The Ambiguous and the Mundane: Racial Performance and Asian Americans

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Asian Diaspora, Book/Video Reviews, Communications/Media Studies, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2016-09-25 02:23Z by Steven

The Ambiguous and the Mundane: Racial Performance and Asian Americans

Contemporary Literature
Volume 57, Number 2, Summer 2016
pages 292-300

Josephine D. Lee, Professor of English and Asian American
University of Minnesota

Jennifer Ann Ho, Racial Ambiguity in Asian American Culture. New Brunswick, NJ, and London: Rutgers University Press, 2015. xi + 215 pp. $90.00 cloth; $31.95 paper.

Ju Yon Kim, The Racial Mundane: Asian American Performance and the Embodied Everyday. New York: New York University Press, 2015. x + 286 pp. $90.00 cloth; $28.00 paper.

Asian American studies scholars such as Karen Shimakawa (National Abjection: The Asian American Body Onstage), Leslie Bow (Betrayal and Other Acts of Subversion: Feminism, Sexual Politics, Asian American Women’s Literature), Tina Chen (Double Agency: Acts of Impersonation in Asian American Literature and Culture), Joshua Chambers-Letson (A Race So Different: Performance and Law in Asian America), and myself have drawn attention to the theatrical nature of Asian American racialization—the assumed incompatibility between Asian bodies and American loyalties that undergirds racial stereotypes such as the perpetual foreigner or the wartime enemy. The Asian American is imagined as a potential traitor or an economic threat whose essential nature is inherently at odds with American identity and whose apparently successful cultural assimilation is inherently untrustworthy. Throughout their long history, Asian Americans have been subject to the material and psychological consequences of this endgame, whether in the World War II incarceration of Japanese Americans or in outlandish expectations for the “model minority.”

Two recent books—Ju Yon Kim’s The Racial Mundane: Asian American Performance and the Embodied Everyday and Jennifer Ann Ho’s Racial Ambiguity in Asian American Culture—also envision Asian American racialization as a shifting and dynamic social performance, unpacking what “Asian American” does, rather than just assuming what it is. Both directly challenge fixed notions of racial epistemology as well as provide insightful, original commentary on historical and contemporary Asian American literature and culture.

Grounded in the theories of theatrical phenomenology and Asian American studies, Kim’s Racial Mundane specifically looks at the juxtaposition of Asian American culture (especially Asian American theater) and “everyday” life. Theater is often considered the realm of imaginative pretense as contrasted with the authentic world offstage. But as Kim points out, both theater and life are mainly constituted by repetitive habits and behaviors that define self and action. What Kim calls “the mundane” is the “fusion of the corporeal and the quotidian,” or as she eloquently puts it, “the slice of the everyday carried—and carried out—by the body” (3). For Asian Americans, these ordinary bodily practices are charged with racial significance. Asian exclusion and marginalization was founded on the premise that Asian immigrants and their descendants would never fully assimilate. Kim takes up different instances of this perceived gap between Asian body and American behavior; for instance, she reads the myth of the “model minority” in Justin Lin’s 2002 film Better Luck Tomorrow and Lauren Yee’s biting 2014 satire Ching Chong Chinaman as demonstrative of this racial slippage, whereby Asian American achievement is interpreted both as proof of a successful transition into Americanness and as accentuating a racial difference that belies assimilation.

Though Kim’s examples are largely contemporary, she opens with an analysis of a play that premiered in 1912. Now mostly forgotten, Harry Benrimo and George C. Hazelton Jr.’s The Yellow Jacket was praised in touring productions as well as Broadway revivals, drawing attention for its novel adaptation of the stage devices of Chinese opera as well as Chinese settings and characters. Kim juxtaposes the success of this play’s version of Chineseness with the uncertainty and suspicion with which Chinese immigrants were treated. If the “heathen Chinee” (as Bret Harte called the Chinese immigrant in his popular 1870 poem) was so reviled in early twentieth-century America, how do we explain the popularity of the Chinese characters (played by white actors) in The Yellow Jacket? Key to this contradiction was Benrimo and Hazelton’s inclusion of a “Property Man,” a character who manages the stage set and props while doing ordinary things such as eating, smoking, and reading a newspaper. This novel stage device may well have influenced Thornton Wilder’s creation of the Stage Manager for his…

