© photo by Jeff Day

Cindy Gao

Doctoral Student Fellow

Ph.D. Candidate, Social & Cultural Analysis

Cynthia (Cindy) Yuan Gao is a PhD candidate at New York University in American Studies. Her research program reevaluates 20th and 21st century US social movements, identity politics, and Asian American Studies in terms of the waxing and waning of revolutionary movements in Asia, especially Maoism. Her dissertation, “On Contradiction: Revolutionary Asia and the United States Left, 1967-1990,” argues that the ideas and practices of Asian revolutionary movements were central to US debates over the relationship between capitalist exploitation and other forms of oppression – namely, patriarchy, racism, andcolonialism. Through case studies of three social movement organizations – the socialist feminist Chicago Women’s Liberation Union, the Third Worldist League of Revolutionary Struggle, and the Hawaiian land rights group Kokua Hawai’i – the project examines how activists utilized political concepts from China and Vietnam to develop organizational praxes centering subjectivity, particularity of oppression, and experience. Social movement reinterpretations of Asian political theory thus served as a little acknowledged, yet highly instrumental foundation for the development of American identity politics. 

Gao is the editor of a forthcoming special issue of Positions: Politics on Global Maoism, which will include her article, “Don’t Wave It, Use It! Criticism and Self-Criticism in the US New Left.” Her writing has also been published in International Working Class and Labor History and The Scholar and Feminist, and is forthcoming in Theory and Event. She received a B.A. in Comparative Ethnic Studies from Columbia University in 2012.