Plenary Session: Transpacific Affect & Intimate Geographies

Andy Chih-Ming Wang

Associate Research Fellow, Institute of European and American Studies
Academia Sinica


Transpacific Asymmetries: The Parallel Universes in Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being

In recent years, the transpacific seems to have become another buzzword in American Studies and Asian American Studies. As an imaginary that posits flows and exchange from one end of the Pacific to another, the transpacific seems to function more as an approach and viewpoint than a space. However, the imagination of crossing is no less spatial as it is temporal. This paper intends to consider the spatial and affective dimensions of the transpacific approach, by exploring the parallel universes in Ruth Ozeki’s 2013 novel A Tale for the Time Being. It hopes to tackle the following question: how should we think about the spatiality of the transpacific in Asian American narratives? How does Asian American literature "inhabit" the transpacific and carve out a space in the transit, flux, and flow of history, memory, and affect? Moreover, how does the spatial thinking of the transpacific help us rethink the affective relationship between Asia and America?

By exploring the idea of transpacific asymmetry from the work of the late Masao Miyoshi to build up a framework for thinking through the questions of spatiality and affect embedded in Ozeki’s text, it aims to offer a reflection on the transnational character of Asian North American literature as it morphs beyond identity concerns to engage with global issues, where issues of history and affect are crucial for explorations of what the transpacific—as approach, perspective, and space—entails. Moreover, with an emphasis on transpacific asymmetry and affect, it hopes to shed light on what transpacific cultural research may mean as a critical practice to reshape the world.