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Area and Ethnic Studies > American Studies > Asian American Studies

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The Crucible Cover

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The Crucible

An Autobiography by Colonel Yay, Filipina American Guerrilla

Yay Panlilio and Edited and with an Introduction by Denise Cruz

In this 1950 memoir, The Crucible: An Autobiography by Colonel Yay, Filipina American Guerrilla, Panlilio narrates her experience as a journalist, triple agent, leader in the Philippine resistance against the Japanese, and lover of the guerrilla general Marcos V. Augustin, from the war-torn streets of Japanese-occupied Manila, to battlegrounds in the countryside, and the rural farmlands of central California. Denise Cruz's introduction imparts key biographical, historical, and cultural contexts.

Culinary Fictions: Food in South Asian Diasporic Culture Cover

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Culinary Fictions: Food in South Asian Diasporic Culture

For South Asians, food regularly plays a role in how issues of race, class, gender, ethnicity, and national identity are imagined as well as how notions of belonging are affirmed or resisted. Culinary Fictions provides food for thought as it considers the metaphors literature, film, and TV shows use to describe Indians abroad. When an immigrant mother in Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake combines Rice Krispies, Planters peanuts, onions, salt, lemon juice, and green chili peppers to create a dish similar to one found on Calcutta sidewalks, it evokes not only the character’s Americanization, but also her nostalgia for India.

Food, Anita Mannur writes, is a central part of the cultural imagination of diasporic populations, and Culinary Fictions maps how it figures in various expressive forms. Mannur examines the cultural production from the Anglo-American reaches of the South Asian diaspora. Using texts from novels—Chitra Divakaruni’s Mistress of Spices and Shani Mootoo’s Cereus Blooms at Night—and cookbooks such as Madhur Jaffrey’s Invitation to Indian Cooking and Padma Lakshmi’s Easy Exotic, she illustrates how national identities are consolidated in culinary terms.

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The Dance of Identities

Korean Adoptees and Their Journey toward Empowerment

John D. Palmer

Korean adoptees have a difficult time relating to any of the racial identity models because they are people of color who often grew up in white homes and communities. Biracial and nonadopted people of color typically have at least one parent whom they can racially identify with, which may also allow them access to certain racialized groups. When Korean adoptees attempt to immerse into the Korean community, they feel uncomfortable and unwelcome because they are unfamiliar with Korean customs and language. The Dance of Identities looks at how Korean adoptees "dance," or engage, with their various identities (white, Korean, Korean adoptee, and those in between and beyond) and begin the journey toward self-discovery and empowerment. Throughout the author draws closely on his own experiences and those of thirty-eight other Korean adoptees, mainly from the U.S. Chapters are organized according to major themes that emerged from interviews with adoptees. "Wanting to be like White" examines assimilation into a White middle-class identity during childhood. Although their White identity may be challenged at times, for the most part adoptees feel accepted as "honorary" Whites among their families and friends. "Opening Pandora’s Box" discusses the shattering of adoptees’ early views on race and racism and the problems of being raised colorblind in a race-conscious society. "Engaging and Reflecting" is filled with adoptee voices as they discover their racial and transracial identities as young adults. During this stage many engage in activities that they believe make more culturally Korean, such as joining Korean churches and Korean student associations in college. "Questioning What I Have Done" delves into the issues that arise when Korean adoptees explore their multiple identities and the possible effects on relationships with parents and spouses. In "Empowering Identities" the author explores how adoptees are able to take control of their racial and transracial identities by reaching out to parents, prospective parents, and adoption agencies and by educating Korean and Korean Americans about their lives. The final chapter, "Linking the Dance of Identities Theory to Life Experiences," reiterates for adoptees, parents, adoption agencies, and social justice activists and educators the need for identity journeys and the empowered identities that can result. The Dance of Identities is an honest look at the complex nature of race and how we can begin to address race and racism from a fresh perspective. It will be well received by not only members of the Korean adoption community and transracial parents, but also Asian American scholars, educators, and social workers.

The Day the Dancers Stayed: Performing in the Filipino/American Diaspora Cover

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The Day the Dancers Stayed: Performing in the Filipino/American Diaspora

Pilipino Cultural Nights at American campuses have been a rite of passage for youth culture and a source of local community pride since the 1980s. Through performances—and parodies of them—these celebrations of national identity through music, dance, and theatrical narratives reemphasize what it means to be Filipino American. In The Day the Dancers Stayed, scholar and performer Theodore Gonzalves uses interviews and participant observer techniques to consider the relationship between the invention of performance repertoire and the development of diasporic identification.

