In Memoriam: L.H.M. (Lily) Ling

Published on October 26, 2018

In Memoriam

L.H.M. (Lily) Ling

Professor of International Affairs

Julien J.Studley Programs in International Affairs (SGPIA)

The New School

1955 – 2018


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It is with profound sadness that we share the news of our friend and colleague, Lily Ling.  She passed away last Monday, October 1, 2018 after suffering a stroke the night before. This was unexpected. She had been making an extraordinary recovery since her first stroke in February.  She was working on a book manuscript and planning new projects. We were eagerly awaiting her return in the spring semester.

Lily was a scholar of singular importance whose work leaves a lasting mark on International Relations (IR).  Rejecting the Westphalian premise of world politics as an “arena of ceaseless strife and competition”, she began to offer an alternative paradigm, one that she called “Worldism”.  She was a pioneer of post-colonial and feminist approaches to IR, fields that have gained rapid momentum over the last decade. She was honored as the 2018 Eminent Scholar by Feminist Theory and Gender Studies section of the International Studies Association. And her 2002 book Postcolonial International Relations: Conquest and Desire between Asia and the West serves as one of the founding texts.  

She leaves behind a rich collection of many other works, including: Transforming World Politics: From Empire to Multiple Worlds (co-authored with A.M. Agathangelou, 2009); The Dao of World Politics: Towards a Post-Westphalian, Worldist International Relations (2014); and Imagining World Politics: Sihar & Shenya, A Fable for Our Times (2014). She also co-edited four volumes, and published dozens of journal articles and book chapters.  Determined to reach multiple audiences, she conveyed her ideas in several genres, including plays, poems, manga, fables and op eds.  Her death is tragically untimely, coming at a time when her influence was growing, and her critique of IR was increasingly recognized by mainstream scholars.

To say that she was a gifted teacher and a generous colleague would be true but an understatement.  She inspired and collaborated with multiple coauthors from diverse fields across the world. She mentored many students, often continuing to work with them long after graduation. Once writing “Higher education should function like a chrysalis, I believe, to nurture discovery and experimentation so this interior self can manifest and soar”, Lily challenged students to transform themselves.

One of the first to join the SGPIA faculty (in 2002), Lily was central to the formation of the program, casting it in the distinctively non-orthodox mold and affixing an indelible a stamp of post-colonial and feminist approaches to IR.  Lily’s unique presence will remain in our memories. In a few words, she was: prodigious, passionate, intense, determined, original, creative, rigorous, fierce, generous, sensitive and sometimes vulnerable.

A celebration of Lily’s life will be held in Syracuse at the Burns-Garfield funeral home, 3175 E, Genesee St., scheduled tentatively for October 13 at 3:00 pm. A memorial service in New York City is also planned in the coming weeks.  In lieu of flowers, please consider a tax-deductible donation in Lily’s memory to the Finger Lakes Donor Recovery Network.

On behalf of the SGPIA faculty and staff,

Sakiko Fukuda-Parr, Professor and Director, Julien J. Studley Graduate Programs in International Affairs, The New School