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Choreographing Asian America

Yutian Wong

Poised at the intersection of Asian American studies and dance studies, Choreographing Asian America is the first book-length examination of the role of Orientalist discourse in shaping Asian Americanist entanglements with U.S. modern dance history. Moving beyond the acknowledgement that modern dance has its roots in Orientalist appropriation, Yutian Wong considers the effect that invisible Orientalism has on the reception of work by Asian American choreographers and the conceptualization of Asian American performance as a category. Drawing on ethnographic and choreographic research methods, the author follows the work of Club O’ Noodles—a Vietnamese American performance ensemble—to understand how Asian American artists respond to competing narratives of representation, aesthetics, and social activism that often frame the production of Asian American performance.

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Cities of Others

Reimagining Urban Spaces in Asian American Literature

Xiaojing Zhou

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Civil Racism

The 1992 Los Angeles Rebellion and the Crisis of Racial Burnout

Lynn Mie Itagaki

The 1992 Los Angeles rebellion, also known as the Rodney King riots, followed the acquittal of four police officers who had been charged with assault and the use of excessive force against a Black motorist. The violence included widespread looting and destruction of stores, many of which were owned or operated by Korean Americans in neighborhoods that were predominantly Black and Latina/o. Civil Racism examines a range of cultural reactions to the “riots” anchored by calls for a racist civility, a central component of the aesthetics and politics of the post–civil rights era.

Lynn Mie Itagaki argues that the rebellion interrupted the rhetoric of “civil racism,” which she defines as the preservation of civility at the expense of racial equality. As an expression of structural racism, Itagaki writes, civil racism exhibits the active—though often unintentional—perpetuation of discrimination through one’s everyday engagement with the state and society. She is particularly interested in how civility manifests in societal institutions such as the family, the school, and the neighborhood, and she investigates dramatic, filmic, and literary texts by African American, Asian American, and Latina/o artists and writers that contest these demands for a racist civility.

Itagaki specifically addresses what she sees as two “blind spots” in society and in scholarship. One is the invisibility of Asians and Latinas/os in media coverage and popular culture that, she posits, importantly shapes Black–White racial formations in dominant mainstream discourses about race. The second is the scholarly separation of two critical traditions that should be joined in analyses of racial injustice and the 1992 Los Angeles rebellion: comparative race studies and feminist theories.

Civil Racism insists that the 1992 “riots” continue to matter, that the artistic responses matter, and that—more than twenty years later—debates about issues of race, ethnicity, class, and gender are more urgent than ever.


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Claiming America

edited by K. Scott Wong and Sucheng Chan

This collection of essays centers on the formation of an ethnic identity among Chinese Americans during the period when immigration was halted. The first section emphasizes the attempts by immigrant Chinese to assert their intention of becoming Americans and to defend the few rights they had as resident aliens. Highlighting such individuals as Yung Wing, and ardent advocate of American social and political ideals, and Wong Chin Foo, one of the first activists for Chinese citizenship and voting rights, these essays speak eloquently about the early struggles in the Americanization movement.

The second section shows how children of the immigrants developed a sense of themselves as having a distinct identity as Chinese Americans. For this generation, many of the opportunities available to other immigrants' children were simply inaccessible. In some districts explicit policies kept Chinese children in segregated schools; in many workplaces discriminatory practices kept them from being hired or from advancing beyond the lowest positions. In the 1930s, in fact, some Chinese Americans felt  their only option was to emigrate to China, where they could find jobs better matched to their abilities. Many young Chinese women who were eager to take advantage of the educational and work options opening to women in the wider U.S. society first had to overcome their family's opposition and then racism. As the personal testimonies and historical biographies eloquently attest, these young people deeply felt the contradictions between Chinese and American ways; but they also saw themselves as having to balance the demands of the two cultures rather than as having to choose between them.

