Sunny Xiang

Sunny Xiang's picture
Associate Professor of English

Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley
B.A., Northwestern University


I am an assistant professor of English and affiliate professor of Ethnicity, Race, and Migration. My teaching and research focus on Asian/Pacific/American and Asian diasporic literature and culture, and I have a special interest in transpacific genealogies of war, militarism, and imperialism. My book Tonal Intelligence: The Aesthetics of Asian Inscrutability during the Long Cold War (Columbia UP, 2020) reperiodizes the cold war by taking a tonal approach to reading aesthetic texts and intelligence records. This tonal analysis, I propose, constitutes a kind of historiographic method, a way to track the relation between the uncertainties of geopolitical transition and the vagaries of racial perception. I’m currently at work on a second book project tentatively entitled Atomic Wear: Transpacific Fashion and the Making of the Militarized Mundane. This study shows how nuclear experiments sponsored by the U.S. military revolutionized three genres of fashion: cosmetics, clothing, and infrastructure. In bringing together an eclectic archive of tanning products, foundation garments, fragrance packaging, inflatable furniture, and collapsible shelters, Atomic Wear explores how cold war articulations of style also functioned as vernacular theories of race and gender.   

Selected Publications

- “Atomic Style: Bali Bras, Bikini Briefs, and other Skin/suits,” forthcoming in Radical History Review

“Wars of Contemporary Life,” Review of Marguerite Nguyen’s America’s VietnamCrystal Baik’s Reencounters, and Christina Klein’s Cold War Cosmopolitanism, ASAP/Journal, April 27, 2020, 

  - “Global China in Twenty-First-Century Asian American Literature,” The Oxford Encyclopedia of Asian American and Pacific Islander Literature and Culture, July 2019, 

- “Forgettable Wars, Forgetful Diasporas,” Verge: Studies in Global Asia 5, no. 2 (Fall 2019): 3-9. 

- “Global China as Genre,” Post45: Peer Reviewed, July 17, 2019, 

- “Narrating the Human Person” in Cambridge Companion to Human Rights and Literature, ed. Crystal Parikh, 129-40. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019.  

- “The Peculiar Objecthood of the “Yellow Woman,” Review of Ornamentalism by Anne Anlin Cheng, Los Angeles Review of Books, March 18, 2019,

  - “Introduction: Literature and Postcolonial Capitalism,” ARIEL: A Review of International English Literature, special issue on “Literature and Postcolonial Capitalism” 49, no. 4 (October 2018): 1-21, co-edited with Cheryl Naruse and Shashi Thandra. 

- “The Ethnic Author Represents the Body Count,” PMLA 133, no.2 (March 2018): 420-427. 

- “Race, Tone, and Ha Jin’s Documentary Manner,’” Comparative Literature 70, no. 1 (March  

2018): 72-92.  

- “The Korean Voice of American Empire: ‘Another Dimension’ of the Democratic Spokesman and the Model Minority Narrator,” Journal of Asian American Studies 17, no. 3 (October 2014): 273-304.  


Asian/Pacific/American literature and culture; war, militarism, and imperialism in Asia and the Pacific; cold war and mid-century culture; contemporary literature; American literature, critical archival studies; cultural studies; fashion studies