Haosheng Yang-Conference Presentation

Dr. Haosheng YangThe virtual conference event “Alternative East Asian Modernity” was hosted by the International Center for Studies of Chinese Civilization in Fudan University, China on October 24, 2020.

About 120 people were in attendance. Dr. Haosheng Yang was invited to give a talk about her current research on colonial modernity in wartime East Asia.

Entitled “Songs Transcending Boundaries: Li Xianglan and Popular Culture in Wartime East Asia,” her talk examined the production and reception of the Manchurian-born Japanese singer and actress Yamagushi Yoshiko’s phenomenal songs in Manchukuo, Japan, and Shanghai in the 1930s and ’40s, with the purpose of illuminating how colonial modernity has evolved from and into unique forms in Japanese-controlled East Asia during the wartime. It argued that identity construction was especially ambiguous in the “gray zone” of occupied regions, where patriotic ideals often yielded to stern reality, and weakness and compromise were mixed with human dignity and moral courage. In the frustrating wartime, music was manipulated and exploited, but it exerted influence over audiences not necessarily as the authority and media corporations assumed. Japan’s self-entitlement for modernity in Asia through cultural assimilation was in fact contested by the boundary-crossing music production and reception in colonized Manchukuo and Shanghai.