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Yuan Ding, The City and Its Refugees: The Geopolitics of Non-Places in Mohsin Hamid’s How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia and Exit West

September 6, 2019 - 2:30pm
Gerber Lounge, 304 EPB

Big Ten Emerging Scholars

The Big Ten Emerging Scholars lecture series was created in April 2018 during the inaugural annual meeting of the Big Ten English Department Chairs. Professors Cara Cilano (Michigan State University) and Marco Abel (University of Nebraska–Lincoln) proposed this idea to their colleagues, who received it with great enthusiasm. The purpose of this series is:

  • To help the selected Big Ten Emerging Scholars with their academic job search efforts by giving them an opportunity to simulate an on-campus visit (including but not limited to giving a job talk based on their research);
  • To help the selected Big Ten Emerging Scholars strengthen their curriculum vitae through the addition of a prestigious invited scholarly lecture;
  • To give the selected Big Ten Emerging Scholars the chance to present and promote their work as well as to network with scholars working in their fields;
  • To give the hosting departments the chance to connect their own students and faculty to the Big Ten Emerging Scholars whose work is at the cutting edge of their respective disciplines.

Last but not least, this series was also initiated in order to strengthen a sense of community among the participating English Departments in the Big Ten. The Big Ten Academic Alliance is the nation's preeminent model for effective collaboration among research universities and, other than the Ivy League, the country's most prestigious higher education consortium of top-tier research institutions.

Being selected as one of the annual Big Ten Emerging Scholars is, thus, a significant honor (the selection process is competitive). You can learn more about the series on the Big Ten Departments of English website.

Our department's first Big Ten Emerging Scholar is Stephanie Tsank (PhD 2018), who will present her talk “Inside Mary Johnson’s Mouth: Crane’s Realism and Sensing the Slums in Maggie: A Girl of the Streets” at the University of Nebraska--Lincoln on September 26, 2019 (details here). Tsank is a Lecturer in the UI Department of Rhetoric and a former Visiting Assistant Professor in the UI Department of English, where she taught courses on food and immigration. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Studies in American Naturalism, American Studies, Cather Studies, and the Willa Cather Review. She is currently developing a book based on her dissertation; her project examines how writers use food to depict immigrant characters in works of late 19th and early 20th century American literary realism. She is also the food editor at Entropy Magazine. 

As a department, we will host Big Ten Emerging Scholar Yuan Ding. A published translator, Yuan holds a PhD in English from the University of Minnesota (2019). She taught at Macalester college in 2018, and is currently working on a book project based on her dissertation, “Capitalizing Race: Diasporic Narratives and Global Asia.” In dialogue with other recent critical interventions that have sought to reframe Asian American identity in relation to the proliferation of neoliberalism and global capitalism, the project proposes to read the rhetorical production of “ethnicity” as an economic process, as human mobility is dictated by and understood to signify financial liquidity. Focusing on the rhetorical link between “mobility” and “flexibility” in contemporary global Asian writing as tropes for both capital and people, “Capitalizing Race" highlights the ways in which Asian diasporic agency is shaped by and in turn manipulates the circulation of both cultural and monetary capital. Her talk, “The City and Its Refugees: The Geopolitics of Non-Places in Mohsin Hamid’s How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia and Exit West” is scheduled for Friday September 6, 2019 at 2:30 pm (details here).


Event Details

Yuan Ding (University of Minnesota)

Lecture at the University of Iowa Department of English

"The City and Its Refugees: The Geopolitics of Non-Places in Mohsin Hamid’s How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia and Exit West

Friday, September 6, 2019

2:30 pm, Gerber Lounge (304 EPB)


In this talk, I read two novels by the Pakistani-born writer Mohsin Hamid - How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia (2013) and Exit West (2017) - as postmodern fables of the contemporary migratory experience of the Global South. My reading is informed by anthropologist Marc Augé’s concept of the “non-place,” which describes a space that is not relational, historical, nor concerned with identity, such as taxis, hotels, airports, or refugee camps. The spread of neoliberal economy has driven the proliferation of non-places, the ubiquity of which has fundamentally changed human’s experience of places, from a relation grounded in the familiarity of the local to one superseded by the uncanny recognition-without-identification that typify our modern experience of globality. In this essay, I read the “non-place” as a trope to rethink both current geopolitical theories of migration and the nation-state, as well as to reexamine the locality-based identity politics prominent within Asian American Studies. Set in the “non-place” of anonymous metropolises penetrated by neoliberal technologies, such as advertisements, social media and electronic surveillance, Hamid’s novels imagine new opportunities for place-making under nearly inhuman conditions.

Stephanie Tsank (University of Iowa)

Lecture at the University of Nebraska—Lincoln Department of English

“Inside Mary Johnson’s Mouth: Crane’s Realism and Sensing the Slums in Maggie: A Girl of the Streets

Thursday, September 26, 2019

3:30 pm, Andrews Hall, Bailey Library


Tsank’s talk draws on material from a larger project examining how realist writers use food and the senses to depict immigrant characters and in turn, support constructions (or revisions) of American national identity. Her talk will focus on how Stephen Crane’s Maggie: A Girl of the Streets disrupts traditional sensory hierarchies through Crane’s representation of immigrant bodies, specifically mouths, throats, and teeth.