Recovering First Patients: De-perilizing the Anglophone Pandemic Archive on SARS

As the first global pandemic of the 21st century, the 2003 SARS outbreak was as an uncanny precursor to the current COVID-19 pandemic. Who were its first patients, how were they narrated by the anglophone media, and what alternative archives can we look to to reconstruct their stories? Focusing on three SARS index cases—the first patients in China, Hong Kong, and Singapore—this talk examines anglophone formations of sinophobic racism and bioorientalism as they intersect with contemporary global discourses of infectious disease crisis.

Belinda Kong is John F. and Dorothy H. Magee Associate Professor of Asian Studies and English at Bowdoin College. She is author of Tiananmen Fictions Outside the Square: The Chinese Literary Diaspora and the Politics of Global Culture (Temple University Press 2012) and is working on a new book project, What Lived Through SARS: Chronicles of Pandemic Resilience, which examines global pandemic discourses around the 2003 SARS epidemic, with focus on everyday cultures of epidemic life that emerged from the outbreak’s epicenters in China and Hong Kong.

This talk is part of the Rethinking World Literature: China as Method workshop series, sponsored by the Asian Cosmopolitanisms Lab of IHGC at the University of Virginia

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