Kent Hall Room 403, Columbia University, New York, NY 10027
Chinese Literature and Culture
Institute for Comparative Literature and Society
Center for the Study of Social Difference
Weatherhead East Asian Institute
Huang Lin Fund
East Asian Languages and Cultures Department
Today, we invoke the Silk Road as an interconnected antiquity before globalization. This talk approaches the Silk Road as a modern idea–as a term that was first coined by a German geographer in 1877, but whose significance lies within a more global history of contestatory narratives about antiquity. During the Cold War, China resignified the Silk Road/ 丝绸之路 as the ancient prefiguration of its Non-Aligned diplomacy with the decolonized world. The Silk Road became part of a larger Afro-Asian area studies framework through which Chinese and Afro-Asian historians and writers spatially re-organized China’s connected past. China’s Afro-Asian Silk Road differed from the Euro-Asian Silk Road of the West and Japan. This account argues the need to pay greater attention to the inherited frameworks and rhetorical tropes with which we narrate the connected past.