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  • The Biopolitical Effect of Cold War Containment in a Coming-of-Age Narrative:On Postcolonial Subjectivity in Hagedorn's Dogeaters1
  • Chang-Hee Kim (bio)

Amritjit Singh and Peter Schmidt posit that the migration of Third World immigrants, transferring their "existence globally to the promised land" by fleeing from local colonizers to the United States, is "symbolic of the transcendent postcolonial" (28). Such postcolonial migrations to the country rose remarkably in the 1960s when the ideological cause of Cold War containment began to wane with the rise of civil-rights movements. In escaping the terrorist or totalitarian regimes of their homes, these migrants seek universal human rights, political freedom, and economic success in the United States. Instead, the U.S.-led free-market economy of late capitalism became globally dominant and increasingly disempowered the regulatory power of vested institutions, deepening social inequality, income disparity, and political injustice (Douzinas 96). As a result, Third World immigrants, in their endeavor to assimilate into the United States and succeed in its neoliberal market economy, never fulfilled the bourgeois fantasy called the "American dream," for the desire to "become American" only worked to facilitate and sustain the excessive, incessant supply and consumption of human capital that configured and incited the very dream itself.

Accordingly, the price of Third World immigrants blending in society [End Page 89] and achieving their American dream was assimilation, as they became "processed" in terms of what Robert Lee calls "symbolic castration" (39); their particular ethnic identities ended up being tamed and disempowered by, and in turn adapted to, American nationalism, thereby enabling them to pass as "good" subjects of U.S. consumer culture. The American dream remains a reified fetish, even as they are exploited to sustain the myth as commodities. They are simultaneously celebrated as good neighbors, with an exotic otherness that supposedly diversifies society, yet deplored as bad neighbors with an unfathomable otherness posing a threat to the social order. Particularly in the post-Cold War milieu of neoliberal multiculturalism, they held a negative valence as a potential threat to be eliminated from society unless offered up for its "healthy" consumption. In other words, only as tokens are migratory subjects essential to the liberal constitution of the U.S. body politic where they are exoticized but "prized possessions," "living proof of desired diversity even as their voices are ignored or silenced" (Singh and Schmidt 28).

However, the postcolonial, as well as migratory, subject's accommodation to the ideological edifice of United States' free-market capitalism and its related "melting pot" polices began in earnest with the advent of the Cold War rather than in its wake. In response to the post-WWII formation of the Communist bloc, the United States strategically employed a biopolitical technique of regulation and control in its attribution of citizenship to immigrants. It aimed to secure and integrate a Free World without communists and their sympathizers as much as possible, engaging in a soft war against communist popular front tactics of winning people's minds by nonmilitary means during the Cold War. Thus, Third World immigrants, especially from countries in Asia and Latin America, increasingly became pivotal to rationalizing the United States' containment policy of keeping Soviet communism at bay from the 1950s through the 60s. In an effort to pull themselves out of the uncertain state of identitarian ambiguity, they strained to "become American" to the extent that they put their migratory life on such a biopolitical threshold that "distinguishes and separates what is inside from what is outside" (Agamben 131).

To put this in a historical context, in 1957, the year of the "Sputnik crisis," then Vice President Richard Nixon claimed that the dictators of Moscow aimed to subvert the governments of free countries, not by military means but rather by seeking to foment "economic, psychological, and [End Page 90] subversive activities," fooling the minds of "well-intended people" to plot "ruthless control and domination" all over the world (130). At stake in this speech is a Manichean division separating the human from the non-human race: "We [the human] believe in the spirit of man; they [the non-human] treat man as a machine. We believe in justice and the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9248
Print ISSN
1549-0815
Pages
pp. 89-116
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-23
Open Access
No
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