Gonzalves traces a genealogy of performance repertoire from the 1930s to the present. Culture nights serve several functions: as exercises in nostalgia, celebrations of rigid community entertainment, and occasionally forums for political intervention. Taking up more recent parodies of Pilipino Cultural Nights, Gonzalves discusses how the rebellious spirit that enlivened the original seditious performances has been stifled.

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Desi Divas

Political Activism in South Asian American Cultural Performances

Christine L. Garlough

Desi Divas: Activism in South Asian American Cultural Performances is the product of five years of field research with progressive activists associated with the School for Indian Languages and Cultures (SILC), South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), the feminist dance collective Post Natyam, and the grassroots feminist political organization South Asian Sisters. Christine L. Garlough explores how traditional cultural forms may be critically appropriated by marginalized groups and used as rhetorical tools to promote deliberation and debate, spur understanding and connection, broaden political engagement, and advance particular social identities. Within this framework she examines how these performance activists advocate a political commitment to both justice and care, to both deliberative discussion and deeper understanding. To consider how this might happen in diasporic performance contexts, Garlough weaves together two lines of thinking. One grows from feminist theory and draws upon a core literature concerning the ethics of care. The other comes from rhetoric, philosophy, and political science literature on recognition and acknowledgment. This dual approach is used to reflect upon South Asian American women's performances that address pressing social problems related to gender inequality, immigration rights, ethnic stereotyping, hate crimes, and religious violence.

Case study chapters address the relatively unknown history of South Asian American rhetorical performances from the early 1800s to the present. Avant-garde feminist performances by the Post Natyam dance collective appropriate women's folk practices and Hindu goddess figures make rhetorical claims about hate crimes against South Asian Americans after 9/11. In Yoni ki Bat (a South Asian American version of The Vagina Monologues) a progressive performer transforms aspects of the Mahabharata narrative to address issues of sexual violence, such as incest and rape. Throughout the volume, Garlough argues that these performers rely on calls for acknowledgment that intertwine calls for justice and care. That is, they embed their testimony in traditional cultural forms to invite interest, reflection, and connection.

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The Diplomacy of Nationalism

The Six Companies and China’s Policy toward Exclusion

Yucheng Qin

This is a striking, original portrait of the Chinese Six Companies (Zhonghua huiguan), or Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association, the most prominent support organization for Chinese immigrants in the U.S. in the late nineteenth century. As a federation of "native-place associations" (huiguan) in California, the Six Companies responded to racist acts and legislation by organizing immigrant communities and employing effective diplomatic strategies against exclusion. Yucheng Qin substantiates recent arguments that Chinese immigrants were resourceful in fighting for their rights and, more importantly, he argues that through the Six Companies they created a political rhetoric and civic agenda that were then officially adopted by Qing court officials, who at first were unprepared for modern diplomacy. Out of necessity, these officials turned to the Six Companies for assistance and would in time adopt the tone and format of its programs during China’s turbulent transition from a tributary system to that of a modern nation-state.

Eventually the Six Companies and Qing diplomats were defeated by a coalition of anti-Chinese interest groups, but their struggle produced a template for modern Chinese nationalism—a political identity that transcends native place—in nineteenth-century America. By redirecting our gaze beyond China to the Six Companies in California and back again, Yucheng Qin redefines the historical significance of the huiguan. The ingenuity of his approach lies in his close attention to the transnational experience of the Six Companies, which provides a feasible framework for linking its diplomatic activism with Chinese history as well as the history of Chinese Americans and Sino-American relations.

The Diplomacy of Nationalism enlarges our view of the immigrant experience of Chinese in the U.S. by examining early Sino-American relations through the structure of Six Companies diplomacy as well as providing a better understanding of modern Chinese nationalism.

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Disoriented

Asian Americans, Law, and the Nation-State

Robert Chang

Does "Asian American" denote an ethnic or racial identification? Is a person of mixed ancestry, the child of Euro- and Asian American parents, Asian American? What does it mean to refer to first generation Hmong refugees and fifth generation Chinese Americans both as Asian American?

In Disoriented: Asian Americans, Law, and the Nation State, Robert Chang examines the current discourse on race and law and the implications of postmodern theory and affirmative action-all of which have largely excluded Asian Americans-in order to develop a theory of critical Asian American legal studies.

