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Nicholas Y. H. Wong


Nic Wong is a literary historian of Southeast Asian Chinese writing. Nic holds a PhD in Comparative Literature from the University of Chicago, and a BA in Comparative Literature and Society from Columbia University in the City of New York. At the Society of Fellows, he will use his time to complete his book, Resource Extraction and Decolonial Literary-Intellectual Chinese Thought from the Malay Peninsula, which examines the impact of tin and rubber on the Malay Peninsula and the aesthetic forms of minority relations and differences they generate in Chinese-language writing. In short, he is writing a materialist and geoeconomic history of Mahua literature and intellectual culture. His research has been supported by the Social Science Research Council and the Chiang Ching-Kuo Foundation.

During his Lee Kong Chian Research Fellowship at the National Library Singapore in 2018, he did archival research into the Nanyang (or Southeast Asian) historian Hsu Yun-Tsiao’s unpublished diaries, written in classical Chinese in Patani, Siam during the 1930s. Topics he has written on include the Mahua writer Ng Kim Chew’s literary ties with the Chinese philologist Zhang Taiyan (for which he received a best paper prize at the 2017 Association of Asian Studies conference); modernist poetry and translation in Mahua literature; Transpacific poetics. In Spring 2021, he taught a course with the department of Comparative Literature, titled “Fiction and Film in Contemporary Chinese Societies,” which examines “contemporary Chinese societies” through the postwar landscape of global capitalism and decolonization.


Nic also translates fiction, writes poetry and review essays under his pen name Zhou Sivan. His three poetry chapbooks largely concern the inscription of human desire and movement across natural surfaces. Zero Copula (Delete Press, 2015) thinks about breath-lines within an adapted sonnet form. Sea Hypocrisy (co-published by DoubleCross Press and Projective Industries, 2016) responds to state policies and media reports on migrants and refugees. The Geometry of Trees (Sputnik & Fizzle, forthcoming) considers trees and humans in medieval and contemporary literary settings. He likes to translate works in which protagonists cross real or imagined borders and transform how we think about genres and belonging. They include the Hui Chinese writer Zhang Chengzhi’s speech; the Hong Kong writer A Leng’s Cantonese-Mandarin speculative fiction; a Chinese cultural critic’s essay on the 1980s; the Taiwanese writer Huang Chong-kai’s novel about Cuba. Some of the above-mentioned works can be found in journals such as Almost Island, Asian American Writers’ Workshop (The Margins and Transpacific Literary Project), Asymptote, Chicago Review, Kisah Journal, Lana Turner, and Renditions.


Research and Teaching Interests


Media and modernity in China and Southeast Asia; global Chinese literatures; resource extraction literary politics; Chinese-English translation; transnationalism and diaspora; poetry and poetics


Publications (Selected)

(forthcoming). “Nonimperial Geohistorical Categories of Nanyang Studies and Mahua Literature”

2019. “The Imaginative Materialism of Wen in Ng Kim Chew’s Malayan Communist Writing.” Chinese Literature: Essays, Articles, Reviews (CLEAR) 40, pp. 163–198

2019. “Thai, Chinese and Malay Modern: Civilisational and Textual Discourses in Hsu Yun-Tsiao’s 1933 Diaries in Patani.” Chapters on Asia: Selected Papers from the Lee Kong Chian Research Fellowship, National Library Singapore, pp. 49–70

2017. Co-author, “Mahua Modernist Poetry as a Translational Practice.” Full Stop Quarterly, August 2017. pp. 19–29

2016. “Review of Ito Hiromi’s Wild Grass on the Riverbank.” Chicago Review 59:4/60:1, pp. 241–44

    ​[See profile for PDF copies]

Translations (Selected)


(forthcoming). Huang Chong-kai 黃崇凱. “Ramón, Adolfo, Ernesto, and Che” <拉蒙、阿道弗、埃內斯托還有切> . Introduction and English translation of chapter excerpt from the Taiwanese writer’s novel The Formosa Exchange 《新寶島》(2021), Renditions



Lectures and Presentations (Selected)


Apr 2021. Presentation. “Staying Put or Running Away: Economic Migrants in Mahua Literature.” “Multisensory Dissent and Alliance Building: The Inaugural Biennial Conference of the Society of Sinophone Studies (SSS),” University of Southern California


Dec 2020. Lecture. “Ritual Time, Secular Democracy: On Literary Depictions of Chinese and Indian Popular Religions in Malaysia.” Hong Kong Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences, HKU


Oct 2020. Lecture. “Manufacturing Childhood in Hong Kong: Literature in the Kingdom of Plastic Toys.” Center for the Study of Globalization and Cultures, HKU


Sep 2020. Presentation. “Creolizing Desire in Sino-Malay Translations: Their Colonial, Diasporic, National, and International Contexts.” AAS-in-Asia, Kobe


Sep 2019. Lecture. “Rights Talk in Hong Kong Cinema.” The University of Chicago Francis and Rose Yuen Campus in Hong Kong

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