Wang Gungwu is a renowned scholar of Chinese history, Southeast Asia and the Chinese overseas, a leading theorist of Chinese identity, and a prominent commentator on the contemporary Chinese state. He has also been a celebrated builder of institutions in Malaysia, Australia, Hong Kong, and Singapore. Born in Surabaya, Indonesia, Wang Gungwu did his schooling in Ipoh, Malaysia. He earned his bachelor and master degrees from the University of Malaya, and PhD from the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. Wang Gungwu’s recent books Home is Not Here and Home is Where We Are recount his journey through transregional spaces and his participation in nation building, while reflecting the predicaments he had with his identity and belonging. This conversation with Wang Gungwu revisits some of the fascinating episodes described in these two books. It will also engage with him on the notable contributions he has made to the study of China, the Chinese overseas, and transregional history.
Professor Wang Gungwu is the former Chairman of the East Asian Institute and University Professor, National University of Singapore. He is also Emeritus Professor of the Australian National University. Professor Wang received his B.A. (Hons) and M.A. degrees from the University of Malaya in Singapore, and his Ph.D. at the University of London (1957). His teaching career took him from the University of Malaya (Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, 1957-1968, Professor of History 1963-68) to The Australian National University (1968-1986), where he was Professor and Head of the Department of Far Eastern History and Director of the Research of Pacific Studies. From 1986 to 1995, he was Vice-Chancellor of the University of Hong Kong. He was Director of East Asian Institute of NUS from 1997 to 2007.
Professor Wang is a Commander of the British Empire (CBE); Fellow, and former President, of the Australian Academy of the Humanities; Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Science; Member of Academia Sinica; Honorary Member of the Chinese Academy of Social Science. He was conferred the International Academic Prize, Fukuoka Asian Cultural Prizes, and the 2020 Tang Prize in Sinology.
His books include The Nanhai Trade: The Early History of Chinese Trade in the South China Sea. New Edition (1998), The Chinese Overseas: From Earthbound China to the Quest for Autonomy (2000), Anglo-Chinese Encounters since 1800: War, Trade, Science and Governance (2003), Renewal: The Chinese State and the New Global History (2013), Another China Cycle: Committing to Reform (2014), Home is Not Here (2018), and Home is Where We Are (2020).
Tansen Sen is Professor of history; the Director of the Center for Global Asia at NYU Shanghai; and Global Network Professor at NYU. He is the author of Buddhism, Diplomacy, and Trade: The Realignment of Sino-Indian Relations, 600-1400 (2003; 2016) and India, China, and the World: A Connected History (2017). He has co-authored (with Victor H. Mair) Traditional China in Asian and World History (2012), edited Buddhism Across Asia: Networks of Material, Cultural and Intellectual Exchange (2014), and co-edited (with Burkhard Schnepel) Travelling Pasts: The Politics of Cultural Heritage in the Indian Ocean World (2019) and (with Brian Tsui) Beyond Pan-Asianism: Connecting China and India, 1840s–1960s (2021). He is currently working on a book about Zheng He’s maritime expeditions in the early fifteenth century, a monograph on Jawaharlal Nehru and China, and co-editing (with Engseng Ho) the Cambridge History of the Indian Ocean, volume 1.
Celina Hung received her PhD in comparative literature from the Department of Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. Her research centers on Sinophone literature and culture, Chinese migration and its cultural networks, Anglophone literature, and discourses of creolization and multiculturalism in Asia. She is writing a book project titled Creolizing the Sinophone Pacific, which examines the multilingual articulations of creolization by writers and filmmakers from Southeast Asia with such backgrounds as Babas, Chinoys, and Peranakans, amid a changing nexus of political and cultural forces. She also works on Taiwan’s cultural representations of new-immigrant communities. Some of her articles and chapters on these issues include “‘There Are No Chinamen in Singapore’: Creolization and Self-Fashioning of the Straits Chinese in the Colonial Contact Zone” (in Journal of Chinese Overseas), “Sinophone Studies through the Lens of Creolization” (in Sun Yat-sen Journal of Humanities), “Documenting ‘Immigrant Brides’ in Multicultural Taiwan” (in Asian Video Cultures), “Translator” (in Keywords of Taiwan Theory), “The Promise and Peril of Translation in the Taiwan Literature Awards for Migrants” (forthcoming in the volume Sinoglossia), and “Fishers, Captives, and Storytellers in Taiwan’s Transnational Fishing Industry” (forthcoming in the volume Feeling Transpacific Current(s)).
Introduction by Joanna Waley-Cohen, Provost for New York University Shanghai and Silver Professor of History at New York University.