DENG Distinguished Lecture Series: “Difficult Histories: The Politics of Reading Asian American Literature in a Global Context” by Professor Guy Beauregard


24 Apr 2015





This lecture investigates the stakes involved in reading literary representations of “difficult histories,” a term that has been used by scholars over the past fifteen years or so to refer to histories of systemic mass violence.  How, and toward what ends, could such “difficult histories” be adequately remembered?  Prof. Beauregard’s talk suggests that ongoing attempts to read Asian American literature in a global context may offer valuable points of engagement, especially insofar as these attempts are able to grapple with the politics of the knowledge produced around Asian American texts. Prof. Beauregard will begin with a brief discussion of some recent theorizations of the key words Asian and American before turning to the “politics of the knowledge” that has been produced around two texts: Madeleine Thien’s 2011 novel Dogs at the Perimeter (which tells the stories of various characters whose lives have in distinct ways been shaped by the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia) and Ruth Ozeki’s 2013 novel A Tale for the Time Being (in which a figure named Ruth living on the west coast of Canada comes across “a scarred plastic freezer bag” containing a diary and other material objects that may or may not be debris from the March 11, 2011 tsunami in Japan). Prof. Beauregard will argue that reading the “difficult histories” represented in these texts can open up space for us to learn to read what Thien calls “the rough turbulence that joins . . . continents” while also attending to the many ways that our critical work in this respect remains unfinished.


Guy Beauregard is an associate professor at National Taiwan University and a visiting scholar at the Institute of European and American Studies at Academia Sinica, Taiwan.  Over the past decade, his work on various topics have related to Asian American and Asian Canadian literatures and postcolonial studies. His articles have appeared or are forthcoming in Amerasia Journal, Asian American Literary Review, Canadian Literature, Concentric, International Journal of Canadian Studies, Studies in Canadian Literature, Tamkang Review, and West Coast Line.  He is a collaborating member of the Summer Institute in Asian American Studies (SIAAS) collective, a multi-campus initiative dedicated to furthering Asian American critical work in Taiwan and elsewhere in Asia.


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