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‘Raising Mixed Race’: An Evening with Sharon H. Chang and Tangerine

Posted in Asian Diaspora, Family/Parenting, Forthcoming Media, Identity Development/Psychology, Live Events, United States on 2016-09-24 16:14Z by Steven

‘Raising Mixed Race’: An Evening with Sharon H. Chang and Tangerine

The Seattle Public Library
Central Library
Level 1 – Microsoft Auditorium
1000 Fourth Avenue
Seattle, Washington 98104-1109
Thursday, 2016-09-29, 19:00-21:00 PDT (Local Time)

Join us for an author talk, and live music by Seattle band Tangerine, to celebrate the final stop of Sharon H. Chang’sRaising Mixed Race: Multiracial Asian Children in a Post-Racial World” book tour.

Drawn from extensive research and interviews with sixty-eight parents of multiracial children, “Raising Mixed Race: Multiracial Asian Children in a Post-Racial World” examines the complex task of supporting our youngest around being “two or more races” and Asian while living amongst post-racial ideologies. “Racist America” author Joe R. Feagin hailed Chang’s work as “one of the best field interview studies of multiracial issues yet to be done,” one which captures “the gritty realities of being mixed-race in this country.”

Following an interview with Sharon H. Chang about their experiences as multiracial musicians, Seattle indie band Tangerine will perform a live set with songs from their latest EP, Sugar Teeth

For more information, click here.

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The untold stories of Japanese war brides

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, History, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2016-09-23 19:59Z by Steven

The untold stories of Japanese war brides

The Washington Post
2016-09-22

Kathryn Tolbert, Deputy Editor


Hiroko and Bill with Kathy, left, Sam and Susan. The video is the trailer to a short documentary film, “Fall Seven Times, Get Up Eight: The Japanese War Brides,” which features Hiroko and two other war brides.

They married the enemy, then created uniquely American lives

I thought she was beautiful, although I never understood why she plucked her eyebrows off and penciled them on every morning an inch higher. She had been captain of her high school basketball team in Japan, and she ran circles around us kids on a dirt court in our small town in Upstate New York. I can still see this Japanese woman dribbling madly about, yelling “Kyash! Kyash!” That’s how she said Kath, or Kathy.

She married my American GI father barely knowing him. She moved from Tokyo to a small poultry farm just outside Elmira, N.Y., and from there she delivered eggs all over the county and into Pennsylvania. My sister describes her as having a “core of steel.” She raised us as determinedly as any mother could, and yet, looking back, I barely knew her.

Some people think the film I co-directed, “Fall Seven Times, Get Up Eight: The Japanese War Brides,” is a paean to loving Japanese mothers. When one interviewer suggested as much to me and fellow director Karen Kasmauski, we exchanged a look that said, “Shall we tell him the truth?” The film, titled after a Japanese proverb, is about strong women, for sure. Warm and loving mothers? No.

So who are these women and what do we, their children, know about them?…

Read the entire article here.

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Uchinanchu: The Art of Laura Kina

Posted in Arts, Asian Diaspora, Forthcoming Media, Live Events, United States on 2016-09-19 00:09Z by Steven

Uchinanchu: The Art of Laura Kina

Kwan Fong Gallery of Art and Culture
California Lutheran University
120 Memorial Parkway
Thousand Oaks, California 91360
2016-05-23

On view: June 10–October 30, 2016
Artist’s Reception: Friday, Oct. 21, 2016 | 6 p.m. PDT


Image: Laura Kina, Hello Kitty, acrylic on canvas and denim, assorted fabrics, t-shirts from the artist’s daughter Midori Aronson, 57 x 56 inches, 2015.

Uchinanchu is the term for Okinawan immigrants and their descendants from the Japanese island living in Hawai’i. This exhibit presents patchwork and textile-based paintings by Laura Kina through moving autobiographical pieces that examine mixed race identities, indigenous communities, colonization, and globalized pop culture–all in the form of traditional craft practices. Images feature deconstructed articles of clothing, from fleeting moments and memories of specific events to time-honored symbols.