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Claiming Place

On the Agency of Hmong Women

Chia Youyee Vang

Countering the idea of Hmong women as victims, the contributors to this pathbreaking volume demonstrate how the prevailing scholarly emphasis on Hmong culture and men as the primary culprits of women’s subjugation perpetuates the perception of a Hmong premodern status and renders unintelligible women’s nuanced responses to patriarchal strategies of domination both in the United States and in Southeast Asia.

Claiming Place expands knowledge about the Hmong lived reality while contributing to broader conversations on sexuality, diaspora, and agency. While these essays center on Hmong experiences, activism, and popular representations, they also underscore the complex gender dynamics between women and men and address the wider concerns of gendered status of the Hmong in historical and contemporary contexts, including deeply embedded notions around issues of masculinity.

Organized to highlight themes of history, memory, war, migration, sexuality, selfhood, and belonging, this book moves beyond a critique of Hmong patriarchy to argue that Hmong women have been and continue to be active agents not only in challenging oppressive societal practices within hierarchies of power but also in creating alternative forms of belonging.

Contributors: Geraldine Craig, Kansas State U; Leena N. Her, Santa Rosa Junior College; Julie Keown-Bomar, U of Wisconsin–Extension; Mai Na M. Lee, U of Minnesota; Prasit Leepreecha, Chiang Mai U; Aline Lo, Allegheny College; Kong Pha; Louisa Schein, Rutgers U; Cathy J. Schlund-Vials, U of Connecticut; Bruce Thao; Ka Vang, U of Wisconsin–Eau Claire.

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Claiming the Oriental Gateway

In Claiming the Oriental Gateway, Shelley Sang-Hee Lee explores the various intersections of urbanization, ethnic identity, and internationalism in the experience of Japanese Americans in early twentieth-century Seattle. She examines the development and self-image of the city by documenting how U.S. expansion, Asian trans-Pacific migration, and internationalism were manifested locally—and how these forces affected residents’ relationships with one another and their surroundings.

Lee details the significant role Japanese Americans—both immigrants and U.S. born citizens—played in the social and civic life of the city as a means of becoming American. Seattle embraced the idea of cosmopolitanism and boosted its role as a cultural and commercial "Gateway to the Orient" at the same time as it limited the ways in which Asian Americans could participate in the public schools, local art production, civic celebrations, and sports. She also looks at how Japan encouraged the notion of the "gateway" in its participation in the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition and International Potlach.

Claiming the Oriental Gateway thus offers an illuminating study of the "Pacific Era" and trans-Pacific relations in the first four decades of the twentieth century.

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Colorado's Japanese Americans

From 1886 to the Present

By Bill Hosokawa

"This crisply-written, well-designed treasure is a haunting tale every Coloradan should know."— Tom Noel, Rocky Mountain News & Denver Post

"Hosokawa's century-long account is measured and even handed: concentration camps are one of many events in the community's continuum of experiences. . . . a lively presentation . . . and an excellent choice for the inaugural work of this series."—Stefanie Beninato, Journal of the West

"Bill Hosokawa, a master writer, has drawn together thousands of strands of Japanese history in Colorado to make a rich historical cloth." — Stephen J. Leonard

"Using his knack for storytelling, Bill Hosakawa brings the life of the Colorado Issei and Nisei to life." — Colorado Endowment for the Humanities 2005 Publication Prize Committee

"... [A]n easy reading book that is quite interesting, humorous, insightful and inspirational that everyone, even non-Coloradoans would enjoy reading."— Ted Namba, past president of the Arizona JACL

In Colorado's Japanese Americans, renowned journalist and author Bill Hosokawa pens the first history of this significant minority in the Centennial State. From 1886, when the young aristocrat Matsudaira Tadaatsu settled in Denver, to today, when Colorado boasts a population of more than 11,000 people of Japanese ancestry, Japanese Americans have worked to build homes, businesses, families, and friendships in the state. Hosokawa traces personal histories, such as Bob Sakata's journey from internment in a relocation camp to his founding of a prosperous truck farm; the conviction of three sisters for assisting the escape of German POWs; and the years of initiative and determination behind Toshihiro Kizaki's ownership of Sushi Den, a beloved Denver eatery. The author relates personal stories, and the larger history of interweaving of cultures in Colorado.

