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Kun Huang

Graduate Student

Overview

Kun Huang is a Mellon Graduate Fellow at the Society for the Humanities and PhD Candidate at the Department of Comparative Literature at Cornell University. Her research interests include comparative race theory, Afro-Asian intimacies, translation theory, and anti-racist social movements. Her dissertation project explores the afterlives of racial blackness in modern Chinese literature and culture in the long twentieth century. It traces the ways in which translations and figurations of blackness informed and continue to haunt articulations of Chinese modernity. Each chapter examines a historical episode in which discourses and narratives of racial slavery, pan-African freedom struggles, and African modernity were re-enacted and appropriated for Chinese cultural projects of anti-colonial nation building, socialist worldmaking, and globalization in the post-Cold War era.

In addition to teaching and researching about race and blackness in the transnational (and) East Asian contexts, Kun has also written public-facing commentaries critiquing the gendered and sexual structures of anti-blackness in contemporary China; spotlighting the emergent forms of Chinese diasporic anti-racist activism in the wake of Black Lives Matter movement and Stop Asian Hate; and translated works of black literary and cultural criticism, e.g. Chinese translation of Saidiya Hartman’s “Venus in Two Acts.” Kun also convenes a semi-scholarly network dedicated to reading and discussion of race theory, black feminist writing, Afro-Asian solidarity, and decolonial movements among Chinese academics, artists, and activists.

Departments/Programs

  • Comparative Literature
  • Society for the Humanities

Research

Racial Afterlives, Spectral Affinities:  (Un)Translating Blackness in Modern Chinese Literature and Culture

During her fellowship year at the Society for the Humanities, Kun will continue to work on her dissertation project “Racial Afterlives, Spectral Affinities: (Un)Translating Blackness in Modern Chinese Literature and Culture.” This project traces the afterlives of racial blackness in modern Chinese literature and culture and seeks to unearth representational and discursive genealogies from which images and narratives of blackness were drawn. Probing key textual and discursive entanglements in translated literature, geo-historical writing, poetry, drama, and visual culture, it aims to uncover the layered, mediated processes of racial translation, and to restore the untranslatables of blackness that were rendered overly familiar, intelligible, and transparent in the process of creating Sino-African solidarity. It shows that blackness and Chinese modernity were neither the mere effect nor the isolated product of Euro-American colonial modernity, but generative forces embedding heterogeneous processes of coloniality and decolonization. Thinking about the affinities and incommensurabilities of blackness and Chinese modernity as such entails a more spacious mapping of the global impact of racial structures and colonial formations, and brings to view the enduring transnational connections that anchor blackness as a global signifier of race and coloniality.