Kina explains,

“My artwork focuses on themes of distance, belonging and cultural reclamation… Taken together, the works are about islands of diaspora and explore themes of transnational family ties and heritage tourism, mixed-ness, ethnic pride and solidarity, military and colonial histories, and current geopolitical military/environment issues in Okinawa and Hawai’i.”

Kina is Vincent de Paul Professor of Art, Media, & Design at DePaul University in Chicago and co-founder of the biennial Critical Mixed Race Studies conference. She co-authored War Baby/Love Child: Mixed Race Asian American Art (University of Washington Press, 2013) and acts as reviews editor for Asian Diasporic Visual Cultures and the Americas. She is working on a forthcoming anthology Queering Contemporary Asian American Art. Her work has been widely exhibited in galleries and museums nationally and internationally, including in the Smithsonian National Museum of American History and the Japanese American National Museum.

For more information, click here.

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Damien Shen: On the Fabric of the Ngarrindjeri Body

Posted in Articles, Arts, Asian Diaspora, Live Events, Media Archive, Oceania on 2016-09-18 22:23Z by Steven

Damien Shen: On the Fabric of the Ngarrindjeri Body

Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia
400 Worrell Drive
Peter Jefferson Place
Charlottesville, Virginia 22911
September 2016


Damien Shen

The only museum in the United States dedicated to the exhibition and study of Australian Aboriginal Art

September 9 – December 18, 2016

On the Fabric of the Ngarrindjeri Body is an exhibition of drawings, prints and photographs by artist Damien Shen (Ngarrindjeri, Chinese). Shen began unearthing stories of his Aboriginal ancestry after the death of his grandmother. While researching historical records, he discovered that the skeletal remains of more than 500 Ngarrindjeri people had been stolen by an Australian coroner and sent to a scientist in Scotland for the purpose of comparative anatomy. Shen has drawn portraits of both men, along with that of Boorborrowie, a Ngarriindjeri man whose remains were later repatriated to Australia. Through these works, Shen exposes this buried history and questions the acclaim given to men of science.

Believing that the removal and scientific analysis of human remains divorces the body from its spirit, Shen uses his art practice to “reintroduce the spirit.” The exhibition takes its title from an etching in which Shen has superimposed customary Ngarrindjeri body paint designs onto a figure drawn in the style of 16th century European anatomical drawings. In drawing these designs, which are also shown in the photographs of Shen being painted for the first time, the artist celebrates the unity of the spirit and body in Ngarrindjeri culture…

For more information, click here.

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Profile: Damien Shen

Posted in Articles, Arts, Asian Diaspora, Media Archive, Oceania on 2016-09-14 23:37Z by Steven

Profile: Damien Shen

The Adelaide Review
Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
2014-09-08

Jane Llewellyn


Damien Shen

While Damien Shen was on a two-week trip exploring Australia’s major galleries, it occurred to him that art is about telling stories.

“Creating art is not just about technical ability, it’s about the story and it’s also about how you express the story… if you can pull all those things together you can reach the next level,” Shen explains.

To reach the next level, Shen is looking at his own story and drawing on it in his work. As he nears 40 years of age, Shen is approaching his practice with a newfound maturity that wasn’t available to him before.

“It’s been such a rapid progression,” he says.

“It was almost meant to happen this late. If it happened any earlier I would have been too immature.”…

…In the midst of the course, Shen’s Aboriginal grandmother passed away and he started considering his family history – he is Chinese/Aboriginal – and decided he wanted to document it. From there things happened quickly for Shen. He started drawing again, held his first exhibition (Drawing on the Heroes Who Shape Us at the Adelaide Festival Centre’s Artspace Gallery), and won the NAIDOC South Australian Artist of the Year award…

Read the entire article here.

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‘You look like the help’: the disturbing link between Asian skin color and status

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Autobiography, Canada, Media Archive on 2016-09-11 23:49Z by Steven

‘You look like the help’: the disturbing link between Asian skin color and status

Fusion
2016-08-25

Mari Santos
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Outside a hotel lobby in Toronto earlier this year, an elderly Asian woman stopped my mother and me to ask what time a tour bus would be arriving. Then, the woman asked in broken English: “Are you Philippine?”

