Lu Liu

Position title: Dana-Allen Dissertation Fellow (2018-2019)

Asian Languages and Cultures, UW-Madison

Portrait image of Lu Liu wearing a white shirt in front of a red wall.

Away/With the Pest: Biosocial Abjection and Subject Formation in China, 1930s-1980s

My dissertation studies how the constant pest-making in modern Chinese history enacts the pursuit of biosocial purity through scientific, visual, and ideological storytelling. Starting with the 1930s, where verbal and audio-visual education introduced new ways of seeing and imagining the harmful, my dissertation tracks the (re)inventions of the pest through two mass campaigns in the socialist era, and finally into post-socialist reconstruction of order that casted the social pest into comic visualizations. In each of the historical moments, the anxiety over biosocial purity was scientifically validated, visually animated, and projected onto the nonhuman other. Yet the produced boundary between the clean and the unclean, between the human and the pest, was never stable and always disturbed identity and order by feeding back to the sociopolitical context. Mapping the ramifications of biosocial abjection, my research rethinks the rhizomatic subject formation in modern China’s vicissitudes of war, nation-building, and mass mobilization.

I am a PhD candidate in the department of Asian Languages and Cultures at UW-Madison. My current research focuses on pest-making as facilitated by science education, visualization, and mass mobilization in modern China. Theoretically, my dissertation investigates and interrogates larger questions of subject formation and the multifold transborder encounters that biopower conjures up and/or erases. My research and teaching interests also include modern Chinese literature, culture, and cinema, visual culture studies, animal studies, environmental humanities, and history of science, medicine, and disease. In 2017-18, I co-organized the Borghesi-Mellon workshop “Space-Relations” funded by UW-Madison Center for the Humanities. This year at IRH, I am working on completing my dissertation tentatively entitled “Away/With the Pest: Biosocial Abjection and Subject Formation in China, 1930s-1980s.”