Abstract

This article examines the ways Asian American designers imagine their relationship to Asian garment workers and considers the discursive and performative acts that have enabled them to transform obligatory encounters within the marketplace into voluntary relationships that exceed the realm of economic exchange. These include most prominently a performance of kinship that rewrites Asian sewers and contractors into "uncles" and "aunties" who "help out" Asian American designers because they are "their girls." I argue that these exchanges constitute a form of gift-giving that created social bonds and obligations whose functions, while utilitarian, were never purely rational or solely economic. I demonstrate how the performance of the family generated a sense of familiarity and intimacy—between differently located workers and between their different forms of labor—that allowed these constituencies to activate "ethnicity" and "community" across a range of differences.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1080-6490
Print ISSN
0003-0678
Pages
pp. 279-301
Launched on MUSE
2010-06-19
Open Access
No
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