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Cold War Orientalism: Asia in the Middlebrow Imagination, 1945-1961

Christina Klein
Copyright Date: 2003
Edition: 1
Pages: 336
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  • Book Info
    Cold War Orientalism
    Book Description:

    In the years following World War II, American writers and artists produced a steady stream of popular stories about Americans living, working, and traveling in Asia and the Pacific. Meanwhile the U.S., competing with the Soviet Union for global power, extended its reach into Asia to an unprecedented degree. This book reveals that these trends-the proliferation of Orientalist culture and the expansion of U.S. power-were linked in complex and surprising ways. While most cultural historians of the Cold War have focused on the culture of containment, Christina Klein reads the postwar period as one of international economic and political integration-a distinct chapter in the process of U.S.-led globalization. Through her analysis of a wide range of texts and cultural phenomena-including Rodgers and Hammerstein'sSouth PacificandThe King and I,James Michener's travel essays and novelHawaii,and Eisenhower's People-to-People Program-Klein shows how U.S. policy makers, together with middlebrow artists, writers, and intellectuals, created a culture of global integration that represented the growth of U.S. power in Asia as the forging of emotionally satisfying bonds between Americans and Asians. Her book enlarges Edward Said's notion of Orientalism in order to bring to light a cultural narrative about both domestic and international integration that still resonates today.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93625-6
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-18)

    On the evening of March 29, 1951, an expectant audience filled the seats of the St. James Theater in New York City for the opening of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s newest musical,The King and I.As the show began, the audience settled in to enjoy the unfolding spectacle of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s songs, Jerome Robbins’s choreography, and Irene Sharaff’s costumes. One scene in particular stood out for many viewers that first night, as it did for subsequent viewers of the 1956 film version. Set in the palace schoolroom, it presents Anna Leonowens as teacher to the King of Siam’s numerous children...

  6. CHAPTER 1 Sentimental Education: Creating a Global Imaginary of Integration
    (pp. 19-60)

    In June 1957Newsweekpublished a special report on the spread of anti-American attitudes around the world, and, like many publications on international affairs from the late 1940s and 1950s, it illustrated its story with a map. Titled “Worldwide—The Feeling About Us” and spreading across two pages, the map depicts the northern hemisphere from Iceland in the West to Japan in the East (Figure 3). It represents the scope of U.S. global expansion in an unusually forthright manner: eleven text-filled balloons pinpoint the countries and regions where the U.S. had a major military presence, and indicate the number of...

  7. CHAPTER 2 Reader’s Digest, Saturday Review, and the Middlebrow Aesthetic of Commitment
    (pp. 61-99)

    In late January of 1961 Norman Cousins, editor of theSaturday Review,sat inside St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Vientiane, Laos. Cousins was there to attend a requiem mass for Thomas A. Dooley, an American doctor who had been working in the jungles and villages of Laos since 1956 and who had just died of cancer at the age of thirty-four. As Cousins listened to the service, he gazed out the church door and contemplated the country’s civil war, a conflict that was threatening to spiral out of control and engulf all of Southeast Asia. In the most recent eruption...

  8. CHAPTER 3 How to Be an American Abroad: James Michener’s The Voice of Asia and Postwar Mass Tourism
    (pp. 100-142)

    On July 20, 1955, a riot erupted in the South Vietnamese capital of Saigon when a protest marking the first anniversary of the Geneva Accord turned violent. The angry mob was not protesting the increased number of Americans who arrived in their country after the end of the French-Indochina war the previous year; as members of the Cao Dai religious sect, the rioters allied themselves with the South Vietnamese government and its U.S. supporters. Rather, they were protesting the Geneva Accord’s creation of communist North Vietnam, and they sacked two hotels housing members of the International Truce Commission as a...

  9. CHAPTER 4 Family Ties as Political Obligation: Oscar Hammerstein II, South Pacific, and the Discourse of Adoption
    (pp. 143-190)

    In the early 1950s Broadway lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II wrote a musical with his son-in-law calledWith the Happy Children.The show played before local audiences in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, a rural area not far from New York City where a number of middlebrow artists who wrote about Asia made their homes. Hammerstein wrote the show to publicize Welcome House, an adoption agency that Pearl Buck had launched in 1949 specifically to find families for Asian and part-Asian children born in the United States whom other agencies refused to handle. The agency revolutionized American adoption practices by placing children with...

  10. CHAPTER 5 Musicals and Modernization: The King and I
    (pp. 191-222)

    In the late 1950s and early 1960s Yul Brynner starred in two films that imagined the relationship between the United States and the developing world. In 1956 he played the King inThe King and I,Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical about an English schoolteacher in the royal court of Siam. Four years later he appeared inThe Magnificent Seven,John Sturges’s Western about a group of American gunfighters hired by beleaguered Mexican villagers to protect them from a local bandit. Both of these films, although set in the nineteenth century, are imbued with what Michael Latham has called the postwar...

  11. CHAPTER 6 Asians in America: Flower Drum Song and Hawaii
    (pp. 223-264)

    James Michener, after publishingTales of the South Pacificwith Macmillan in 1947, decided he wanted a different publisher to bring out his second book. Years later he described his decision to move to Random House as an expression of social conscience. “I had visited the Random House offices,” he explained,

    and had noted that their receptionist was a charming young Negro girl (she later appeared in the musicalCarmen Jones). Most publishing houses at that time did not even employ Negroes in their shipping rooms. I imagined that Random’s choice of a receptionist might cost some patronage, and I...

  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 265-276)

    A new Anna Leonowens appeared in American movie theaters in the fall of 1999. Played by Jodie Foster in the $70 million Hollywood productionAnna and the King,she was once again the teacher, governess, and advisor to the royal court of Siam. The producers promoted the film as a new version of Leonowens’s story, based on her original nineteenth century accounts, but the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic inevitably echoed throughout, despite the absence of musical numbers. The unconsummated romance between Anna and theKing still smoldered, and their feelings for each other still culminated in an erotically charged dance, now...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 277-302)
  14. Index
    (pp. 303-316)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 317-317)