Taiwan's Transpacific Medical Modernity: Race and Disability in Wu Nien-Jen's Buddha Bless America (1996)

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Thursday, November 8th, 2018

Thursday, November 8, 20182:00PM - 4:00PM108N, North House, 1 Devonshire Place
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EAS Speaker Series



Recent scholarship from the US and Asia critiques how US historiographies of post-war development in Asia, shaped by Cold War liberalism, painted imperialism in Asia as largely benevolent, supporting the universal interests of humanism, democracy, and freedom. In this talk, I will look into Wu Nien-Jen’s film Buddha Bless America (1996) to offer critical reflections on the connection between militarism and the postcolonial development of nation building in its “authoritarian” forms, especially measured against the Western liberal language of rights, democracy and sovereignty. I examine how this cultural text renders imperialist violence visible in what is otherwise portrayed as unqualified medical humanitarianism and development, even as it reifies a liberal language of medical and scientific progress for national rehabilitation in the mutual co-constitution of US and Taiwan modernities from the 1960s onwards. Perceiving Buddha Bless America as a putatively post-Cold War cultural production that is integral to the historical reconstruction of Taiwanese liberal nationalism, my reading suggests that a post-authoritarian democratization – one that would be achieved by demanding rights and liberty via Western modernity – paradoxically obscures the process of re-militarization in a racialized biopolitical regime of organizing and managing life, labor, security, health, and dis/ability.


Professor Chien-Ting Lin teaches in the English Department of the National Central University of Chungli, Taiwan. He received his Ph.D. in literature and cultural studies from University of California, San Diego. He has published his research in Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, Review of International American Studies, and Taiwan: A Radical Quarterly in Social Studies. His current book project tentatively entitled, Fugitive Subjects of “Secret Doctors”: Politics of Life and Labor in Taiwan’s Medical Modernity, investigates transpacific colonial and neocolonial formations of knowledge production and hierarchies of reproductive labor and life politics within different periods of Taiwan’s medical modernization.


Chien-Ting Lin
Associate Professor, Department of English, National Central University


Department of East Asian Studies


Global Taiwan Studies Program

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