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VIDEO DOI: https://doi.org/10.48448/t43p-ds16

technical paper

AAA Annual Meeting 2021

November 18, 2021

Baltimore, United States

The Post-human Semiotics of Writing





Global crises in recent years, such as climate change and pandemics, impinge on humans to recognize and address the agency of nonhuman things in more nuanced ways. The post- and non-human turns in various disciplines of humanities and social sciences respond with new vocabulary • Jane Bennett (2010)’s distributive agency, Graham Harman (2018)’s objects and Bruno Latour (2005)’s actants, to name only a few. At stake in these lines of inquiry is to explore and theorize new modes of knowing, so as to reconceptualize the relationalities of human and nonhuman things, rethink our past and future, renegotiate the thresholds between the known and the unknown, and re-proliferate in our being and becoming. Under this light, new ethics of responsibility/response-ability (Eva Hayward, 2010) • the moral, the affective and the sensual • is emerging. This panel engages in and responds to this urgent global inquiry by re-exploring our knowledge of “writing” in East Asian context. As both graphing performance and written graphs, writing affords intricate relations with East Asian histories and cultures, which offers both theoretical capacities and cases for more studies. We ask, when writing redefines our bodily experience and renegotiates our relations with others in the digital age, how could East Asian scholars rethink, reveal and re-vitalize the nonhuman agency? And how does our re-engagement facilitate and/or contribute to the social movements that confront global crises? While Xuefeng Feng shows, through the making of the White-haired Goddess in the 1940s China, how writing as knowing-doing and knowing-caring prompts us to rethink the categorizations of epistemology, ontology and ethics, Katja Pettinen critiques the glorification of writing as an example of the human exceptionalist thinking. Drawing from Japanese Writing System and Peircean semiotics, Pettinen shows the continuity in sign-making systems beyond human communication and urges us to revise our narratives on writing. The other two papers in the panel turn to cyber writings in contemporary China. Dongchen Hou analyzes the digital writing spectacles that gathers both human and nonhuman agencies to know the disappearing reality amid the COVID-19 pandemic as netizens’ creative response to China’s authoritarian governance. Xuefei Ma and David Pietz, however, highlight the paradox of cyber activism in China’s power-inflected networks. Through online memorials on the extinction of the Chinese fresh-water dolphins, Ma and Pietz propose “writing (like) a mermaid” as an analytical tool on the emerging cyber subjectivity and its response-ability to both human and nonhuman societies. As a group of scholars with keen research interests on East Asia, this panel offers insights on our understanding of writing from semiotic, technological, sociopolitical, aesthetic and philosophical perspectives. In the critical moment of global crises, we explore new modes of being response-able in transspecies encounters and transindividual becomings, as well as conceptualizing new citizenship for “rediscovering the city as an objective reality rather than merely as a tool for living” (Hai Ren, 2020).


Transcript English (automatic)

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Writing (like) a Mermaid: Becoming-woman, Becoming-mermaid and the Chinese Cyber Response-ability
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AAA Annual Meeting 2021

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