This essay engages a new iteration of racial kitsch, the anthropomorphic Asian object. Unlike ethnic Halloween costumes, American Indian mascots, and mammy cookie jars, these mundane household items evade recognition as racist caricature through their aesthetic form, kawaii or cute-style. This essay explores the association between racial caricature and harm through the ambivalent affective responses evoked by cute things. Arguing that kawaii Asian proxies allow for the enjoyment of unequal relations of power, the essay looks at the ways in which racial things veil anxieties surrounding globalization and economic competition. It explores the vacillation between pleasure and pain underlying Asian American spectatorship of “racist cute” things to test coalition as a community of shared feeling. Interrogating racial pleasures as they circulate through the nonhuman, the essay situates racial stereotyping as a desiring structure that complicates the framework of offensive versus inoffensive representation and gestures toward its analogue, racial profiling.


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pp. 29-58
Launched on MUSE
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