“Yes,” my mom replied.

“Ahh, you look Korean!” the woman exclaimed. My mother graciously thanked her.

I darted my eyes, offended and confused at the implication that looking Korean over Filipino should somehow be taken as a compliment. Later I asked my mother: “Why did you thank her?”

“I don’t know,” she admitted sheepishly…

Read the entire article here.

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Memoir Uncovers One Woman’s Painful Search for Racial Identity

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Autobiography, Media Archive, United States on 2016-09-09 04:47Z by Steven

Memoir Uncovers One Woman’s Painful Search for Racial Identity

NBC News
2016-09-08

Brooke Obie

When award-winning journalist Sil-Lai Abrams finally sat down to write her memoir, she hoped to stick to her 8-month contract. Instead, it took Abrams 3.5 years to dive into the pain of her upbringing and emerge ready to tell her story in full in “Black Lotus: A Woman’s Search for Racial Identity” (Gallery Books/Karen Hunter Publishing, August 2016).

Born to a Chinese immigrant mother and a white American father in Hawaii in 1970, Abrams was raised as a white child. When school children in her Seminole County, Florida hometown would taunt her because of her brown skin and loose curly hair, with “nigger” and “porch monkey,” she took refuge in what her father had taught her: She had such tanned skin because she was born in Hawaii. It didn’t make sense to her, even as a young child, but in a world where Blackness was inferior, she clung to her father’s “Hawaiian” explanation with both hands.

She would be nearly 14 years old before her father would snatch the privilege of whiteness from her fingers. By this time, her mother had abandoned her, her father, and her two fair-skinned, straight haired younger siblings, and Abrams wrestled with self-worth as a result…

Read the entire article here.

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Five Queers Of Color On What Connects Us To Our Complicated Or Mixed-Race Identities

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Autobiography, Gay & Lesbian, Latino Studies, Media Archive, United States on 2016-09-04 01:03Z by Steven

Five Queers Of Color On What Connects Us To Our Complicated Or Mixed-Race Identities

Autostraddle
2015-01-02

Hannah Hodson

There is a sense of community that comes with being a person of color, but for some of us, settling into that community isn’t always comfortable. Because we don’t get a membership card along with our birth certificate, finding our identity comes with the burden of having to “prove” yourself. Whether you’re bi-racial, adopted, or otherwise ethnically ambiguous, there will always be that person who wants to know, needs to know: “What are you?” And while most of us have a stock answer, secretly we’re thinking “I’ve got no clue, dude.” Many of us struggle to prove our authenticity to ourselves first, and find ourselves deeply attached to little reminders of our roots. And those reminders, large or small, become the thread that weaves the stories of our lives. These are a few of those stories…

Read the entire article here.

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Love Sees No Color? Chinese American Intermarriage

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Interviews, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2016-09-04 00:31Z by Steven

Love Sees No Color? Chinese American Intermarriage

AsAmNews
2014-07-10

Karen Ye

Editor’s Note: The following is a question and answer between reporter Karen Ye and Dr. Larry Hajime Shinagawa, Executive Director of New World Research Institute, a non-profit think tank focusing on research on new immigrants to the United States. Among his research areas are intermarriage, multiracial identity, and Asian American culture and community. He is former director of Asian American Studies at the University of Maryland at College Park and director of the Center for the Study of Culture, Race, and Ethnicity and Associate Professor of the Sociology Department of Ithaca College. Shinagawa makes the case that we need to go beyond color-blindness to understand intermarriage among Chinese Americans…

Q: People say “love sees no color,” how do you feel about it?

A: Not true. When I wrote my dissertation on intermarriage among Asian Americans, I interviewed six dozen interracial couples. When they were with their significant other, they said, “I don’t see color. I just see him/her.” But when I talked to them individually, they discounted the narrative of color blindness and said it indeed played a major role, but one that they tried to overcome.

Q: What do you think that tells us?

A: That interracial relationships and interracial marriages are anything but color-blind. Yes, there is love, but that love is tinged and affected by the history of colonialism, skin color hierarchy, White racial privilege, unequal economic opportunity and by racist/sexist imageries that define the politics of sexual desire and acceptability…

Read the entire interview here.

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