Photo of Lisa Yun


Associate Professor, English Department

Ph.D., University of Texas, B.A. Yale University
tel.: 607-777-6405
fax.: 607-777-2408
Co-founder of Asian and Asian American Studies at Binghamton University
Former Associate Director and Acting Director of Asian and Asian American Studies
Founder of the Community Internship Program

Areas of Interest

Asian Diasporas of the Americas, Asian American Literature and Culture, Freedom and Slavery, Black and Asian Comparative Studies, Colonial/Postcolonial literature, Creative Writing

Current Projects

  • The Black Pacific and Asian Atlantic
  • Coolie and Slave: Intersections of Histories and Literatures


The Coolie Speaks

The Coolie Speaks: Chinese Indentured Laborers and African Slaves in Cuba (Temple University Press, 2008) g.html

CHOICE Outstanding Academic Book 2008

“... Exceptional study... Superbly contextualizes the heterogeneous world of contract labor involving Africans, Indians, and Chinese around the world... An enormously significant contribution to the field.”— CHOICE

“…The Coolie Speaks is a fascinating and thought provoking interdisciplinary work, which relates several areas of Asian, African, Caribbean, Latin American, and American Studies. Through her investigation, we see the benefits of bridging the study of both regions and disciplines.”  The Afro-Hispanic Review

“…The study offers a thorough interpretation of the intersection of Asian, African, Latin American, Caribbean, and North American racial and economic philosophies within the context of slavery in nineteenth-century Cuba. … [B]eneficial to both students and scholars interested in questions of freedom, diaspora, transnationalism, and race. The study’s global nature and the multidisciplinary theoretical and methodological approach will undoubtedly redefine the way future scholars conduct research in the field.” — HISTORY: Review of New Books

“The Coolie Speaks is of interest not only for Chinese diaspora studies but also for Latin American, Caribbean, and Pan-African studies and literary criticism.” — The Colonial Latin American Historical Review

“[Her] arguments are solid and profound.” — E-MISFÉRICA“

"The Coolie Speaks will bring tears to your eyes." —Labor: Studies in Working-Class History of the Americas

"Yun’s well-crafted argument effectively establishes the coolie narrative as a literary archetype with far-ranging methodological, philosophical, and epistemological implications." — Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History

" The Coolie Speaks is a breakthrough of scholarship. It provides a new map not just of the Atlantic slave trade, Chinese diaspora, and modern capitalism, but of scholarly means to articulate the words, places, and stories that tumble outward from the violent and fractured history of modernity. Like Toni Morrison’s Beloved, The Coolie Speaks seems to find a root language to remember and memorialize human suffering and agency, while teaching us again as scholars and citizens of the world to listen carefully to the cries, whispers, and exhortations of the past." 
— Callaloo

“The individual testimonies…are stunning in their particularity and personality. Some use Chinese historic and poetic allusions in sophisticated ways, some are quite simple, and all are anguishing...” 
—Library Journal

"This long awaited book, about ten years in the making, is not a disappointment. In fact, it would not be an exaggeration to say this study is a tour de force of original, interdisciplinary scholarship and innovative methodology..." 
—The Journal of Chinese Overseas

"The book begins with an impressive contextualization of the movement of coolie labor across the Pacific, by far the most detailed analysis at hand.... It should be obligatory reading for historians working in many fields—Latin American and Caribbean history, most obviously, but also the politics of testimonial production in general." 
—The American Historical Review

"[A]n extraordinary exemplar of scholarship that examines the under-investigated and often misunderstood phenomenon of Chinese coolie servitude in Cuba..." 
—Estudios Interdisciplinarios de America Latina y el Caribe

"The Coolie Speaks will be foundational for any scholar interested in the question of indentured laborers as a transition from a slave to free economy and the nature of the contract." 
—The Journal of Law and History Review

"Her interdisciplinary approach combines history, law, philosophy, and literary theory and draws upon impressively broad swaths of material to contextualize her analysis." 
—Continuity and Change

"[I]t is clear that Lisa Yun’s learned discussion of the suppressed history of the Chinese in nineteenth-century Cuba, bringing to the surface their own views on the indenture experience, will become as standard a reference work on this subject as the Report of 1876 itself was in its own time." 
—The New West Indian Guide

"[O]ne of the book’s greatest scholarly contributions is that it challenges a monolithic historiographical portrayal of the Cuban body politic....[T]his interdisciplinary work of history and literary criticism is a highly readable, critical scholarly innovation for studies of race, labor regimes and violence, immigration, and Asian diaspora experience in Cuba and the Americas." 
—Hispanic American Historical Review

"Yun's book is essential for graduate students and scholars who study race, ethnicity, labor, and immigration in Latin America and the Caribbean." 
—The Journal of World History

"The Coolie Speaks succeeds in conveying the poignant and often anguished nature of the testimonies themselves…" 
—The Journal of American Ethnic History

Book Chapters and Articles

"Archives of Biography and History in the God of Luck" in The Chinese of the Caribbean and Latin America eds. Walton Look Lai and Tan Chee-Beng (Brill, 2010)

“Signifying Asian and Afro-cultural Poetics” in The Afro-Hispanic Review 27, no. 1 (Fall 2008): 183-218.

