Current Institutional Affiliation
Assistant Professor, English, McGill University

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2008
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Literature, Columbia University
Coolie Democracy: US-Sino Literary and Social Reform, 1929-1952

My dissertation brings to light an unexamined literary network between American and Chinese writers in the early 20th century. I take as my focus two American authors, Nobel Literature Prize winner Pearl S Buck and major proletarian figure Agnes Smedley, and two Chinese writers, Lu Xun and Lin Yutang, two of the most important Chinese intellectuals of the 20th century. These writers, through literary exchange and political collaboration, helped to produce an unprecedented trans-Pacific leftist political and cultural community. This community, which also included figures such as WEB Du Bois and Lao She, spanned both American and Chinese languages and cultures, and created bonds between important social movements, such as the Shanghai-based League of Leftist Writers and American Cultural Front. Specifically, I organize my project around perhaps the most potent idea to emerge from this network of writers: "coolie democracy," an alternative vision of Western democracy drawn from both American and Chinese cultural traditions. This cohort of intellectuals and their vision of "coolie democracy" powerfully shaped Chinese and American social development in the mid-20th century, rendering the two inseparable.