Jinny Prais, Columbia University
Shirley Ye, University of Birmingham
Each panelist will discuss a distinct group of diaspora intellectuals and raises a unique set of questions for both their region and time period. Jinny Prais examines how Africans and people of African descent were active participants in bringing Africa into a more inclusive understanding of universal narratives of human history. How did diaspora African intellectuals investigate the position and function of Africa in global history? Shirley Ye examines how Chinese engineers simultaneously positioned the global, western scientific knowledge about water control within the mythic narratives of Chinese civilization and modernization. While they did not see themselves as political or intellectual figures, but rather as state builders, after World War Two and the Civil War, Chinese engineers faced a difficult decision: to stay on the mainland or to follow the Nationalist government to Taiwan. Whether on China or Taiwan, Chinese engineers remained globally engaged in their hydraulic planning for the nation. Su Lin Lewis looks at intellectuals from migrant backgrounds who resisted the rise of crude ethnic nationalisms and helped fundamentally shape how the public spheres of colonial / semi-colonial societies faced the recently decolonized world. Finally, Joshua Freeman will turn to the small but influential group of diaspora Uyghurs living in the USSR, whose specific ethnic identity and loyalties led them to conceptualize a Uyghur nation in Xinjiang that gave their own Ili region a defining role in Uyghur culture.
We will share the texts and supplementary materials authored by or about our diaspora intellectuals online and invite interested participants to join the discussion one month before the conference. During the session, we will engage the audience in close reading of some of these texts. Each panelist will take ten minutes to introduce her/his texts, paper and questions, and this will be followed by an open floor discussion.