Demonstrating that the ongoing debate surrounding multiculturalism and immigration in the U.S. is really a struggle over the meaning of "America," Chang reveals how the construction of Asian American-ness has become a necessary component in stabilizing a national American identity-- a fact Chang criticizes as harmful to Asian Americans. Defining the many "borders" that operate in positive and negative ways to construct America as we know it, Chang analyzes the position of Asian Americans within America's black/white racial paradigm, how "the family" operates as a stand-in for race and nation, and how the figure of the immigrant embodies a central contradiction in allegories of America.

"Has profound political implications for race relations in the new century"
—Michigan Law Review, May 2001

Displacements and Diasporas Cover

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Displacements and Diasporas

Asians in the Americas

Edited by Wanni W. Anderson and Robert G. Lee

Asians have settled in every country in the Western Hemisphere; some are recent arrivals, other descendents of immigrants who arrived centuries ago. Bringing together essays by thirteen scholars from the humanities and social sciences, Displacements and Diasporas explores this genuinely transnational Asian American experience-one that crosses the Pacific and traverses the Americas from Canada to Brazil, from New York to the Caribbean.

With an emphasis on anthropological and historical contexts, the essays show how the experiences of Asians across the Americas have been shaped by the social dynamics and politics of settlement locations as much as by transnational connections and the economic forces of globalization. Contributors bring new insights to the unique situations of Asian communities previously overlooked by scholars, such as Vietnamese Canadians and the Lao living in Rhode Island. Other topics include Chinese laborers and merchants in Latin America and the Caribbean, Japanese immigrants and their descendants in Brazil, Afro-Amerasians in America, and the politics of second-generation Indian American youth culture.

Together the essays provide a valuable comparative portrait of Asians across the Americas. Engaging issues of diaspora, transnational social practice and community building, gender, identity, institutionalized racism, and deterritoriality, this volume presents fresh perspectives on displacement, opening the topic up to a wider, more interdisciplinary terrain of inquiry and teaching.

 

Diversity in Diaspora Cover

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Diversity in Diaspora

Hmong Americans in the Twenty-First Century

edited by Mark Edward Pfeifer, Monica Chiu, and Kou Yang

This anthology wrestles with Hmong Americans’ inclusion into and contributions to Asian American studies, as well as to American history and culture and refugee, immigrant, and diasporic trajectories. It negotiates both Hmong American political and cultural citizenship, meticulously rewriting the established view of the Hmong as “new” Asian neighbors—an approach articulated, Hollywood style, in Clint Eastwood’s film Gran Torino. The collection boldly moves Hmong American studies away from its usual groove of refugee recapitulation that entrenches Hmong Americans points-of-origin and acculturation studies rather than propelling the field into other exciting academic avenues.

Following a summary of more than three decades’ of Hmong American experience and a demographic overview, chapters investigate the causes of and solutions to socioeconomic immobility in the Hmong American community and political and civic activism, including Hmong American electoral participation and its affects on policymaking. The influence of Hmong culture on young men is examined, followed by profiles of female Hmong leaders who discuss the challenges they face and interviews with aging Hmong Americans. A section on arts and literature looks at the continuing relevance of oral tradition to Hmong Americans’ successful navigation in the diaspora, similarities between rap and rwv txhiaj (unrehearsed, sung poetry), and Kao Kalia Yang’s memoir, The Latehomecomer. The final chapter addresses the lay of the land in Hmong American studies, constituting a comprehensive literature review.

Diversity in Diaspora showcases the desire to shape new contours of Hmong American studies as Hmong American scholars themselves address new issues. It represents an essential step in carving out space for Hmong Americans as primary actors in their own right and in placing Hmong American studies within the purview of Asian American studies.

East is West and West is East Cover

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East is West and West is East

Gender, Culture, and Interwar Encounters between Asia and America

Karen Kuo

Between 1919-1938,   contact between Asia and America forced a reassessment of the normative boundaries of race, sex, gender, class, home, and nation. Karen Kuo’s provocative East Is West and West Is East looks closely at these global shifts to modernity.

In her analysis of five forgotten texts—the 1930 film East Is West, Frank Capra’s 1937 version of Lost Horizon and its 1973 remake, Younghill Kang's novel East Goes West, and Baroness Ishimoto’s memoir/manifesto, Facing Both Ways—Kuo elucidates how “Asia” played a role in shaping American gender and racial identities and how Asian authors understood modern America and its social, political, and cultural influence on Asia.

Kuo asserts that while notions of white and Asian racial difference remain salient, sexual and gendered constructions of Asians and whites were at times about similarity and intersections as much as they were about establishing differences. 
 

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