My Senior Thesis: Sinofuturism

LIFE UPDATE since Graduation pt. 1 and 24th: Only now as I type, whilst listening to Jay Chou’s newest album, do I realize that for the first time ever I’m living by myself (truly, completely, indisputably–no roommates and no family). Today marks one full month since I started work. Hello, adulting. 🍀

***

At the Baccalaureate service in May, we sat under soaring arcs of leaves in dappled sunlight, squinting at the robed figures onstage. A man in white spoke of the hopes of ancestors embodied in each of us — our ancestors, he said, who have gone through deprivations, immigrations, and liberations. Harvard Class of 2022, generations of your futures depend upon you, he pronounced. Feel their hope in your hearts and follow the call of their longing.

What does one think of in that moment? It was the strangest thing: I thought of my thesis, “Sinofuturism,” and its opening pages, of the family history mapped out in a matter of sentences.

I thought of the futures that have eluded generations before me. The grand utopias that seeded dystopias for billions, their thwarted dreams, and a people’s dismantled traditions. I thought of the journey that took a Zhejiang boy first to China’s northeasternmost tip and then to Sichuan, a landlocked basin bordering Tibet, where another boy would be born. His son would eventually meet a girl in Xi’an; they would marry, move to Shenzhen, head to New Zealand, and thus build a life in Singapore.

So, maybe it won’t be too sentimental to say this: My thesis is very much a culmination of generations of dreams and hopes. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

***

Thank you, Advisors

Thank you, Dr. Vikrant Dadawala, for walking the entire journey with me — through the wild ideation, ever-changing bibliography, delirious 4am emails, rough drafts sent ten minutes before our weekly meetings, and the final crunch in February when I wrote at an insane pace. Our senior tutorial sessions always seemed like part therapy, part book club discussion, and part current affairs hot takes. I always left each meeting with new book recommendations, theoretical concepts, and artful turns of phrases that distilled exactly what I wanted to say far better than I could ever say it. Thank you, Vikrant!!!

Thank you, Professor Homi K. Bhabha, for sharing with me your wisdom. 17-year-old me in JC never could’ve imagined that the thinker cited extensively in my Knowledge & Inquiry research essay on postcolonialism would one day advise my thesis. I remember sitting in Prof. Bhabha’s seminar during freshman spring, feeling woefully inadequate but immensely inspired — it ended up becoming one of the most formative classes I took at Harvard. Even now, I often find myself referring to a fragment of conversation from “Genealogies of Global Imagination” and “Constellations” — a certain way of looking at the world that is interdisciplinary, broadly humanist, always global, and interrogative of the fundamentals (read my very feverishly excited freshman-year ‘Why Literature‘ post). Here’s to being a humanist!

Thank you, Professor David Der-wei Wang, for being the first and only teacher to move me to tears in class. We were reading “Sinking,” by Yu Dafu, as Prof. Wang lectured on forbidden romance in modern China. I don’t remember the sentences, nor do I recall what Prof. Wang wrote on the board. But I will always remember the powerful eddy of emotions invoked. Stories have transgressive, transformative potential, where the greatest depth can be found in seeming frivolity; where a word as heavy as “war” can be made sense of through the lightness of desire; where a civilization’s tragedies of the past century can eternally find redemption.

***

Always happy to chat about Sinofuturism! Get in touch. : )

2 thoughts on “My Senior Thesis: Sinofuturism

  1. tianyi207 says:

    I love how personal the introduction to your thesis is (Also your description of NY Primary is oddly nostalgic)! Can’t wait to read the full thesis over the next couple of days. Have fun adulting, Sel!

    Liked by 1 person

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