China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
From Perry Anderson’s summation of Western Marxism as a “culture of defeat” to what Wendy Brown termed as “backward-looking attachment,” critics have invoked defeatism to conjure leftist utopianism. While these discussions of left-wing melancholia are confined to the Western context, European leftists’ sense of disillusionment has historically been embedded in the rise and fall of socialist revolution in the East during the twentieth century—from the triumph of the 1917 October Revolution through the 1989 Tian’anmen Incident. This panel thus shifts our focus on “left-wing melancholia” from its Western coinage to the Asian context: How does left-wing melancholia factor in the Asian questions of (anti-)imperialism and (post-)colonialism? What is the theoretical potential to conceptualize melancholia in an age of postsocialism?
In this panel, Ma interrogates Lu Xun’s translation of Russian poputchik(fellow travelers) and his engagement with Trotsky to reflect on the conundrum of Chinese revolutionary consciousness. Examining the history of socialism in Taiwan during Japanese colonization and the White Terror, Chen historicizes the root of melancholia in Taiwanese leftist literature. Tu uses Wang Anyi's 1990s literary productions as examples to shed light on the ambiguous interpretations, contested memories, and divergent literary representations of Mao’s revolution. Drawing on post-1990s Southeast Asian texts, Polmuk argues thatthe aesthetic mediations of wartime affective residues constitute a unique archive of historical injury in Southeast Asia. These papers investigate how the history of colonialism, socialist revolution, and Cold War across Northeast, East, and Southeast Asia enrich our understanding of melancholia in leftist history, literature and culture.