“Chinese Freedom Fighters in Cuba: From Bondage to Liberation 1847-1898” and “El Chino” in AFRO/ASIA: Revolutionary Political and Cultural Connections Between African Americans and Asian Americans eds. Bill Mullen and Fred Ho (Duke University Press 2008)

“Linking African and Asian in Passing and Passage: Patricia Powell’s The Pagoda and Margaret Cezair Thompson’s The True History of Paradise” and “Havana Afro-Cubano Movement and the Harlem Renaissance” in Transnational Blackness: Navigating the Global Color Line eds. Manning Marable and Vanessa Agard-Jones (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008)

“An Afro-Chinese Caribbean: Cultural Cartographies of Contrariness in the Work of Antonio Chuffat Latour, Margaret Cezair-Thompson, and Patricia Powell” in Caribbean Quarterly 50, no.2 (Summer 2004): 26-43.

“Spoken Word, Hip Hop, and Poetic Consciousness in the 21st Century” Wasafiri: Journal of Contemporary African, Asian, Black British, and Caribbean Literature 38 (Spring 2003): 38-43.

“Domestic Terrorism: The Ideology of Division and the Power of Naming” Amerasia Journal 28, no. 3 (Spring 2003): 25-31.

“Under the Hatches: American Coolie Ships and Nineteenth Century Narratives of the Pacific Passage” Amerasia Journal 28, no.2 (Fall 2002): 38-61.

“Linking African and Asian in Passing and Passage: The Pagoda and The True History of ParadiseSOULS: Critical Journal of Black Politics, Culture, and Society 3, no. 3 (Winter 2001): 50-64.

“Chinese Coolies and African Slaves in Nineteenth Century Cuba” The Journal of Asian American Studies 4, no.2 (June 2001): 99-122.

"The Harlem Renaissance and The Havana Afrocubano Movement: The Role of the Intellectual in the Formation of National Identity” SOULS: Critical Journal of Black Politics, Culture, and Society 1, no. 2 (Spring 1999): 18-30.

"Evanescence: Toshiko Akiyoshi and the Art of Jazz" in The Asian Pacific American Journal (Summer 1997): 105-110.

"The Politics of Language in The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass" MELUS: Journal for the Study of Multi Ethnic Literature in the U.S. 17, no.2 (1992): 51-59.

Articles in Non-refereed Publications

“Africans and Asians Breaking Boundaries,” Black Issues Book Review, May/June 2000

“The Pacific Century: Transforming of Our World View,” Inside Magazine: The Millennium Project Series, February 10, 2000

Creative Writing Publications: Poetry (15 published poems)


“Saturday in Chinatown,” in Roots and Flowers, Henry Holt, 2001
"Sewing by the Piece," "Saturday in Chinatown," in The NuyorAsian Anthology, Temple University Press, 1999
"Choice in Colored Rain,” in Identity Lessons, Viking Penguin, 1998

Literary Journals

“Julio’s Story,” Girl Back,” The Paterson Literary Review, Summer 2004
“El Chino,” Gathering of the Tribes Magazine, Issue 10 2003
“38 Mulberry Street,” Pennsylvania English
“razberrie,” Illya’s Honey, Winter 2000
"Sewing by the Piece," The Paterson Literary Review, Summer 1999
"Slouching Towards Bethlehem," LIPS, Fall 1998
"Death by Rose," "My Love of Watermelon and a Word Man," Illya's Honey, Summer 1998
“Fall of the Bride," "Choice in Colored Rain," "When Trains Rumble," The Paterson Literary Review, Summer 1997
"Saturday in Chinatown," "The Importance of Photographs," The Hawaii Pacific Review, Spring 1995
"An Affair of Roses," The Georgetown Review, Spring 1994
"My Sixth Winter Under a Blind Moon," The Seattle Review, Fall 1993

Grants and Awards

The Peter T. and Shun Yee Chang Memorial Internship, Endowed, 2012- (Faculty Administrator)
Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities Fellowship at Binghamton 2011
The SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Faculty Service 2007
Freeman Foundation Grant “Asian Studies: An Integrative Initiative” 2002 (Co-Principal Investigator: $1.75 million. Awarded to establish Asian and Asian American Studies Program, Four Year Plan)
NYFA/ New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in Poetry 1999
The Aspen Institute/ Writers Foundation Scholarship 1996
The Robert Wren Literature Prize 1990

Selected Presentations 2005-2008

Binghamton University
“AfroAsia: Intersections and Migrations of Half of Humanity” Conference Co-Chair May 2012

Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities at Binghamton University
“From Coolies to Model Minorities: Retelling the Pacific Passage” November 2011

American Studies Association
“What We Wish We Had Known” Panel Chair, ASA Minority Scholars Committee
November 2011

Syracuse University
“Before Yellow Peril, Model Minority, and Terrorists: A Different Narrative of Asian Diasporas to the Americas” October 2011

New York African Studies Association
 “Global Africa and Asia in the Age of Globlization” Plenary Speaker and Conference Co-Chair March 2010

Association of Asian American Studies
“Rethinking AfroAsian Solidarities in the Age of Obama” Panel Chair April 2009

University of Texas at Austin
“Nineteenth Century Afro-Asian Intersections in the Americas” April 2009

Cornell University
"Arguments of The Paper Chase: The Commodification of Freedom" October 2007

Ohio State University
"Building Asian American Studies, East of California" November 2006

American Studies Association, Oakland
"The Lessons Before Solidarity" October 2006

Pitzer College/ The Claremont Colleges
"The Immigrant Story? Early Writings of Asian Migrations to the Americas" April 2005

Association of Asian American Studies, Los Angeles
"Afro-Asian-Latino Questions and A Cuban Author: Afro-Chinese in Diaspora, Slavery, and Liberation" April 2005

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
"The Trap of Freedom and the Legacy of Slavery" March 2005

SUNY Binghamton, Fernand Braudel Center
"Testimonies of Labor and Systems of Bondage" March 2005

Last Updated: 7/25/14