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Gao Yunxiang

Yunxiang Gao

EducationBA in History, Inner Mongolian Normal University, China. MA in History, Beijing University, China. MLib, University of Iowa. PhD in History, University of Iowa.
OfficeJOR 518
Phone416-979-5000 Ext. 556204
Areas of ExpertiseTransnational history: Modern East Asia, with an emphasis on China; Asian Diasporas in the Americas; Sino-African-American Relationships; Gender and Women; Second World War in Asia-Pacific; Culture (Sports, Physical Culture, Fashion, Cinema, Music, and Dance)

Dr. Gao Yunxiang (高云翔) is professor of history. Her research focuses primarily on trans-Pacific cultural history in the twentieth century through a multilingual approach. She has written two books. Arise, Africa! Roar, China!: Black and Chinese Citizens of the World in the Twentieth Century was published by the University of North Carolina Press in December 2021. (external link)  .This book focuses on the interactions of W.E.B Du Bois, Paul Robeson, (external link)  Langston Hughes, the founder of mass singing Liu Liangmo (刘良模, external link (external link) ), and the modern dancer-choreographer Sylvia Si-lan Chen Leyda (陈茜兰). Sporting Gender: Women Athletes and Celebrity-Making during China’s National Crisis, 1931-1945, appeared with the University of British Columbia Press in 2013.

Arise, Africa! Roar, China! has won the following honors: Honorable Mention for 2022 Robert H. Ferrell Book Prize of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR); Finalist for 2022 Wallace K. Ferguson Prize of the Canadian Historical Association; Book Authority's 2022 Best New African Americans History Books Prize.

Dr. Gao has published articles in venues such as History Today, The Du Bois Review, Gender and History, The Journal of American East-Asian Relations, Modern Chinese Literature and Culture, Socialism and Democracy, and Sport in Society. Several of her articles have been translated into Chinese.

Currently, she is finishing two biographies, modeling a trans-nationalized Asian and Asian American history. They are tentatively entitled “Soo Yong (杨秀ca.1903-1984): A Hollywood Actress and Cosmopolitan of the Asian Diasporas” (, external link (external link) ); and “Wang Yung (王莹 ca.1913-1974): From Child Bride, Shanghai’s ‘Literary Star,’ to the Trans-Pacific ‘Drama Queen.’”

Dr. Gao also is a member of the graduate faculty.

Dr. Gao Yunxiang’s new book Arise, Africa! Roar, China! Black and Chinese Citizens of the World in the Twentieth Century (University of North Carolina Press, 2021) unpacks the close relationships between a trio of the most famous twentieth-century African Americans, W. E. B. Du Bois, Paul Robeson, and Langston Hughes, and their little–known Chinese allies, journalist, musician, and Christian activist Liu Liangmo and Sino-Caribbean dancer-choreographer Sylvia Si-lan Chen, during World War II and the Cold War. 

Charting a new path in the study of Sino-American relations, this book foregrounds African Americans, combining the study of Black internationalism and the experiences of Chinese Americans with a trans-Pacific narrative and an understanding the global remaking of China's modern popular culture and politics. It reveals much earlier and widespread interactions between Sino-African-American leftist figures than the familiar alliance between the Black radicals and the Maoist China. The book’s multi-lingual approach draws from the massive, yet rarely used, sources from multiple archival streams in China, Chinatowns, and the United States. This allows for the well-known stories of Du Bois, Robeson, and Hughes to be retold anew alongside the sagas of Liu and Chen, in a work that will transform and redefine Afro-Asia studies.

Robert H. Ferrell Book Prize of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR) is designed to reward distinguished scholarship in the history of American foreign relations, broadly defined. The prize committee "were profoundly impressed...  [and] dazzled by the creative approach Gao took to documenting and contextualizing the many different kinds of connections that existed between W.E.B. Du Bois, Paul Robeson, Langston Hughes, Liu Liangmo, and Sylvia Silan Chen. Gao's multi-lingual archival finds—in such diverse collections—reveal the potential of transnational history to tell enormous stories in exciting and revelatory ways. The careful work Gao do to attend to the complexity of her historical subjects while also helping the reader understand how these individuals shed light on much larger historical phenomena is visible on every page of the book. We all learned so much from reading this rich work of truly excellent scholarship."

Dr. Gao Yunxiang's book, Sporting Gender: Women Athletes and Celebrity-Making during China’s National Crisis, 1931-45 (University of British Columbia Press, 2013), Dr. Gao examines the rise to fame of female athletes in China during its national crisis of 1931-45, an emergency brought on by the Japanese invasion of the country. By re-mapping the lives and careers of individual female athletes, administrators, and film actors within the wartime context, Dr. Gao shows how these women coped with the conflicting demands of nationalist causes, unwanted male attention, and modern fame. While addressing the themes of state control, media influence, fashion, and changes in gender roles, she argues that the athletic female form helped to create a new ideal of modern womanhood in China at time when women’s emancipation and national needs went hand in hand. This book vividly brings to life the histories of these athletes, and demonstrates how intertwined their experiences were with the aims of the state and the needs of society.