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E.K. Tan

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Associate Professor
Ph.D. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2007.
Also affiliated with:  Asian and Asian American Studies 
Intersection of Anglophone and Sinophone literature, cinema, and culture from Southeast Asia; diaspora studies; postcolonial studies; world literature and cinema; theories of cultural translation; Global Asia; Queer Asia; critical theory; film theory
Humanities 1093

View CV 

  • Biography

    E.K. Tan is Associate Professor of Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies in the Department of English, and Asian and Asian American Studies. He received his Ph.D. in Comparative and World Literature from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He specializes in the intersection of Anglophone and Sinophone literature, cinema, and culture from Southeast Asia, postcolonial studies, diaspora studies, film theory, queer Asian studies, and world literature and cinema.

    His first book  Rethinking Chineseness: Translational Sinophone Identities in the Nanyang Literary World  examines the relationship between the Nanyang Chinese, their original homelands (Borneo, Malaysia and Singapore), and their imaginary homeland (China) through the works of Anglophone and Sinophone writers such as Kuo Pao Kun (郭寶崑), Zhang Guixing (張貴興) and Vyvyane Loh(羅惠賢). The manuscript identifies the methods with which these writers have reclaimed a sense of belonging to their homelands by destabilizing the notion of Chineseness. It argues that, as a Sinophone culture, the Nanyang Chinese identity is translatable, translational and relational as it traverses between the local and the global.

  • Publications


    Rethinking Chineseness: Translational Sinophone Identities in the Nanyang Literary World . Amherst, NY: Cambria Press (Sinophone World Series), 2013.


    “Sinopop: The Case of Namewee/Wee Meng Chee’s Popular Music” Sinoglossia. Eds. Andrea Bachner, Howard Chiang, and Yu-lin Lee. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press. (Under Review)

    “Transcultural Adaptation of the Unknown Woman: Chronotope and Transtextuality in the Repositioning of the Female Subject in Xu Jinglei’s A Letter From an Unknown Woman.Gender and Chinese Cinema: New Interventions. Eds. Mary Anne Doane and Lingzhen Wang. New York: Columbia University Press. (Forthcoming)

    “A Rhizomic Account of Heritage Language.” The Routledge Handbook of Migration and Language. Ed. Suresh Canagarajah . New York: Routledge, 2017. 468–485.

    「南洋」文学と中国的なもの [Nanyang Literature and Chineseness] Asteion. 特集 中国を超える華人文学 [Special Issue: Chinese Language Literature]. 87 (2017): 76–88. (Translated to Japanese by journal)

    “1945, August 29: The Enigma of Yu Dafu and Nanyang Literature.” Harvard Literary History of Modern China . Ed. David Der-wei Wang. Harvard University Press. 2017. 517–522.

    “Of Language and Beyond: Enoch Ng Kwang Cheng, firstfruits, and Singapore Literature” Singapore Literature and Culture . Eds. Angelia Poon and Angus Whitehead. New York, Routledge, 2017. 114–134.

    From Exile to Homecoming: Chen Xue’s A Wife’s Diary .” Oxford Handbook of Modern Chinese Literatures. Eds. Andrea Bachner and Carlos Rojas. New York: Oxford University Press. 2016. 779–796.

    In Search of New Forms: Impact of Bilingual Policy and ‘Speak Mandarin’ Campaign on Sinophone Singapore Poetry Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies. Special Issue: Singapore at 50: At the Intersections of Neoliberal Globalization and Postcoloniality on Singapore, 18.4 (2016): 526–542.

    “Cong faiyu Zhongguo xiaoshuo dao huayu Faguo dianying: chongsu Dai sijie Baer zhake yu xiao caifeng butong xushu muoshi de duihua duixiang”(从法语中国小说到华语法国电影:重塑戴思杰《巴尔扎克和中国小裁缝》不同叙述模式的对话对象)[From French Chinese Novel to Chinese French Film: Reshaping the Address of Dai Sijie’s Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress Across Narrative Forms]. Trans. Yuan Guangtao and An Ning 袁广涛、安宁. Huawen wenxue(华文文学)[ Journal of World Chinese Literature (China)] 6 (December 2013): 62–66.

