01/26/2024 Yeti Kang

PhD Student, Divinity School

Derrida and Chinese Grammatology: from writing as supplement to the surplus of wen

Time: January 26th, 3-5pm

Location: Center for East Asian Studies 319 (1155 E. 60th St)


Jacques Derrida’s 2001 visit to China was overshadowed by one of his controversial remarks: “China does not have any philosophy, only thought 中國沒有哲學,只有思想.” This statement, coupled with his exclusion of Chinese writing from the history of philosophy in Of Grammatology, incited a substantial and ongoing debate regarding the “legitimacy of Chinese philosophy.” Simultaneously, there has been a growing scholarly inclination to disengage Chinese philosophy and language from the influences of post-structuralism, exploring new approaches to the decentering of Sinology and Chinese philosophy beyond the “Chinese/West distinction” (Klein 2022). If not rooted in the “Chinese/West distinction,” what defines the decentering of Chinese philosophy? To explore this central question, this paper begins with the problems exposed in Derrida’s treatment of China: what is exactly problematic with Derrida’s approach to Chinese writing and how does it impede a positive, constructive understanding of Chinese philosophy and language?

This paper unfolds through the trajectory of “Chinese grammatology,” a concept introduced by Yurou Zhong (Zhong 2019), which denotes a positive science of Chinese writing, concurrently resonating with Derrida’s grammatology while criticizing it. In line with Zhong’s effort to provide an alternative to Derrida’s idea of writing as “originary supplement,” this paper ventures into the realm of “the surplus of writing” in the evolution of Chinese characters. It delves into the history of Chinese grammatology, epitomized through the critical lineage of three crucial figures: Xu Shen 許慎, Zheng Qiao 鄭樵, and Tang Lan 唐蘭. In doing so, this paper uncovers pathways for understanding history and metaphysics through a grammatology that endorses a recursive progression of the xuan 玄, encompassing both Derrida’s grammatology and Chinese grammatology under a mysterious and decentered version of sino-logy and zhong-guo philosophy.

Presenter: Yeti Kang is a second-year PhD student at the University of Chicago Divinity School. His work aims to contribute to the ongoing discussions in philosophy, religion, and media & technology studies by exploring how different cultural and philosophical traditions have approached issues of writing, intelligence, and communication.

Discussant: Tyler Neenan is a PhD candidate at the University of Chicago Divinity School. Tyler’s work, which is first and foremost comparative, is concerned with both convergent and divergent figures of negativity and paradox (弔詭思想)—from Zhuangzi through Song Dynasty Buddhist thought, from Kant and Hegel through Freud, Deleuze and Lacan. He is in the earliest stages of writing a dissertation tentatively entitled “Paradox and its Defenses in the Thought of Jingjue Renyue 淨覺仁岳,” the once fiercely loyal disciple of Siming Zhli 四明智禮—turned patricidal renegade, who one day “awoke as if from a dream” (恍如夢覺) and “suddenly denounced his every prior conviction” (向之所學皆非).

01/19/2024 Dr. Graeme R. Reynolds, Mock Job Talk

Postdoctoral Instructor, History

From Restricted Access to Published Archive:

The Circulation and Reception of Official Histories of Koryŏ in Chosŏn (1392–1910)


Time: January 19th, 4-6pm

Location: Center for East Asian Studies 319 (1155 E. 60th St)

Description of the Talk:

This presentation explores the publication and circulation of two official court histories of Koryŏ (918–1392) compiled in early Chosŏn (1392–1910): the History of Koryŏ (Koryŏsa) and the Essentials of Koryŏ History (Koryŏsa chŏryo). While both works are important historical sources today, the methods and motives of reproduction of each history led to an uneven temporal and geographical distribution, impacting how Chosŏn literati read and wrote histories outside of the court. In particular, the widespread publication of a previously restricted source in the form of the History of Koryŏ spurred new ventures in private history writing in late Chosŏn.

For this mock job talk, I would appreciate any feedback on my presentation style, errors in the talk, points that were not clear, and the like. I especially would appreciate insights and Q&A from non-historians or non-Koreanists, as the job talk is to be held at a Languages and Civilizations department where there are few historians and at present no other Koreanists.



Graeme R. Reynolds Ph. D. is a postdoctoral instructor in History at the University of Chicago. He is a cultural and intellectual historian of early modern Korea with interests in the production and circulation of knowledge, the history of the book, and historiography.

01/12/2024 Yuanxie Shi

Ph. D. Candidate, EALC

From A Handkerchief to A Global History of Chinese Lacemaking

Time: January 5th (Fri), 3-5pm

Location: Center for East Asian Studies 319 (1155 E. 60th St)


Abstract: The dissertation examines the export lacemaking industry and the appropriation of rural female labor in Chaozhou and Shantou under the Socialist regime. This chapter provides a historical and material background to the topic and explains why lacemaking, this seemingly arcane topic, is important for understanding the global history of handicrafts in the twentieth century, and more specifically the trade between China and the West.

Presenter: Yuanxie Shi is a PhD candidate in East Asian Languages and Civilizations with a research interest in craft and technology, gender and work, and socioeconomic history in China and beyond.

Discussant: Robert Merges is a Ph.D. student in History at the University of Chicago

Winter 2024 Schedule

The Arts and Politics of East Asia Workshop (APEA) is pleased to announce our schedule for the Winter 2024 Quarter. All events will meet from 3:00 to 5:00pm at the Center for East Asian Studies 319 (1155 E. 60th St.), unless otherwise noticed. As usual, we will send reminder emails with information for the exact time and location prior to every workshop session, along with the link to the pre-circulation materials. For potential meetings via Zoom, we will send the registration link prior to the workshop session. Please join our mailing list to receive event notifications.


January 12th (online)

Yuanxie Shi, Ph. D. Candidate, EALC

“Lacemaking Ecology and Lacemakers’ Community”

Discussant: Robert Merges, Ph. D. Student, History


January 19th, 4-6pm (in-person)

Graeme R. Reynolds Ph. D., Postdoctoral Instructor, History

Mock Job Talk:

“From Restricted Access to Published Archive: The Circulation and Reception of Official Histories of Koryŏ in Chosŏn (1392–1910)”


January 26th (in-person)

Yeti Kang, Ph. D. Student, Divinity School

“Derrida and Chinese Grammatology: from writing as supplement to the surplus of wen 文”

Discussant: Tyler Neenan, Ph. D. Candidate, Divinity School


February 9th (in-person)

Susanna Sun, Ph. D. Student, EALC & TAPS

“‘Neither Horse nor Donkey’: Nationalization of Voice at Shanghai Music Conservatory in 1958”

Discussant: Jacob Reed, Ph. D. Candidate, Music

★Co-sponsored by the Music and Sound Workshop★


February 23th (in-person)

Nick Ogonek, Ph. D. Candidate, EALC

“Staying Awhile on BL Planet: Genre, Fantasy, and Role-Play in Asahara Naoto’s Kanojo ga suki na mono wa homo de atte boku de wa nai

Discussant: Jiarui Sun, Ph. D. Student, EALC


March 1st (in-person)

Rina Sugawara, Ph. D. Candidate, Music

“Samurai to Composer: Ozaki Sōkichi ca. 1937”

Discussant: Hoyt Long Ph. D., Professor of Japanese Literature and East Asian Languages and Civilizations


Coordinators: James Kennerly and Danlin Zhang, EALC

Faculty Sponsors: Professor Paola Iovene and Professor Melissa Van Wyk


Please do not hesitate to contact Danlin (danlinz@uchicago.edu) or James (kennerly@uchicago.edu) if you have any questions. We look forward to seeing you at this quarter’s events!