Engagement, reunion, division: 1979 Chinese Weekend in Iowa City
ABSTRACT This essay analyzes the Chinese Weekend at the International Writing Program in Iowa City to illustrate the nuances of the late Cold War geopolitics via transpacific cultural exchange. By looking at the Chinese writers at the IWP in 1979, it narrates a late Cold War story about cross-national, interpersonal exchange that goes beyond the framework of the governmental powerplay. The analysis of the Chinese Weekend, however, reveals that the exchange at the IWP was considerably mediated by the U.S.’s China policy. By zooming in to the Chinese Weekend held in Iowa City, this essay offers a glimpse of what 1979 meant for the Chinese diaspora in the U.S., and how the meaning was different for Chinese writers visiting Iowa City. Taking the Chinese Weekend as a case study, this essay interrogates the role of the IWP in engaging with China. It argues that although the IWP tried to transcend the division of the two Chinas, the Program could hardly free itself from the Cold War divide. Whereas the Chinese Weekend is celebrated as a Chinese reunion, the reunion was implicated in the geopolitics of Cold War in the 1970s.
KEYWORDS: Cold War studies, China-U.S. Relations, International Writing Program (IWP), cultural exchange
Notes on contributor
Yi-hung Liu holds a PhD in American Studies from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. Her dissertation “Cold War in the Heartland: Transpacific Exchange and the Iowa Literary Programs” (2019) examines the Iowa Writers’ Workshop (IWW) and the International Writing Program (IWP) against the backdrop of the Cold War and the ongoing Chinese Civil War. Her research aims to rethink and rework the “Cold War freedom,” how it has conditioned our ways of reading and writing literature as well as imagining political futures. She is now a postdoctoral fellow at Academia Sinica, Taipei.