    Sinophone Studies: Rethinking Overseas Chinese Studies and Chinese Diaspora Studies Sun Yat-Sen Journal of Humanities. Special Issue on Sinophone Studies. 35 (July 2013): 1­–26.

    “A Queer Journey Home in Solos: Rethinking Kinship in Neo-Confucian Singapore.” Queer Sinophone Cultures . Eds. Howard Chiang and Larissa Heinrich. New York: Routledge, 2013. 130­–146 

    “Transcending Multiracialism: Kuo Pao Kun’s Multilingual Play Mama Looking for Her Cat and the Concept of Open Culture.” Sinophone Studies: A Critical Reader . Eds. Shu-mei Shih, Brian Bernards and Chien-hsin Tsai. New York: Columbia University Press, 2013. 315­–24.

    “Almodóvar in Asia: Hong Kong, Taiwan and LGBT Film Culture.” A Companion to the Cinema of Pedro Almodóvar . Eds. Marvin D’Lugo and Kathleen M. Vernon. Blackwell Publishing, 2013. 453–67.

    “Huayu yuxi yanjiu: haiwai huaren yu lisan huren yanjiu zi fansi”( 華語語系研究:海外華人與離散華人研究之反思 )[Sinophone Studies: Rethinking Overseas Chinese Studies and Chinese Diaspora Studies]. Zhongguo xiandai wenxue (中國現代文學) [ Journal of Modern Chinese Literature (Taiwan)] 22 (Winter 2012): 41–58.

    “Recuperating Displacement: The Search for Alternative Narratives in Malaysian-Chinese Director Tsai Ming-liang’s The Hole and What Time is it There? Dekalog 4: On East Asian Filmmakers . (May 2012): 93–106.

    Hong Kong Cinema and Its Portrayal of the Nanyang Chinese in the 1950s and 1960s .” Journal of Chinese Cinemas 4.2 (2010): 155–68.

    “Film: East Asia and Oceania” The Greenwood Encyclopedia of World Popular Culture. Eds. Gary Hoppenstand, Gary Xu and Vinay Dharwadker. Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 2007 (2008 Ray and Browne Award for Best Reference/Primary Sources Collection)

    “Overriding Identity Politics with Affect in Ayub Khan-din’s Film East is East.” Interactions: Aegean Journal of English and American Studies. 15.2 (Fall 2006): 125–36.

    “From French Chinese Novel to Chinese French Film: Reshaping the Address of Dai Sijie’s Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress Across Narrative Forms.” From Camera Lens to Critical Lens: A Collection of Best Essays on Film Adaptation. Ed. Rebecca Housel. Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Press, 2006. 160–9.


    「歐羅巴的前生今世」“Was Will Europa.” Trans. E.K. Tan. 《齊澤克跨文化讀本》 The Cross-culture Zizek Reader. Ed. Gary G. Xu. Shanghai: Shanghai renmin chubanshe, December 2011. 


    Review of Petrus Liu, Queer Marxism in Two Chinas in Chinese Literature: Essays, Articles, Reviews. 38: 2016, 199–202.

    The Art of Pushing Boundaries and Toeing the Line .” Review of Lynette J. Chua, Mobilizing Gay Singapore: Rights and Resistance in an Authoritarian State in GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, 23(2): 2017, 282–285.

    Review of Eng-Beng Lim, Brown Boys and Rice Queens: Spellbinding Performance in the Asias; Purnima Mankekar and Louisa Schein (Eds.), Media, Erotics, and Transnational Asia; Howard Chiang, Transgender China in Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 40, no. 3 (Spring 2015): 773–779.

