JN CHIEN
RESEARCH

My dissertation “New Cold War Visuality: U.S., China, and Hong Kong Entanglement Across the Cold War Transpacific” conceptualizes “New Cold War visuality” as a discursive practice that reproduces a distorted vision of contemporary U.S.-China tension as racial and national opposition rather than inter-capitalist competition. Using this concept, this project explores how capitalist domination is obscured by rhetorics of essential, civilizational difference and how art can manifest imaginative and material alternatives.

Bridging Asian American, Transpacific, and Global Asian Studies, "New Cold War Visuality: U.S., China, and Hong Kong Entanglement Across the Cold War Transpacific" is a visual and historical study that takes Hong Kong as a starting point to trace a material history of China’s collaboration with U.S. transpacific imperialism. Each chapter centers on the form and function of a commodity, including Hong Kong-made plastic flowers in 1960s American homes that embodied consumerism dependent on cheap foreign labor; 1980s “McMansions” in Vancouver that were a lightning rod for anxiety over the reversal of capital from Asia to North America; and the transoceanic shipping container that sustains U.S.-China circulation today. These objects both facilitate mutual U.S.-China investment in the global market and become fetishized as avatars of civilizational difference—from “Red Chinese slave labor” to “destructive Asian wealth.”

In seeking alternatives, this project turns to a an archive of Asian/North American artists, including Dinh Q. Lê, Ayumi Goto, Peter Morin, and collective Display Distribute, whose works undercut New Cold War visuality by foregrounding commonalities of dispossession under global capital.



(Image: A Wet Finger in the Air, Tiffany Sia, 2021)