- Editor's Note
In Cristina García's novel Monkey Hunting (2003), the protagonist Chen Pan migrates from rural China to Cuba in 1857 via a slave ship. Pan initially works as an indentured servant on a sugarcane plantation, but later escapes. After opening a small business, he buys and marries an enslaved mulata and begins a family. The novel is an intergenerational story that follows Pan's granddaughter, who lives under Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution, and his great-great-grandson, who migrates with his father to the United States and later serves in the Vietnam War. Similarly, Mira Nair's 1991 film Mississippi Masala is a cross-generational tale chronicling a Ugandan Indian family's forced migration to England and then to the United States. While the father, Jay, longs for his home in Uganda, his daughter Mina makes peace with their life in the United States and falls in love with an African American man. Both Monkey Hunting and Mississippi Masala offer nuanced stories of Asian diasporas in terms of migration, displacement, cultural hybridity, and interethnic relations.
These fictional narratives echo many of the themes explored in this issue. Movement to, from, and across Asia is not new. Asian diasporic communities can be found all over the globe, including Africa, the Americas, Europe, and Australia. As depicted in García's and Nair's cultural texts, Asian migration is often marked by multiple migrations over the course of a few generations. This constant movement can ferment feelings of nostalgia and loss, but migration can also be the catalyst for new forms of kinship; creative, hybrid forms of expression; and the reinvention of urban, suburban, and rural spaces. This issue of WSQ taps into the varied [End Page 9] experiences of Asian diasporas around the globe through an intersectional optic that views gender and sexuality as central to the process of migration.
The label "Asian" encompasses a heterogeneous group of people with varied histories of colonization (both as the colonizer and the colonized), spoken and written languages, and cultural practices. The "push" and "pull" factors for migration also differ among Asian groups—while some migrate for more economic opportunities, others leave for political refuge. U.S. policy also shapes Asian migration. For example, the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act in the United States and the 1923 Chinese Immigrant Act in Canada both restricted immigration from China until the 1940s. During World War II, Japanese internment in the United States cast East Asians not only as second-class citizens but also as enemies. These policies and practices cemented the image of Asians as the perpetual foreign Other in the popular imagination. As a result of the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, Asian migration to the United States soared to the thousands, but Orientalist discourses continued to circulate in the United States and Europe. U.S. military intervention in countries like Cambodia, Granada, the Philippines, and Vietnam also greatly influenced Asian migratory routes and patterns to the United States and other parts of the world. As such, militarization and colonialism remain a central part of the Asian diasporic experience.
While some Asian groups are considered model minorities in Europe and the United States, this framing is uneven. For example, Cambodians are one of the poorest communities in the United States. Additionally, while Asian migrants might be valued for certain kinds of gendered labor (e.g., Indian men in the technology industry or Asian-Pacific women in domestic work), they are not always welcomed into mainstream society. In addition to facing centuries-old Orientalism, contemporary Asian diasporas exist in countries that are increasingly hostile to immigrants, particularly in Europe and the United States. Ironically, Asian consumer products and practices—like Korean skin care, matcha tea, and yoga—are routinely co-opted for U.S. consumption, but Asian migrants are not necessarily welcomed. For example, Chinatowns exist globally, but some merely exist for the consumption of non-Asians with few Chinese people actually living in those areas (McDonogh and Wong 2012). [End Page 10]
This issue reaffirms WSQ's commitment to transnational feminisms. Over the last ten years, WSQ has published a number of pieces...