    Review of Wen Jin, Pluralist Universalism: An Asian Americanist Critique of U.S. and Chinese Multiculturalisms in Modern Chinese Literature and Culture (2014),

    Review of Jing Tsu, Sight and Sound in China Diaspora in Chinese Literature: Essays, Articles, Reviews 35 (2013): 236­–240.

    “Rice Rhapsody.” Asian Media Education Service Newsletter. Winter 2006. Illinois: Center for East Asian and Pacific Studies at UIUC, 2006. 4–5.

  • Current Research

    His current book project, Queer Homecoming in Sinophone Cultures: Translocal Remapping of Kinship, proposes the concept of “queer homecoming” as a critical intervention to the normative patrilineal kinship structure in Sinophone societies defined by traditional family values, such as those of Confucianism. The project argues that queer homecoming as intervention to heteronormative kinship system enables the articulations of alternative kinship structures in mainstream cultural expressions (in literature, film, social and new media) to destabilize the fixity of the myth of consanguinity among Sinophone communities in Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan. By rethinking the various implications of concepts such as the familiar and the familial to Sinophone kinship and queer subjects, this project explores how queerness and queer identities can unsettle the dominant discourse of heternormative kinship system and its marginalization of minority groups such as the LGBT communities in Sinophone societies.

    He is in the beginning stage of researching on a third project tentatively titled Mandarinization and Its Impact on Sinophone Cultural Production: A Transcolonial Comparison of Ethnic China, Singapore and Taiwan . This project aims to study how the process of Mandarinization in postwar Singapore, Taiwan, and China shapes the cultural history and identity of Sinophone communities through language and ethnic policies. By examining the “Bilingual Education Policy” and “Speak More Mandarin, Less Dialect Campaign” (“多讲华语,少说方言”) in Post-Independence Singapore, the “National Language Movement” (國語運動) in martial law Taiwan, and the “Nationality Policy of Cultural Amalgamation” (融合政策) for ethnic China, such as the PRC Xingjian Autonomous Region, the project hopes to offer a transcolonial critique of the kind of cultural homogenization produced by the promotion and standardization of Mandarin as the de facto language of Sinophone communities across the globe.

  • Courses Taught

    Courses Taught:


    Introduction to Film Genres

    Introduction to Film History

    Introduction to World Literature

    Theorizing Cinema and Culture

    Comparative Asian Literature

    Comparative Asian Cinema

    Adaptation, Appropriation, and Intertextuality

    Graduate Seminar

    Postcolonial and Diaspora Theories

    Traveling People, Traveling Cultures,

    History of Cultural Studies

    The Postcolonial Moment and After

    Theories of Comparative Literature

    Cultural Translation—Contact, Exchange, Co-figuration

    Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies Methodology

  • Awards, Grants, Honors

    Presidential Mini-Grant for Departmental Diversity Initiatives, 2017–2018 (Co-PI–Dr. Mireille Rebeiz)

    Project Title: “The Lives of Migrant Workers and Refugees: A Human Rights Film Festival”

    SG50 Celebration Fund, 2015 (Singapore Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth—USD$34,000)

    Project Title: “Something to Write Home About: A Singapore’s Arts Festival in New York City for SG50” (Co-Awardee—Dr. Hong-ling Wee)

    Presidential Mini-Grant for Departmental Diversity Initiatives, 2014–2015 (Co-PI–Dr. Mary Jo Bona)

    Project Title: “Bridging the Gap: Interethnic Vision in Asian American and European American Migratory Studies”

    102 Faculty Fellow, 2010-2011

    In recognition of dedicated service to the Undergraduate College by the Provost Office, Undergraduate College

    CCK Junior Scholar Grant, 2010 (Chiang Ching-Kuo Foundation—$15,000)

    Presidential Distinguish Travel Grant, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018

    FAHSS Interdisciplinary Initiative Fund, 2016–2017, 2011–2012

    FAHSS Individual Research Grant, 2008, 2009, 2015

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