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Department of Humanities and Creative Writing, Hong Kong Baptist University
Transitive Cultures: Anglophone Literature of the Transpacific

This presentation will discuss the major concepts of Dr. Patterson’s book Transitive Cultures: Anglophone Literature of the Transpacific, which traces forms of racial governance from colonial-era racial pluralism to contemporary global multiculturalism through an exploration of Asian migrant narratives from Southeast Asia, Hawaii, and North America. Since the early 1990s, Asian American Studies scholars have often read migrant texts as diasporic, and have seen the Asian migrant as caught between a mythical homeland and an imperial host country. Transitive Cultures seeks to shift from diaspora as a framework that reinstitutes national categories, to instead consider ways of reading migrant texts across nations and diasporic groups, and against the binary of authentic and constructed racial identities. Transitive Cultures thus reframes Asian migrant texts from “diasporic” texts to “transpacific Anglophone” texts in order to archive works deemed "inauthentic" to both nationalist literatures and to American ethnic literatures. These inauthentic texts, I argue, speak to a transnational social formation that sees nationalist racial formations as part of a broader transnational form of “pluralist governmentality.” Rather than contrast the racial tolerance of the host country with the intolerance of the homeland, these migrant stories show how pluralist governmentality, since the colonial era, has relied heavily upon hyper-visible and monolithic racial identities, and has seen the multiplicity of identity, rather than single nationalist identities, as its main organizing logic. In response, these texts work to express “transitive cultures,” cultures defined not by race or origin, but by the shared cultural practice of managing, re-interpreting, and transitioning among imposed racial identities.


Christopher B. Patterson is an Assistant Professor of Humanities and Creative Writing at Hong Kong Baptist University. His research focuses on transpacific discourses of games, literature, and films through the lens of empire studies, Asian American studies, and queer theory. His book, Transitive Cultures: Anglophone Literature of the Transpacific (Rutgers University Press 2018), treats transpacific anglophone literature as an alternative archive for following imperial routes and invoking strategies for everyday oppositions. His articles have appeared in American QuarterlyGames and CultureM.E.L.U.S., and the anthologies Global Asian American Popular Cultures (New York University Press, 2016) and Queer Sex Work (Routledge, 2015). His fiction, published under his alter ego Kawika Guillermo, has appeared in The Cimarron ReviewFeminist StudiesThe Hawai’i Pacific ReviewDrunken Boat and Mothership: Tales from Afrofuturism & Beyond. He writes monthly articles for Anomaly and serves as the Prose Editor for decomP Magazine.