Sören Urbansky on "Yellow Perils: China Narratives in the Contemporary World"


In collaboration with Brazos Bookstore and the University of Houston Honors College

Yellow Perils

Images courtesy of the author.

Please note that this program takes place offsite at Brazos Bookstore, 2421 Bissonnet Street.

China's meteoric rise and ever-expanding economic and cultural footprint have been accompanied by widespread global disquiet. Whether admiring or alarmist, media discourse and representations of China often tap into the myths and prejudices that emerged through specific historical encounters. These deeply embedded anxieties have shown great resilience, as in recent media treatments of SARS and the H5N1 virus, which echoed past believes connecting China and disease. Popular perceptions of Asia, too, continue to be framed by entrenched racial stereotypes: its people are unfathomable, exploitative, cunning, or excessively hardworking. This interdisciplinary collection of original essays offers a broad view of the mechanics that underlie Yellow Peril discourse by looking at its cultural deployment and repercussions worldwide.

Building on the richly detailed historical studies already published in the context of the United States and Europe, contributors to Yellow Perils confront the phenomenon in Italy, Australia, South Africa, Nigeria, Mongolia, Hong Kong, and China itself. With chapters based on archival material and interviews, the collection supplements and often challenges superficial journalistic accounts and top-down studies by economists and political scientists. Yellow Peril narratives, contributors find, constitute cultural vectors of multiple kinds of anxieties, spanning the cultural, racial, political, and economic. Indeed, the emergence of the term "Yellow Peril" in such disparate contexts cannot be assumed to be singular, to refer to the same fears, or to revolve around the same stereotypes. The discourse, even when used in reference to a single country like China, is therefore inherently fractured and multiple.

The term "Yellow Peril" may feel unpalatable and dated today, but the ethnographic, geographic, and historical breadth of this collection — experiences of Chinese migration and diaspora, historical reflections on the discourse of the Yellow Peril in China, and contemporary analyses of the global reverberation of China's economic rise — offer a unique overview of the ways in which anti-Chinese narratives continue to play out in today's world.

Program attendance is free. Copies of the book will be available for purchase at the event venue, Brazos Bookstore.

About the Author

Soren Urbansky

Sören Urbansky is a research fellow at the German Historical Institute (GHI) in Washington, DC. He is a historian of Russia and China in the modern era, specializing in imperial and racial entanglements, emigration, and the history of borders. Before he joined the GHI in 2018, he taught Chinese and Russian history at the Universities of Munich and Freiburg and was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Cambridge. He is the author of Kolonialer Wettstreit: Russland, China, Japan und die Ostchinesische Eisenbahn (Frankfurt: Campus, 2008) and Beyond the Steppe Hill: The Making of the Sino-Russian Border (Princeton: Princeton University Press, forthcoming in 2019). He is currently embarking on a new project that examines anti-Chinese sentiments in a global perspective.

Asia Society Texas Center Business & Policy Programs, Endowed by

Huffington Foundation

Business and Policy programs at Asia Society Texas Center are presented by Bank of America, Muffet Blake, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, and United Airlines. Major support comes from Nancy C. Allen, Chinhui Juhn and Eddie Allen, Nancy Pollok Guinee, and Mary Lawrence Porter, as well as The Brown Foundation, Inc. and Houston Endowment. Additional funding is provided by the Friends of Asia Society Texas Center, a dedicated group of individuals and organizations committed to bringing the best in public programming.

Presenting Sponsors

B&P sponsors

Presenting Partners


Brazos Bookstore UH Honors

Event Details

Fri 08 Mar 2019
7 - 8:30 p.m.

Brazos Bookstore

2421 Bissonnet Street

Houston, Texas 77005

Free and open to the public
Add to Calendar 20190309T010000 20190309T023000 UTC Asia Society: Sören Urbansky on "Yellow Perils: China Narratives in the Contemporary World" Brazos Bookstore 2421 Bissonnet Street Houston, Texas 77005