical and contemporary, between mainland China and Chinese communities outside the mainland, arguing for how the latter impacted and continue to shape the former. These studies are complicated further by the spectacular transformation of mainland China. Of late, heightened sensitivity over the PRC’s global “influence” operations, its attempts to recruit all individuals and communities of Chinese descent to the “China Dream,” as well as the trade war between China and America threaten to return the world to what has been called a “new Cold War” situation. With the so-called “rise of China” looms large as a key driver of the changing global order, both the Chinese Diaspora as a group of people and the field of Chinese Diaspora studies are facing a critical moment. Distinctions between huaqiao (Chinese sojourners residing overseas), huaren (people of Chinese descent) and xin yimin (new Chinese migrants) become blurred, as the PRC attempts to redefine them homogenously as haiwai qiaobao (overseas compatriots).

The South, namely Southeast Asia and the Southwest Pacific, has been a key site of Chinese migration and settlement where articulations of Chinese acculturation, hybridity and heterogeneity since the end of the war have set the agenda for the study of Chineseness in general. In the decades following the official end of the Cold War which was accompanied by the disintegration of the bipolar world and accelerated neoliberal globalization, scholars studying Chineseness have pushed in multiple and sometimes contradictory directions. While the scholarly consensus on acculturation, hybridity and heterogeneity of localized Chinese remain, approaches reaching beyond “the local” and “national” have become dominant. These “transnational” approaches problematize the bounded character and limitations of the nation-state framework, highlighting historical and contemporary flows, mobilities, interconnectivities, circulations and networks that exist on multiple scales amongst dispersed Chinese communities. Above all, scholars continue to debate and disagree on the relevance and validity of old and new terminology and concepts, especially “Overseas Chinese,” “the Chinese diaspora,” “Greater China,” “Cultural China” and more recently, “the Sinophone world.”

This symposium aims to offer a platform for a critical assessment of the study of diasporic Chineseness since the end of the war, especially in light of the unsettling developments we are currently witnessing. While the “China factor” preoccupies us in common, the symposium consciously adopts the perspective of the South, seeking to unsettle a China-centric definitive marker of Chinese diaspora and the binary question of “identification with local or China.” Zooming out from the ethno-nationalistic focus of the study of Chinese diaspora, this symposium seeks to explore the concrete intellectual and cultural networks, institutions and productions of the Chinese diaspora in the South in historical and contemporary times. It explores new angles of intersectionality in the field, problematizes the concept of Chinese diaspora and seeks new theoretical intervention into the study of Chinese and Chineseness in/from the South.

The three-day conference from 15-17 April will be held online with the exception of the Keynote Address on 15 April, which will be a face to face event with an online option. Please register here for the online sessions and here if you wish to attend the Keynote Address in person.


Please click here for more information on the speakers and abstracts.

15 Apr (Thursday)

Keynote Address: 3pm-4:30pm

Prof Ien Ang (Western Sydney University)
Against Racialized Chineseness: Unsettling Diasporic Identities
Moderator: Prof Anthony Reid (ANU)

Panel 1. History and Knowledge Formation: 5pm-6:30pm

Dr Sai Siew Min (Independent researcher)
Becoming Chinese in the Malay World: colonialism, migration and history in Singapore

Dr Rachel Leow (University of Cambridge)
Masculinity and race blindness in constructing Chinese migration: The travels of Chen Da in Southeast Asia

Assoc Prof Ngoi Guat Peng (Sultan Idris Education University, Malaysia)
Cultural Diaspora and the Chinese Society: The Southern Perspective of Confucian Education
Moderator: Prof Adrian Vickers (Sydney)

16 Apr (Friday)

Panel 2. Cultural Networks and Linkages: 3pm-4:30pm

Dr Beiyu Zhang (University of Macao)
Performative Linkages between China and the Chinese Diaspora in Bangkok and Singapore, 1945-1960s

Dr Jane Ferguson (Australian National University)
Cold War Relations or Celluloid Socialism? A Burmese Filmmaker and his Motion Picture Study Tour to China in 1956

Assoc Prof Wasana Wongsurawat (Chulalongkorn University, Thailand)
A Century of Royal Patronage: The History of the Chinese Diaspora in Thailand through the Writings of King Vajiravudh Rama VI and HRH Maha Chakri Sirindhorn
Moderator: Dr Janit Feangfu (ANU)

Panel 3. Print Culture and Politics: 4:40pm-6:40pm

Dr Tom Hoogervorst (Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies, KITLV)
Articulations of Chineseness in the Sino-Malay Print Culture: A Triptych of Self-Criticism

Dr Matthew Galway (Australian National University)
A Radical 'Homeland Mindset': Mianhua Ribao, Chinese Overseas, and the Stirrings of Cultural Revolution Enthusiasm in Phnom Penh, 1956-1967

Dr Show Ying Xin (Australian National University)
No more “Miss Nanyang”: New Women Monthly, Chinese Diaspora and Communism in Postwar Malaya

Mr Ravando (University of Melbourne)
Sin Po, China, and Anti-Chinese Violence in the time of the Indonesian Revolution, 1945-1949
Moderator: Chan Cheow-Thia (NUS)

17 Apr (Saturday)

Panel 4. Business and Industry: 3pm-4:30pm

Dr Jason Lim (University of Wollongong)
Chinese businesses during decolonisation and the Cold War, 1950-1975

Dr Zhou Taomo (Nanyang Technological University, Singapore)
Dairy and Diaspora: Southeast Asian Chinese and Agribusiness on Guangming Farm, Shenzhen

Dr Pek Wee Cheun (New Era University College, Kuala Lumpur)
The formation of a Chinese Tin Mining Territorial Society in Northern Malay Peninsular: Perspectives from New Regional Geography
Moderator: Dr Sai Siew Min (Independent)

Panel 5. Literature and Narrative: 4:40pm-6:40pm

Dr Hong Lysa (Independent researcher)
He Jin’s life stories: An ‘artless’ communist subaltern vs the Singapore state narrative on the Chinese left

Dr Chan Cheow-Thia (National University of Singapore)
Folding Chinese Diaspora: Fiction, Inter-generationality and the Production of Discrepant Transregionalisms in 1970s Malaysia

Dr Mei-fen Kuo (Macquarie University)
Reading Joe Tong’s personal archives: narrative identity, family strategy and the idea of Chineseness, 1918-1924

Dr Josh Stenberg (University of Sydney)
Under the Red and White Flag: End of a Southern Experiment
Moderator: Dr Fiona Lee (Sydney)


Convener: Dr Show Ying Xin (Australian National University)

Supported by Centre for the Study of the Chinese Southern Diaspora (CSCSD), Australian Centre on China in the World (CIW), School of Culture, History and Language (CHL) and Malaysia Institute

Updated:  7 July 2017/Responsible Officer:  Director, Culture, History & Language/Page Contact:  CHL webmaster