10th online mini-symposium CAAC2021 | 
Between the Cold War and the Third World: Toward a Transnational Archive of Literary Africa-China


This symposium explores Africa-China cultural engagements in the 1960s, and asks how Cold War geopolitics and Third World visions shaped the circulation and reception of African literature in China. Kun Huang looks at the Chinese translation and adaptation of anti-colonial poetics that emerged from the Congo Crisis, and examines the Cold War discourse, the socialist network, and Maoist script that mediated Chinese expressions of solidarity. Mingqing Yuan approaches the topic from the travel of the Ghanaian poet Kofi Awoonor to China, revisiting the forgotten and hidden interactions in the literary space in the early 1960s. By unpacking the tensions and intersections between Cold War realpolitik and Afro-Asian revolutionary romance, these two papers jointly examine analytical frameworks of literary Africa-China, and seek to excavate the critical valence of Afro-Asian solidarity in the present.

Kun Huang, Department of Comparative Literature, Cornell University
Mingqing Yuan, Bayreuth International School of African Studies, University of Bayreuth 

Ying Cheng, Department of Asian and African Languages and Cultures, Peking University

This event is hosted by the Chinese in Africa / Africans in China Research Network Conference Organising Committee in collaboration with the Centre for Cultural Research and Development at the Department of Cultural Studies, Lingnan University, Hong Kong; and the Institute for Emerging Markets Studies at HKUST

Supported by 
HKUST Institute for Emerging Market Studies

Translated Solidarity: Lumumba’s Textual Afterlives and the Poetics of African Decolonization in Maoist China

This paper traces the translation, reception, and adaptation of African anti-colonial poetics that emerged from the Congo Crisis in the People’s Republic of China in the early 1960s. It examines the Cold War discourse translated African poetry was coded in, the socialist literary network that facilitated and constrained textual circulation, and the Maoist script underlying Chinese writers’ responses to Patrice Lumumba’s assassination and African decolonization. It argues that the Cold War served as a powerful geopolitical and discursive structure for keeping specific anti-colonial African authors, texts, tropes, and aesthetics alive and legible across national and ideological borders, while also rendering them susceptible to mistranslations and appropriations. The material, intellectual, and affective configurations of the Cold War thus profoundly mediated imaginations and articulations of Sino-African solidarity.

Kun Huang is a PhD Candidate at the Department of Comparative Literature and a Mellon Graduate Fellow at the Society for the Humanities at Cornell University. She is writing a dissertation on the discourse on racial blackness in modern Chinese culture in the long twentieth century. Her research interests include comparative race studies, China-Africa cultural connections, and theories of translation and comparison.

Mingqing YUAN
Kofi Awoonor in China: Revisiting the Afro-Asian Writers’ Interactions in the early 1960s

Interactions and exchanges among Asian and African writers are often shadowed by the focus on the Cold War two-camp narratives. Starting from the Ghanian poet Kofi Awoonor’s visit to China in 1963, this paper focuses on the textual and personal interactions between Africa and China in the early 1960s, especially the exchanges under the frame of the Afro-Asian solidarity promoted by the Bandung conference. It examines the roles of writers and poetry in facilitating and forming an alternative sentimental structure and literary aesthetics within the “Third World”. Different from the China-dominant perspective, this paper emphasizes the agency and active involvement of African writers in these movements and their personal life track under the influence of international and national geopolitics. Meanwhile, it calls for more attention to multi-sited, cross-genre, and multilingual materials beyond the English archives. This paper argues for a reconceptualization of the Third World from an individual perspective as a dynamic and fluid space of interactions both within and beyond ideologies.

Mingqing Yuan is currently a doctoral student at Bayreuth International School of African Studies and a fellow at the project Recalibrating Afrikanistik, Germany. She just submitted her dissertation titled “Literalizing Kenya*China: From the Third World to the Global South”. Her research interests include literatures from Africa, cultural studies about Africa-China interactions, Africa and the cultural Cold War, and African popular culture. 

Ying CHENG is an assistant professor in the Department of Asian and African Languages and Cultures, Peking University. Her research interests include youth and popular culture in Africa, African visual and performance arts, cultural interactions between China and Africa, and so on. Dr Ying Cheng has also been a research associate (Arts of Africa and the Souths) of Rhodes University, South Africa since 2017. In recent years, she has published articles in African Arts, Journal of African Culture Studies, Routeledge Handbook of African Literature, African Theatre, and so on.

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25 Feb 2022 (Fri)
8:00 a.m. (GMT-5 New York)
2:00 p.m. (GMT+1 Lagos)
9:00 p.m. (GMT+8 Beijing)

Join online via Zoom