Lisa Lowe lecture: "The Intimacies of Four Continents"
March 12, 2004

University of California-San Diego literature professor Lisa Lowe visited the Center on March 12 to present a portion of her current research under the title “The Intimacies of Four Continents.”  Taking as her starting point early-19th-century Atlantic labor networks linking Europe, Africa and the Americas, Professor Lowe seeks to add the traditionally obscure Chinese coolie to this multi-national configuration.  By highlighting the presence of the coolie in the labor market and by evaluating how Chinese laborers were viewed by others, particularly in the British Caribbean, Lowe also asks us to reflect on the changing meanings of European humanism.  Lowe uses the term “intimacy” in two ways: to describe the spatial proximity of Chinese as a new group in the post-slavery British Caribbean; and as a way to highlight the distinction between private and public spheres.  Her research in the British colonial archive suggests that the latter version of “intimacy,” as an essential attribute of individual rights, was sometimes seen as particular to Chinese workers and, as such,  a potential catalyst for change.  Ultimately Lowe wants her work to go beyond the level of recuperating lost elements for a familiar story to pose fundamental questions about memory, forgetting, and the uneven distribution of European conceptions of human freedom; in this way she seeks to imagine alternative ways of knowing.  Not surprisingly, Lowe’s innovative approach  provoked a lively and engaged discussion from a large audience representing a broad cross-section of the humanities and social sciences at UWM.

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Center for 21st Century Studies

Merry Wiesner-Hanks

Center for 21st Century Studies
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
P.O. Box 413, Milwaukee, WI 53201 USA
tel: 414-229-4141; fax: 414-229-5964; email:



  Last updated 6/23/06 by RvD&NW