A Sino-Jewish Encounter, A Humanitarian Fantasy

Haiyan Lee

Venue: Room 1505, 1555 Century Avenue, NYU Shanghai
Date: Monday, November 25, 2019
Time: 17:30 - 19:00 CST

In the late 1930s and early 1940s, tens of thousands of European Jews fleeing Nazi genocide found a temporary safe-haven in Shanghai. They were able to do so crucially because Shanghai was an open city under divided governance and because China was at war with Japan and could not exercise sovereign control over its borders. In this talk, the speaker ponders the moral lessons from this fortuitous episode of humanitarianism through the lens of moral philosophy and moral psychology. Using the Canadian-Chinese writer Bella’s novel A Cursed Piano as my textual anchor, the speaker argues that fiction, even if counterfactual, is an aid to the affective, imaginative, and reflexive exercise of moral reasoning. It is thus critical in helping us overcome what Zygmunt Bauman calls “adiaphorization,” or the abeyance of individual moral agency, that pervades the modern condition.

Haiyan Lee is a professor of Chinese and comparative literature at Stanford University. She is the author of Revolution of the Heart: A Genealogy of Love in China, 1900-1950 (Stanford University Press, 2007), winner of the 2009 Joseph Levenson Prize from the Association for Asian Studies, and The Stranger and the Chinese Moral Imagination (Stanford University Press, 2014). 

Introduction and moderation of the Q&A by Tansen Sen, Area Head of Global China Studies, Director of the Center for Global Asia, and Professor of History, NYU Shanghai.

This event is cosponsored by the Center for Global Asia and the Global China Studies Program, NYU Shanghai.

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Location & Details

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