The best books about transpacific studies and Asian-Latin American exchanges and cultural production

Ignacio López-Calvo Author Of The Mexican Transpacific: Nikkei Writing, Visual Arts, and Performance
By Ignacio López-Calvo

Who am I?

Extensive research on cultural production by Latin American authors of Asian ancestry has given me a comprehensive understanding of the development of Transpacific studies. For the last decade, my research has focused, for the most part, on South-South intercultural exchanges and cultural production by and about Latin American authors of Asian descent. I have written five books dealing with these topics: 2008 Imaging the Chinese in Cuban Literature and Culture (2009), The Affinity of the Eye: Writing Nikkei in Peru (2013), Dragons in the Land of the Condor: Writing Tusán in Peru (2014), Japanese Brazilian Saudades: Diasporic Identities and Cultural Production (2019), and The Mexican Transpacific: Nikkei Writing, Visual Arts, Performance (forthcoming).  


I wrote...

The Mexican Transpacific: Nikkei Writing, Visual Arts, and Performance

By Ignacio López-Calvo,

Book cover of The Mexican Transpacific: Nikkei Writing, Visual Arts, and Performance

What is my book about?

It analyzes writing as well as visual and performance arts by Mexicans of Japanese ancestry, thus exploring Japanese Mexican self-definition and its implications for Mexican national identity. This book approaches studies of the Transpacific from a Latin Americanist perspective as an alternative heuristic lens. 

It encourages readers to rethink Mexican history and cultural production beyond its national borders and from a different vantage point, looking instead at often silenced cross-cultural connections and clashes (slavery, human exploitation, racism, predatory extractivism), intercontinental economic connections, and immigration. Consequently, Mexican history becomes inextricably linked to Asian countries such as China, Japan, Korea, and the Philippines. It also unveils little-known cultural production by Japanese Mexicans.

The books I picked & why

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Intercolonial Intimacies: Relinking Latin/O America to the Philippines, 1898-1964

By Paula C. Park,

Book cover of Intercolonial Intimacies: Relinking Latin/O America to the Philippines, 1898-1964

Why this book?

This book studies the anti-imperialist dialog between twentieth-century Latin American and Filipino intellectuals, writers, and diplomats who, in her view, appropriated brotherly discourses of Latinidad and Hispanidad as part of their resistance versus US imperialism. This book opened my eyes to the fact that, as late as the twentieth century, Filipino intellectuals still saw themselves as an intrinsic part of the Hispanic world and took for granted that it was beneficial for their country to keep a cultural and sociopolitical alliance with Latin America if they wanted to rid themselves of the new imperial yoke: the United States.


Between Empires: Martí, Rizal, and the Intercolonial Alliance

By Koichi Hagimoto,

Book cover of Between Empires: Martí, Rizal, and the Intercolonial Alliance

Why this book?

Between Empires compares the anti-imperial literature and history of two former Spanish colonies, Cuba and the Philippines, but this time focusing on the late-nineteenth-century “intercolonial alliance” and, more specifically, on the oeuvres of two nationalist authors and national heroes: the Cuban José Martí and the Filipino José Rizal. Hagimoto explores a transpacific collective consciousness of resistance as well as the shared historical ties between Latin America and the Philippines. What I found more exciting about this book was that it reveals how, led by two national heroes and martyrs, there was still, well after the end of the Manila Galleon transpacific route, an end-of-nineteenth-century anti-colonial alliance between two far-away countries united by a shared history of colonial domination and oppression.


Afro-Asian Connections in Latin America and the Caribbean

By Luisa Ossa (editor), Debbie Lee-DiStefano (editor),

Book cover of Afro-Asian Connections in Latin America and the Caribbean

Why this book?

Afro-Asian Connections looks at the cross-cultural relations between people of African and Asian ancestries in Latin America and the Caribbean. The chapters address how their common history in agrarian labor led to numerous interactions that have been reflected in the region’s history, literature, art, and religion. I found this continuation of the exploration of Afro-Asian sociocultural exchanges in Latin America initiated by Kathy López and Evelyn Hu-DeHart years earlier extremely timely and revealing, as it underscores a long history of intermittent alliances and animosities.


The Closed Hand: Images of the Japanese in Modern Peruvian Literature

By Rebecca Riger Tsurumi,

Book cover of The Closed Hand: Images of the Japanese in Modern Peruvian Literature

Why this book?

This was the first book on the literary representation of the Japanese and Nikkeijin in Peruvian fiction. It analyzes literature published by both Nikkei (the Nisei authors José Watanabe and Doris Moromisato) and non-Nikkei Peruvian authors (Mario Vargas Llosa, Mario Bellatin, etc) from 1996 to 2005. The book closes with interviews with six authors whose works are examined in the book: Miguel Francisco Gutiérrez Correa, Carmen Ollé Nava, Pilar Dughi Martínez, Mario Bellatin, José Watanabe, and Doris Moromisato. This important study opened the way for many other recent explorations of the traces of Japaneseness in Peruvian literature as well as the relevance of Japanese-Peruvian writing. 


East Asia, Latin America, and the Decolonization of Transpacific Studies

By Chiara Olivieri (editor), Jordi Serrano-Muñoz (editor),

Book cover of East Asia, Latin America, and the Decolonization of Transpacific Studies

Why this book?

This book uses a transpacific, decolonial, and interdisciplinary approach to study the connections between Latin America and East Asia, concentrating on contemporary commodity extraction and exchanges. The book explores South-South exchanges without Global North metropolitan mediations, thus recentering East Asia-Latin America as an epistemological lens through which to consider these sophisticated networks and produce new knowledge. In my view, the originality of this book resides first in the interdisciplinary connection it makes between the decolonial project and transpacific studies, and secondly, in the two-pronged approach from two unfortunately often disconnected academic perspectives: Latin American and East Asian Studies. 


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