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Coming Home to China

Yi-Fu Tuan

In the summer of 2005, distinguished geographer Yi-Fu Tuan ventured to China to speak at an international architectural conference, returning for the first time to the place he had left as a child sixty-four years before.  He traveled from Beijing to Shanghai, addressing college audiences, floating down the Yangtze River on a riverboat, and visiting his former home in Chongqing. 

 

In this enchanting volume, Tuan’s childhood memories and musings on the places encountered during this homecoming are interspersed with new lectures, engaging overarching principles of human geography as well as the changing Chinese landscape. Throughout, Tuan’s interactions with his hosts, with his colleague’s children, and even with a garrulous tour guide, offer insights into one who has spent his life studying place, culture, and self.

 

At the beginning of his trip, Tuan wondered if he would be a stranger among people who looked like him. By its end, he reevaluates his own self-definition as a hyphenated American and sheds new light on human identity’s complex roots in history, geography, and language.

 

Yi-Fu Tuan is author of Cosmos and Hearth, Dear Colleague, and Space and Place, all from Minnesota. He retired from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1998.

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The Coming Man from Canton

Chinese Experience in Montana, 1862–1943

Christopher W. Merritt

In The Coming Man from Canton Christopher W. Merritt mines the historical and archaeological record of the Chinese immigrant experience in Montana to explore new questions and perspectives. During the 1860s Chinese immigrants arrived by the thousands, moving into the Rocky Mountain West and tenaciously searching for prosperity in the face of resistance, restriction, racism, and armed hostility from virtually every ethnic group in American society. As second-class citizens, Chinese immigrants remained largely insular and formed their own internal governments as well as labor and trade networks, typically establishing communities apart from the main towns. Chinese miners, launderers, restaurant keepers, gardeners, railroad laborers, and other workers became a separate but integral part of the American experience in the Intermountain West.

Although Chinese immigrants constituted more than 10 percent of the Montana Territory’s total population by 1870, the historical records provide a biased and narrow perspective, as they were generally written by European American community members. Merritt uses the statewide Montana context to show the diversity of Chinese settlements that has often been neglected by archival studies. His research highlights how the legacy of the Chinese in Montana is, or is not, reflected in modern Montana identity and how scholars, educators, professionals, and the public can alter the existing perception of this population as the “other” and perceive it instead an integral part of Montana’s past. 
 

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Common Ground

The Japanese American National Museum and the Culture of Collaborations

By Akemi Kikumura-Yano, Lane R. Hirabayashi, James A. Hirabayashi

"As this collection clearly demonstrates, the Japanese American National Museum rejected the notion of the museum as a fortress of elite culture... [T]he JANM hopes to act as an agent of social change, to both educate and act as a catalyst for community building. Common Ground offers an insider's look at how the [JANM] researches, funds, and creates its exhibits. Unlike other museum studies anthologies . . . this collection does not emphasize academic authors or theoretical framing of issues. . . . The resulting book is written in a highly accessible and, at times, almost journalistic style."— Amerasia Journal

Angeles's Japanese American National Museum, established in 1992, remains the only museum in the United States expressly dedicated to sharing the story of Americans of Japanese ancestry. The National Museum is a unique institution that operates in collaboration with other institutions, museums, researchers, audiences, and funders. In this collection of seventeen essays, anthropologists, art historians, museum curators, writers, designers, and historians provide case studies exploring collaboration with community-oriented partners in order to document, interpret, and present their histories and experiences and provide a new understanding of what museums can and should be in the United States. Current scholarship in museum studies is generally limited to interpretations by scholars and curators. Common Ground brings descriptive data to the intellectual canon and illustrates how museum institutions must be transformed and recreated to suit the needs of the twenty-first century.

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