March 28, 2023

LOS ANGELES (March 9, 2018) — San Francisco-based community historian, documentary filmmaker and educator William Gow will present “Performing Belonging and Contesting Yellow Peril: China Relief Fundraisers in Los Angeles’s Old Chinatown from 1938-1941” at 4 p.m. Thursday, March 15, 2018 in the Young Research Library – Presentation Room in the Library Conference Center of the University of California at Los Angeles, 280 Charles E. Young Drive North, Los Angeles .

Gow is currently, a University of California Dissertation-Year Fellow in the Ethnic Studies Department at UC Berkeley. The presentation is drawn from his dissertation, “Performing Chinatown: Hollywood Cinema, Tourism, and the Making of a Los Angeles Community, 1882-1943.” Dissertation research was funded in part through the Thayer Short-Term Research Fellowship at UCLA Special Collections.

In October of 1938, Old Chinatown hosted the Moon Festival, a war relief fundraiser to support Chinese victims of the Sino-Japanese War.  The festival was modeled on Bowl of Rice fundraisers held across the nation that summer and occurred at a moment when the merchants of Old Chinatown were facing an existential threat. Over the prior five years, most of the community had been destroyed by Union Station construction, and the remaining section of Old Chinatown now faced increased competition from the recently opened China City and New Chinatown tourist districts. Many of the festival organizers and performers had ties to the film industry, and they utilized the festival to critically engage Orientalist imagery from Hollywood films. The 1938 Moon Festival attracted more than 30,000 patrons to the old neighborhood providing the festival organizers with a chance to reassert the community’s presence while shaping the popular image of the community through the performance of ethnic difference. Drawing in part on the collections of the Chinese Historical Society of Southern California, the Chinese American Museum of Los Angeles, and the Southern California Chinese American Oral History project in UCLA Special Collections, this talk examines China Relief fundraisers in Los Angeles as sites of cultural contestation where members of the Chinese American ethnic enclave performed race, gender, and nation at a critical moment in the community’s history.

Gow was previously a public historian and board member for the Chinese Historical Society of Southern California in Los Angeles Chinatown. He is also a 2003 graduate of the Master’s program in Asian American Studies at UCLA.

The event is sponsored by the UCLA Library, Asian American Studies Center, Asian American Studies Department and the Chinese Historical Society of Southern California.


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