Worlding the Pacific Rim:
Reframing Asia & Pacific Poetics
(May-June, 2011)

Instructor: Rob Wilson

Wednesdays (4, 11, 18, 25 May, and 1, 8 June) 3-5 pm
Room 113G, Main Building, HKU

Workshop Themes & Tactics

Themes or problems of Pacific Rim discourse we will encounter as a poetics and a politics include the following spatial, temporal, self, and worlding transformations in our era of amplified global and local interaction:

*the shrinkage of space and speeding up of time;
*disorientation/exhilaration of consciousness at this more borderless state of globalized being;
*increasing hybridity of cultural forms and life styles;
*a lost sense of place and community of fixed belonging;
*technological exhilaration and/or disorientation;
*globalized flows and movements changing locality and self into something drenched with futuristic possibility;
*social class and cultural capital imbalances;
*the disappearance or sublation of the Pacific Islander peoples;
*‘post-orientalist’ modes of overcoming the East-West binary (particularly between China and the USA);
*Oceania as a networked transnational framework of ecological interaction.
*possibilities of ecological catastrophe or green-based transformation;
*utopic visions of global unity beyond ideological or racial division. 


Workshop Description

In studying various spatial, temporal, and world-making practices, we will examine the rise of the Pacific Rim as regional idea and fantasy formation: its historical background, ideological assumptions, and cultural-political manifestations, from the 1970s to the present. Expressive constructions (from works of critical theory to poems, memoirs, novels, and travelogues) will help us to construct, grasp, and critique the Pacific Rim as world region.

This workshop thus examines spatial, temporal, and worlding practices generated around the geo-material reality and shifting figurations of the Pacific Rim as an imagined transnational community: tracking its historical emergence, ideological assumptions, and cultural manifestations. "Other Asias" and "Oceania" will be discussed as "worlding" challenges to the ascendancy of the Pacific Rim as geoimaginary norm.

Moving beyond its perilous geographical materiality as geo-tectonic plate and tsunami site, "Pacific Rim" serves to link transnationalizing economies of

globalization from Australasia, north to Japan and China, around the Pacific Basin to the coasts of North and South America. All the more so tied to inter-Asia and trans-Pacific flows, sites of concentrated globalization like Hong Kong, Honolulu, and San Francisco become Rim sites expressing these altered transpacific flows and contradictory tensions of cross-border globalization.


NOTE: Syllabus readings are subject to be amplified, cut, and/or changed by suggestions and presentations from workshop participants as we proceed.


Week One: Genealogies of the Pacific Rim: Globalizing Asia-Pacific into a Transnational Community (Suggested Readings: Christopher Leigh Connery, "Pacific Rim Discourse" [essay]; Arif Dirlik, "Asia Pacific Studies in an Age of Global Modernity" [essay]; Teresia K. Teiawa, "bikinis and other s/pacific n/oceans" [essay]; Cathy Park Hong, "Adventures in Shangdu" [poem]; John Pule, "I look at a map of the Pacific' [poem]).

Week Two: Worlding Practices in Asia/Pacific: Towards a Counter-Poetics of Space, Time, and World (Suggested Readings: selected essays from The Worlding Project; Carl Schmitt, selections from Land and Sea; Houston Wood, Cultural Studies for Oceania).

Week Three: Other Asias, Oceania as Regional Imaginary (Suggested Readings: Kuan-Hsing Chen, introduction to Asia as Method; Gayatri Spivak, a chapter from Other Asias [critical theory]; Epeli Hau'ofa, "Our Sea of Islands" [essay] and a short story from Tales of the Tikongs).

Week Four: Hong Kong as Global/Local Space and Pacific Rim Nexus (Suggested Readings: Pico Iyer, from Global Soul [travelogue]; Xu Xi, from Evanescent Isles: From My City-Village [memoir]; Meaghan Morris, on martial arts pedagogy in The Worlding Project [essay]; Rob Wilson, "Globalization, Spectral Aesthetics, and the Global Soul" [essay]).

Week Five: California Dreaming: Unlearning US Pacific Ascendancy (Suggested Readings: Bruce Cumings, from Dominion from Sea to Sea: Pacific Ascendancy and American Power [history]; Rob Wilson, "Spectral San Francisco" [essay]; Karen Tei Yamashita, chapter from I-Hotel [novel]).

Week Six: China Futures: Nixon in China, Maxine Hong Kingston on the Chinese American Rim (Suggested Readings: from John Adams/ Alice Goodman, Nixon In China [opera]; Maxine Hong Kingston, from I Love a Broad Margin to My Life [long poem]; Bruce Cumings, on US/China from Dominion from Sea to Sea: Pacific Ascendancy and American Power [history]; from special issue of boundary 2 on "China After Thirty Years of Reform" by Arif Dirlik and Kam Louie [essays]).


Rob Wilson is a Western Connecticut native who was educated at the University of California at Berkeley, where he received a doctorate in English in 1976 and was founding editor of the Berkeley Poetry Review. He taught for many years in the English Department at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa (which proved formative to his own development as scholar and poet of Asia/Pacific becoming) and at Korea University in Seoul as a Fulbright professor, and was twice a National Science Council visiting professor at National Tsing Hua University in Taiwan. In 2001, he became a professor of transnational/postcolonial literatures at the University of California at Santa Cruz. In the summer of 2009, he team-taught a summer seminar (with Chadwick Allen) at National Sun Yat-sen University in Taiwan on Pacific Cultural Production, counter-conversion, and the ecological framework of "Oceania."

Advisory editor for boundary 2 and Inter-Asia Cultural Studies journals among others, his earlier works include Waking In Seoul; American Sublime; Asia/Pacific as Space of Cultural Production; Global/Local: Cultural Production and the Transnational Imaginary; Inside Out: Literature, Cultural Politics and the New Pacific; and Reimagining the American Pacific: From 'South Pacific' to Bamboo Ridge and Beyond. His study Be Always Converting, Be Always Converted: An American Poetics appeared with Harvard University Press in 2009 and was selected by Choice as an Outstanding Academic Publication. A collection of cultural criticism from
Asia/Pacific (co-edited with Christopher Connery) The Worlding Project: Doing Cultural Studies in the Era of Globalization appeared with New Pacific Press/ North Atlantic Books in 2007; and Beat Attitudes: On the Roads to Beatitude for Post-Beat Writers, Dharma Bums, and Cultural-Political Activists was published by New Pacific Press in December, 2010.


WEB links

For Author's Page, see:

For some archival web links to his work as scholar and poet, see:



Last updated: 15 July 2011