Culture, History, Politics
Publication Year: 2006
With a Foreword by Vijay Prashad and an Afterword by Gary Okihiro
How might we understand yellowface performances by African Americans in 1930s swing adaptations of Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado, Paul Robeson's support of Asian and Asian American struggles, or the absorption of hip hop by Asian American youth culture?
AfroAsian Encounters is the first anthology to look at the mutual influence of and relationships between members of the African and Asian diasporas. While these two groups have often been thought of as occupying incommensurate, if not opposing, cultural and political positions, scholars from history, literature, media, and the visual arts here trace their interconnections and interactions, as well as the tensions between the two groups that sometimes arise. AfroAsian Encounters probes beyond popular culture to trace the historical lineage of these coalitions from the late nineteenth century to the present.
A foreword by Vijay Prashad sets the volume in the context of the Bandung conference half a century ago, and an afterword by Gary Okihiro charts the contours of a “Black Pacific.” From the history of Japanese jazz composers to the current popularity of black/Asian “buddy films” like Rush Hour, AfroAsian Encounters is a groundbreaking intervention into studies of race and ethnicity and a crucial look at the shifting meaning of race in the twenty-first century.
Published by: NYU Press
Title Page, Copyright Page
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As is always the case, this volume owes a large debt to a wide range of people who showed their genuine interest in the fundamental ideas of AfroAsian Encounters and participated with challenging discussions at many different sites and occasions. The inspiration for the project came, for Shannon, from a seminar with Harry Elam...
Foreword - Bandung Is Done: Passages in AfroAsian Epistemology
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One evening in early 1955, the African American writer Richard Wright picked up his evening newspaper. He casually glanced over the items but was stopped by one notice. In far off Indonesia, representatives from twenty-nine newly liberated countries in Africa and Asia planned to gather for a conference. ...
Introduction: AfroAsian Encounters: Culture, History, Politics
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For a long time, many critics understood W. E. B. Du Bois’s famous diagnosis of the twentieth century as plagued by the problem of the color line as a description of white/nonwhite antagonisms. However, in the aftermath of identity movements on the part of a variety of racial and ethnic groups, as well as saddening clashes between them, it has become impossible to construe the twentieth century as riven by a single color line. Instead...
Part I: Positioning AfroAsian Racial Identities
“ A Race So Different from Our Own”: Segregation, Exclusion, and the Myth of Mobility
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From the late nineteenth century through the mid–twentieth century, two regimes of racialized segregation existed simultaneously on the terrain of U.S. law and culture: Jim Crow and Chinese exclusion. The former traditionally has been perceived as about the “problem” of race relations, while the latter has been perceived as about the “problem” of immigration. This...
Crossings in Prose: Jade Snow Wong and the Demand for a New Kind of Expert
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The “racial uniform,” Robert E. Park’s 1914 metaphor for the status of the “Oriental,” is a strange but somehow familiar image. Used in his theory of racial assimilation, this understudied image is most obviously meant to refer to a biological racial discourse that produces a sense of otherness and limits the life chances of racialized groups.1 Both African Americans and...
Complicating Racial Binaries: Asian Canadians and African Canadians as Visible Minorities
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Discussions of “race” today have been strongly influenced by the concepts developed in the United States in the last thirty years. Until recently, the terms “race” and “racism” in America almost always conjure up issues of inequality, differences, and discrimination among black and white people. In their essay, “Does ‘Race’ Matter?” Robert Miles and Rodolfo D. Torres...
One People, One Nation?: Creolization and Its Tensions in Trinidadian and Guyanese Fiction
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In his volume The Repeating Island, Antonio Benítez-Rojo provides an illustrative,
if not naturalistic, description of how the Caribbean developed:
Let’s be realistic: the Atlantic is the Atlantic because it was once engendered by the copulation of Europe—that insatiable solar bull—with the Caribbean archipelago; the Atlantic is today the Atlantic (the navel of capitalism) because Europe, in its mercantilist laboratory, conceived the project of...
Black-and-Tan Fantasies: Interracial Contact between Blacks and South Asians in Film
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Discussing the Hollywood biracial buddy films of the 1980s such as Alien Nation (1988), Ed Guerrero argues that the sci-fi buddy feature transcodes social tensions and fears about racial mixture as a result of increasing immigration; in doing so, he points beyond the biracial paradigm that often constrains a film’s critical reading offered by contemporary scholars.1...
Part II: Confronting the Color Hierarchy
“It Takes Some Time to Learn the Right Words”: The Vietnam War in African American Novels
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When one thinks of African American involvement in the Vietnam War, the following, probably well-known facts come immediately to mind: African Americans were more than twice as vulnerable to draft-board calls as whites—in 1967, for example, 64 percent of eligible blacks were drafted in comparison with only 31 percent of eligible whites1—and blacks were many times more likely to serve in combat units, whereas many white...
