The Subject(s) of Human Rights: Crises, Violations, and Asian/American Critique, Cathy J Schlund-Vials (ed), Guy Beauregard (ed), Hsiu-chuan Lee (ed) (Temple University Press, December 2019)
The Subject(s) of Human Rights: Crises, Violations, and Asian/American Critique, Cathy J Schlund-Vials (ed), Guy Beauregard (ed), Hsiu-chuan Lee (ed) (Temple University Press, December 2019)

Human rights violations have always been part of Asian American studies. From Chinese immigration restrictions, the incarceration of Japanese Americans, yellow peril characterizations, and recent acts of deportation and Islamophobia, Asian Americans have consistently functioned as subordinated “subjects” of human rights violations. The Subject(s) of Human Rights brings together scholars from North America and Asia to recalibrate these human rights concerns from both sides of the Pacific.

As Amaryllis Fox’s memoir opens, she is walking through the back alleys of Karachi when she senses a man following her. What she doesn’t write then is that she has an infant daughter back home in Shanghai, cared for by her CIA undercover agent husband. Fox is also an undercover CIA agent but one who doesn’t travel on diplomatic passports or enjoy the protection or cover of embassies and consulates. These agents operate “in the field” as aid workers or businessman without any hint of government connection. In Fox’s case, her cover is a dealer in Asian, Middle Eastern, and African art.

Surrealism is something of an outlier in mainstream English fiction, yet it seems to crop up with some frequency in contemporary Chinese-language literature, at least in those works that find themselves in English-translation. This penchant for surrealism can seem even more pronounced, or perhaps concentrated, in the wider Chinese world and diaspora: Dorothy Tse, Hon Lai-Chu and Dung Kai-Cheung in Hong Kong and Malaysia’s Ng Kim Chew being among the practitioners. The surrealism central to this newly-translated collection by Ho Sok Fong fits right in.

The great Swiss travel writer Nicolas Bouvier began his career in 1963 with L’Usage du Monde, an account of a journey from Geneva to the Khyber Pass. Published in English as The Way of the World, the book earned him cult status amongst travel-writing aficionados, its distinctive sensibility and supremely elegant prose elevating it well above the myriad other 20th-century travel books featuring well-heeled young Europeans traversing sections of the old Silk Road.

John Oliver has been blamed, among other things, for helping Donald Trump win the 2016 US Presidential race. Rather than dealing with the rise of right-wing populism, liberals like Oliver chose to deride, ridicule and dismiss. Worldwide, liberals are seen as elitists and out of sync with the problems of the common man. In her book Reading India Now: Contemporary Formations in Literature and Popular Culture, Ulka Anjaria approaches the issue through the examples of literature and popular culture produced in India since 2000.