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East-West Montage

Reflections on Asian Bodies in Diaspora

Sheng-mei Ma

Publication Year: 2007

Approximately twelve hours’ difference lies between New York and Beijing: The West and the East are, literally, night and day apart. Yet East-West Montage crosscuts the two in the manner of adjacent filmic shots to accentuate their montage-like complementarity. It examines the intersection between East and West—the Asian diaspora (or more specifically Asian bodies in diaspora) and the cultural expressions by and about people of Asian descent on both sides of the Pacific. Following the introduction "Establishing Shots," the book is divided into seven intercuts, which in turn subdivide into dialectically paired chapters focusing on specific body parts or attributes. The range of material examined is broad and rich: the iconography of the opium den in film noir, the writings of Asian American novelists, the swordplay and kung fu film, Japanese anime, the "Korean Wave" (including soap operas like Winter Sonata and the cult thriller Oldboy), Rogers and Hammerstein’s Orientalist musicals, the comic Blackhawk, the superstar status of the Dalai Lama, and the demise of Hmong refugees and Chinese retirees in the U.S. Highly original and immensely readable, East-West Montage will appeal to many working in a range of disciplines, including Asian studies, Asian American studies, cultural studies, ethnic studies, film studies, popular culture, and literary criticism.

Published by: University of Hawai'i Press


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix

An IRGP grant from Michigan State University gave me precious release time in the fall of 2004 to draft this book, followed by a book subvention grant from the College of Arts and Letters and an initiative fund from the Department of English at MSU. I am indebted to my university, the college, and the department for the generous support. ...

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Establishing Shots

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pp. xi-xxiii

Approximately twelve hours lies between Eastern Standard Time and East Asian Time, between, say, New York and Beijing. West and East are, literally, night and day apart. Yet Rudyard Kipling was dead wrong when he wrote that “East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet.” Over and over again in this book, the “twain” are crosscut in adjacent filmic “shots.” Rather than ...

Intercut on Asian Anus

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1. Anal Apocalypse: On the W/Hole of Asia and the Christian West

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pp. 3-21

Of the human body, the anus is the part most shunned. By contrast, the face is the most privileged and public body part. The two are intimately entwined, of course, as the mouth is the entry point to the digestive system and the anus the exit point.1 If either hole malfunctions, not only the other suffers but the whole body. With regard to Nature’s digestive system, the anus may well be its ...

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2. Camp Scatology: A Comparative Study of Body (as) Waste in Japanese American Literature

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pp. 22-36

Suspected as enemy aliens following the surprise attack against Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, 120,000 Japanese Americans and 21,000 Japanese Canadians were rounded up and incarcerated in internment camps in the western part of North America.1 These internees were caught between West and East: their Eastern ancestry clashed with a paranoid, racist West. As memoir ...

Intercut on Asian Penis

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3. Brush and Blade in East-West Cultures: Global Phallus, Colonial Acephalus

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pp. 39-59

The apparently contradictory pairs in the chapter title have blood ties that go back to the nineteenth century. These cultural opposites, after the initial shock and revulsion of colonialism, begin to attract each other, driven by the urge to be one: East and West, brush and blade, the literary and the martial, head and headlessness. In the West, nineteenth- and early twentieth-century ...

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4. Kung Fu Films in Diaspora: Death of Bamboo Hero

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pp. 60-76

In our global village, scholarly attention has increasingly turned to Hong Kong kung fu films, exported to the world via Tsui Hark (Xu Ke), Jackie Chan (Cheng Long), Jet Li (Li Lianjie), Yuen Wo-Ping (Yuan Heping), and others. In the past decade or so, two strains in writings on what I term “Hongllywood” films have emerged: in the first, film Orientalists see in Hong Kong cinema a cultural ...

Intercut on Asian Dubbing

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5. De/Alienation in Diasporic Dubbing/Rubbing of Maoist China

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pp. 79-96

Who hasn’t had a keen sense of estrangement when a beloved radio host with a youthful, mellifluous voice materializes into a bald, pot-bellied middle-aged man? The classic movie Singin’ in the Rain (1952) dramatizes the inverse of this disillusionment, when the beautiful silent film actress turns out to quack rather than speak in sound films. The mismatch between body and voice, ...

