Rethinking the 'Overseas Chinese': What's in a Name?



Jianli Huang, Stanford University

Date and Time

April 12, 2011 12:00 PM - 1:30 PM



Open to the public.

RSVP required by 5PM April 11.


Philippines Conference Room

The movement of people leaving and returning to China from the second half of the 19th century to the present is a vast and complex subject. Among scholars worldwide, none has contributed more to the study of these cycles of migration and settlement in Southeast Asian contexts than National University of Singapore Prof. Wang Gungwu. His extensive writings on the topic richly illustrate the conceptual difficulties involved. 

The very terms used to name the phenomenon are contested: “Greater China,” “Chinese Diaspora,” “Huaqiao,” and “Nanyang Chinese”? Are these migrants and settlers and their descendants “Overseas Chinese” or “Chinese Overseas”? Are they even “Chinese” at all?  Prof. Wang’s struggles with nomenclature will be used by Prof. Huang to discuss larger issues, including how language can bias thought and influence policy and how to navigate the troubled waters at the confluence of scholarship and policy.

Huang Jianli is an associate professor in the Department History at the National University of Singapore and a research associate in the university’s East Asian Institute. His many publications include The Scripting of a National History: Singapore and Its Pasts (2008), Power and Identity in the Chinese World Order (co-edited, 2003) and Macro Perspectives and New Directions in the Studies of Chinese Overseas (co-edited, 2002). Recent journal articles include “Umbilical Ties: The Framing of Overseas Chinese as the Mother of Revolution” (2011), “Portable Histories in Mobile City Singapore: The (Lack)lustre of Admiral Zheng He” (2009), “Chinese Diasporic Culture and National Identity: The Taming of the Tiger Balm Gardens in Singapore” (2007), and “Entanglement of Business and Politics in the Chinese Diaspora: Interrogating the Wartime Patriotism of Aw Boon Haw” (2006).

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