- Introduction:Locating Feminism in Asian Diasporas
Let us begin by telling the story behind our cover art, how we think diasporic life is captured in a ghost position that orients our special issue, and how our repositioning of the ghost artwork acts metaphorically as our feminist agentive move to invite specific ways of reading and looking.
Why Asian diasporas? Why ghosts? How does the ghostliness of diaspora play into the ways we interrogate the nation and transnationalism, critique imperialism and empire, and reimagine the diasporic past, present, and future? And simultaneously, how does the ghostliness of diaspora engage feminism, gender, and sexuality? And beyond popular discourses of oppression and violence, how does a ghostly diasporic position hold feminist temporal and spatial possibilities for agency and resistance?
An amazingly creative project published in Asian American Literary Review, guest edited by Mimi Khúc in 2016, Open in Emergency: A Special Issue on Asian American Mental Health presents a deck of Asian American tarot cards, "featuring original art and text revealing the hidden contours of Asian American lives" (Asian American Literary Review 2016). In this deck, The Ghost tarot card captures an important affective and discursive trope of Asian diasporic existence as a ghostliness that we chose to visually represent our special issue. As widely studied across academic disciplines, the ghost has been an important allegorical emblem in Asian diasporas' experiences and histories (e.g., Cheng 2001; Cho 2008; Gordon 2008; Mimura 2009; Langford 2013). As one of our pieces (Liu, this issue) articulates, the "ghostly position" represents the uniquely racialized subjectivity that Asian diasporas occupy, with "loss of origin and perpetual ghostly emptiness of racial otherness." Our collection of works in this special issue [End Page 13] inherits the diasporic ghostliness, yet with an explicitly feminist analytics. We engage Braziel and Mannur's proclamation that diaspora, as an important category of critical analysis, is always "inseparable, epistemologically or historically, from inquiries of race, gender, class, and sexuality" (2003, 5). We propose a feminist diasporic position, the feminist ghostliness, to examine Braziel and Mannur's underpinning, one that invites disruptive temporal and spatial possibilities of viewing travel, time, space, and belonging in resistance to normative nationalist and masculinist understandings of such in moments of transnationality and postcoloniality.
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On our cover, we turned the vertical card sideways, placing it horizontally to capture the poetics of this issue: the disruption of spatial and geographical politics, and the subversion of the oppositional, up-and-down hierarchy between past and present, here and there, memory and present, dream and reality. Such subverted spatial politics refuse to prioritize any specific diasporic points of lineage or transgression, but compel the [End Page 14] readers to look at them holistically, side by side (e.g., hanging bodies are now floating, trees now grow sideways), preventing things from "falling through" in the endless continuation of diasporic historicity and futurity, a feminist agentic interruption of looking at the ghost. In so doing, we honor and ask the question from the tarot card's text: "How have the forces of history [and, we add, future] brought you to this moment?"
Transnational Feminist Diasporas as Rejection to Nationalism
The idea of this special issue evolves from Lili Shi's experience in summer 2016. A group of faculty at the City University of New York led by Soniya Munshi, Caroline Hong, Linta Varghese, and Jennifer Hayashida initiated a year-long program called "Building Asian American Studies" (BAAS) across CUNY classrooms. As participants trained in different disciplines, we discussed "Asia," "America," and "diaspora" in the contexts of world events and movements such as Brexit, the inauguration of Trump, world refugee crises, and other global concerns. We became increasingly anxious over the popular discourses that embolden the problematic binary and antagonistic thinking of national vs. alien, citizen vs. noncitizen, home vs. displaced, belonging vs. nonbelonging, and authentic vs. tainted...