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Ends of Empire

Asian American Critique and the Cold War

Jodi Kim

Publication Year: 2010

Ends of Empire examines Asian American cultural production and its challenge to the dominant understanding of American imperialism, Cold War dynamics, and race and gender formation.
Jodi Kim demonstrates the degree to which Asian American literature and film critique the record of U.S. imperial violence in Asia and provides a glimpse into the imperial and gendered racial logic of the Cold War. She unfolds this particularly entangled and enduring episode in the history of U.S. global hegemony—one that, contrary to leading interpretations of the Cold War as a simple bipolar rivalry, was significantly triangulated in Asia.
The Asian American works analyzed here constitute a crucial body of what Kim reveals as transnational “Cold War compositions,” which are at once a geopolitical structuring, an ideological writing, and a cultural imagining. Arguing that these works reframe the U.S. Cold War as a project of gendered racial formation and imperialism as well as a production of knowledge, Ends of Empire offers an interdisciplinary investigation into the transnational dimensions of Asian America and its critical relationship to Cold War history.

Published by: University of Minnesota Press

Series: Critical American Studies

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-9

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INTRODUCTION: Unsettling Hermeneutics and Global Nonalignments

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pp. 1-36

In Chang-rae Lee’s novel Native Speaker, narrator Henry Park theorizes on the etymology of “gook,” a racial epithet that most Americans came to know during the Vietnam War. Stretching the spatial and temporal boundaries of this presumed Vietnam-era racial grammar, Henry, a Korean American, traces it back to the Korean War (1950...

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1. COLD WAR LOGICS, COLD WAR POETICS: Conjuring the Specter of a Red Asia

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pp. 37-62

begin this chapter by returning us briefly to Chang-rae Lee’s Native Speaker, the novel with which I opened the introduction. Even as the Korean War emerges in this text as a problem of knowledge rather than a transparent object of knowledge that is given narrative form after the event, it is a persistent present or presence that informs and haunts the narrator’s subjectivity even though he was born many..

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2. THE EL DORADO OF COMMERCE: China’s Billion Bellies

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pp. 63-94

In her novel China Men, Maxine Hong Kingston provides a genealogy of America’s wars in Asia in the latter half of the twentieth century. In a chapter near the end of the novel entitled “The Brother in Vietnam,” Kingston charts how World War II, the Chinese civil war, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War rendered successive groups of Asians and Asian Americans as the new...

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3. ASIAN AMERICA’S JAPAN: The Perils of Gendered Racial Rehabilitation

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pp. 95-142

In the opening scenes of Alain Resnais’s film Hiroshima, Mon Amour, the dialectic of remembering and forgetting is hauntingly captured through alternating images of the entwined bodies of a pair of lovers and significant sights in the city of Hiroshima—the hospital for the bomb victims and the Peace Museum.1 Throughout, a voiceover in the form of a succession of asser-...

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4. THE FORGOTTEN WAR: Korean America’s Conditions of Possibility

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pp. 143-192

In her poem “Fragments of the Forgotten War,” Korean American poet Suji Kwock Kim “speak[s] back—in English—” to American empire from a “very different positionality.” The positionality expressed by the poem encompasses multiple generations of a Korean family divided and scattered by the Korean War: a Korean American daughter who dedicates the poem to her father and...

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5. THE WAR-SURPLUS OF OUR NEW IMPERIALISM: Vietnam, Masculinist Hypervisibility, and the Politics of (Af)filiation

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pp. 193-236

...Vietnamese” and asking “Is it not enough? . . . Don’t you think that’s enough?” Tru Vu questions the ideologically saturated historical process through which being Vietnamese has precisely been deemed not to be enough. That is, “Vietnamese” as sign has been transformed from an unqualified noun into a qualifying...

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EPILOGUE: Imagining an End to Empire

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pp. 237-242

In this book, I have analyzed how Asian American critique and cultural politics imagine America’s imperial pasts and presents in Asia by reframing the Cold War as at once a geopolitical, cultural, and epistemological project of imperialism and gendered racial formation under girding U.S. global hegemony. In doing so, I have privileged culture as a potent site of knowledge,...

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pp. 243-246

I owe many debts to many people for transforming the writing of this book from a condition of seeming impossibility to a condition of sustained possibility. The project began as a dissertation at the University of California,Berkeley. I thank the members of my dissertation committee, Elaine H. Kim, Sauling C. Wong, and Colleen Lye. I am especially grateful to Elaine Kim for...


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pp. 247-290


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pp. 291-315

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About the Author

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pp. 307-316

Jodi Kim is assistant professor of ethnic studies at the University of California,...

E-ISBN-13: 9780816673445
E-ISBN-10: 0816673446
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816655922

Page Count: 344
Publication Year: 2010

Series Title: Critical American Studies