Chutney, Métissage, and Other Mixed Metaphors: Reading Indo Caribbean Art in Afro Caribbean Contexts
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In this essay, I explore the staging of identity by select Caribbean artists of Indian descent as they simultaneously assimilate and resist the influences of Afro Caribbean politics and cultures within their contemporary national contexts.1 By using the work of situated artists like Bernadette Indira Persaud and Shastri Maharaj, who are from Guyana and Trinidad, and comparing them to doubly diasporic artists like Lucilda Dassardo...
These Are the Brea: ksHip-Hop and AfroAsian Cultural (Dis)Connections
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April 5, 2002, New York—Jin Auyeung, a rapper of Chinese American descent, wins his seventh week in a row on B.E.T.’s [Black Entertainment Television] Freestyle Fridays competition. He is only the second rapper in B.E.T. history to have completed all seven weeks without a loss. During the course of the competition, Jin is repeatedly attacked by his opponents with...
Part III: Performing AfroAsian Identities
Racing American Modernity: Black Atlantic Negotiations of Asia and the “Swing” Mikados
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In the spring of 1939, in a New York humbled by the economic losses of the Depression, and confronted by the specter of German fascism, Japanese imperial expansion, domestic isolationist pressures, and the racial inequities of Jim Crow, Broadway producer Michael Todd staged a hit show, The Hot Mikado (Figure 1). A spin-off of the enormously successful...
Black Bodies/Yellow Masks: The Orientalist Aesthetic in Hip-Hop and Black Visual Culture
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In the fall of 2004, a subsidiary of Music Television (MTV), Video Hits One (VH1), aired a special on the top new trends in music video. Among the program’s top one hundred, one could watch the reoccurring use of Asian culture among hip-hop musicians in their videos.While commentators cited signs of Asian ethnicity as now “hot” in the twenty-first century...
The Rush Hour of Black/Asian Coalitions?: Jackie Chan and Blackface Minstrelsy
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Hollywood has always had a vexed relationship to the history of ethnic communities in the United States. There is a strange ambivalence in Hollywood classics introducing—and hence mainstreaming—ethnic presences on what might well be defined as a white screen. The appearance in the 1930s of Charlie Chan, the “Oriental” detective, signaled at once Hollywood’s...
Performing Postmodernist Passing: Nikki S. Lee, Tuff, and Ghost Dog in Yellowface/Blackface
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Nikki S. Lee, the Korean American photographer, darkens her face to plunge into the African American hip-hop scene in the Bronx; the artistic result is snapshots of herself cheerfully embracing her role as a “homegirl,” literally being embraced by “rap gangstas.” Paul Beatty’s outrageous, politically incorrect African American hero in the novel Tuff (2000) plays...
Part IV: Celebrating Unity
Persisting Solidarities: Tracing the AfroAsian Thread in U.S. Literature and Culture
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In July of 1946 Zora Neale Hurston wrote to her friend Claude Barnett in a political rage. The source of her anger was U.S. President Harry S. Truman, specifically Truman’s penchant for bloodthirsty foreign policy. “I am amazed at the complacency of [the] Negro press and public,” she wrote to Barnett, perhaps goading a little the president of the Associated Negro...
Internationalism and Justice: Paul Robeson, Asia, and Asian Americans
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I [just sang] Chinese and Hebridean folk songs to illustrate a point that is very close to my heart these days— the likeness of the music of various peoples. . . . This was brought home to me in Scotland . . . in many of my concerts I would find the Chinese and the African and the Scotch chaps exchanging their music on the flute and on the bagpipes and on the xylophone, and they all came...
“Jazz That Eats Rice”: Toshiko Akiyoshi’s Roots Music
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In 1974, Toshiko Akiyoshi began performing and recording a big band she had formed two years earlier with her husband, Lew Tabackin. After more than twenty years in the business, the pianist felt it was time for her to repay jazz by bringing her Japanese heritage to the music. Based in New York City for most of her career in the United States, Akiyoshi relocated to...
Kickin’ the White Man’s Ass: Black Power, Aesthetics, and the Asian Martial Arts
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To even the casual observer of the martial arts community in the United States, there is undeniably a significant representation of African American and Latino participants and aficionados, perhaps in greater numbers and intensity than that of Asians. I noticed this sociological phenomenon as a young teenager during the 1970s while attending the popular martial arts movies in deteriorating inner-city movie theaters in and around Boston’s...
Afterword: Toward a Black Pacific
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“AfroAsian” articulations, as shown in this anthology, undermine the prevailing black/white binary of racializations in the United States. The racial formation necessitates that intervention. But there are other binaries at work in the United States’ social, not racial, formation. These include the diasporic binaries of Europe and America,1 Africa and America, Asia and America; the bipolar gendering and sexualizing of geographies as in Orientalism...
About the Contributors
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Page Count: 336
Publication Year: 2006