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6. Anime’s Atom Dialectic: From Trauma to Manna

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pp. 97-110

The infinitesimal atoms clashed midair in 1945, triggering the infinitude of the mushroom cloud over not only Hiroshima but our nuclear age. Presented as simultaneously Apocalypse and Armageddon, massive cataclysms in postwar Godzilla movies and Japanese animations—those of Katsuhiro Otomo, Mamoru Oshii, and Hayao Miyazaki—are often reflected in the pupils of ...

Intercut on the Korean Wave

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7. The O of Han Ju: Those Full, (Over) Painted Lips that Dare to Confess

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pp. 113-127

Like wildfire since the 1990s, Han Ju or Han Chao—the Chinese name for Korean television dramas, or the Korean Wave—has swept across East Asia, Southeast Asia, and Asian diasporic communities in the United States. And I include feature-length films under the rubric of Han Ju. Through promotion by South Korean television companies and multinational contracts, ...

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8. Tradition and/of Bastards in the Korean Wave

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pp. 128-140

On the threshold of the twenty-first century, the Korean Wave (Han Chao or Han Liu) represents Asia’s wave of nostalgia for an essentialized tradition, as Asia plunges headlong into the ocean of modernity (aka Westernization). Global technology allows modernizing Asia to view South Korea’s films and television serials, which formulaically feature romance amidst the conservative ...

Intercut on Body Oriental

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9. Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Chopsticks” Musicals

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pp. 143-156

Richard Rodgers writes, in Musical Stages (1975): “When I was about six, a girl named Constance Hyman, the daughter of a college friend of my father’s, taught me to play ‘Chopsticks’ with my left hand so that it would fit the melody of any song I was trying to reproduce with my right hand” (p. 9). Throughout the brilliant joint careers of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, ...

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10. The Nine Lives of Blackhawk’s Oriental: Chop Chop, Wu Cheng, and Weng Chan

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pp. 157-186

What is the point of dredging up from the lees of low-brow culture some “frivolous,” “childish” comics? How can a comic possibly enlighten, or even inform us, especially a comic like Blackhawk—fifty-odd pages, crudely produced, selling for ten cents at its inception in 1941, seventy-five cents in 1984, and marked up to about three dollars at the end of its run in 1990? ...

Intercut on Asian Magic

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11. Asian Immigrants with “Magical” Disabilities: Oriental Tongues and Bound Feet

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pp. 189-201

Marrying into the multiethnic, yet English-language-only American family, Asian immigrants have nominally abandoned their names/selves in favor of the Anglicized renditions/shadows. In spite of their linguistic and cultural self-disowning, Asian immigrants often find themselves the “odd man out” at the family table, bumped by their look-alike, U.S.-born and -educated ...

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12. Dalai Lama Superstar: Mystery and Politics in Western Films and Narratives on Tibet

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pp. 202-214

When I was a graduate student at Indiana University (IU) in the 1980s, long before Tibetan Buddhism came into fashion in this New Age era, the first ever Tibetan stupa in the United States was being established at the outskirts of Bloomington, Indiana. The stupa was the brainchild of Thubten Norbu, professor in the Uralic-Altaic Department at IU and older brother to the Dalai Lama. ...

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13. Hmong Refugee’s Death Fugue

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pp. 217-237

Paul Celan’s Holocaust poem suffocates in the black smoke rising from the crematoriums’ chimneys, shrouding inmates as well as survivors’ consciousness, including daily rituals as simple as drinking milk. A disturbing parallel exists between Celan’s death fugue and the Hmong’s, one which mourns their loss in the Southeast Asian conflict since the 1970s. Similar to Celan’s ...

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14. The Fad(k)ing of the 0.5 Generation: On Taiwanese and Chinese Retirees in the United States

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pp. 238-254

As the elderly lose the “appearance” of humanity, they appear to lose its core as well, becoming this “thing-ness” invisible behind “a tattered coat” and “a stick.” The sense of alienation deepens with the repetition of the article “a” in the first couplet. While the article “a” could mean a universal condition, the “cloning” of “a” from human to objects veers from the human collectivity toward ...


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pp. 255-256


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pp. 257-274


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pp. 275-294


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pp. 295-302

E-ISBN-13: 9780824862275
Print-ISBN-13: 9780824831813

Publication Year: 2007