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Ends of Empire

Ends of Empire: Asian American Critique and the Cold War

Jodi Kim
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Ends of Empire
    Book Description:

    Ends of Empire examines Asian American cultural production and its challenge to the dominant understanding of American imperialism, Cold War dynamics, and race and gender formation. Jodi Kim demonstrates the degree to which Asian American literature and film critique the record of U.S. imperial violence in Asia and provides a glimpse into the imperial and gendered racial logic of the Cold War.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-7344-5
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[viii])
  3. Introduction Unsettling Hermeneutics and Global Nonalignments
    (pp. 1-36)

    In Chang-rae Lee’s novelNative Speaker,narrator Henry Park theorizes on the etymology of “gook,” a racial epithet that most Americans came to know during the Vietnam War. Stretching the spatial and temporal boundaries of this presumed Vietnam-era racial grammar, Henry, a Korean American, traces it back to the Korean War (1950–53). When asked by his white American wife, Lelia, if he had really felt “lucky” when reading his junior encyclopedia for a classroom presentation about U.S. military intervention in Korea, he responds, “More or less, when I was little. Sometimes, even now. You know, it’s being with old...

  4. 1 Cold War Logics, Cold War Poetics Conjuring the Specter of a Red Asia
    (pp. 37-62)

    I begin this chapter by returning us briefly to Chang-rae Lee’sNative Speaker,the novel with which I opened the introduction. Even as the Korean War emerges in this text as aproblemof knowledge rather than a transparentobjectof knowledge that is given narrative form after the event, it is a persistent present or presence that informs and haunts the narrator’s subjectivity even though he was born many years after the war. Because the Korean War resulted in the division of the country into a U.S.-controlled South and communist North, in the U.S. neoimperial imaginary there are “good”...

  5. 2 The El Dorado of Commerce China’s Billion Bellies
    (pp. 63-94)

    In her novelChina Men,Maxine Hong Kingston provides a genealogy of America’s wars in Asia in the latter half of the twentieth century. In a chapter near the end of the novel entitled “The Brother in Vietnam,” Kingston charts how World War II, the Chinese civil war, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War rendered successive groups of Asians and AsianAmericansas the new enemy, the new gook. This string of U.S. interventions in Asia is thematized as the “The War” by Kingston’s young Chinese American narrator in a composition, but her teacher corrects her by asking, “Which...

  6. 3 Asian America’s Japan The Perils of Gendered Racial Rehabilitation
    (pp. 95-142)

    In the opening scenes of Alain Resnais’s filmHiroshima, Mon Amour,the dialectic of remembering and forgetting is hauntingly captured through alternating images of the entwined bodies of a pair of lovers and signi fi cant sights in the city of Hiroshima—the hospital for the bomb victims and the Peace Museum.¹ Throughout, a voiceover in the form of a succession of assertions and the negation of those assertions, presumably in the voices of the two lovers, articulates the problematics of attempting to represent, see, know, and remember such a historical trauma. This verbal volley ensues thus:

    MALE VOICE: You...

  7. 4 The Forgotten War Korean America’s Conditions of Possibility
    (pp. 143-192)

    In her poem “Fragments of the Forgotten War,” Korean American poet Suji Kwock Kim “speak[s] back—in English—” to American empire from a “very different positionality.” The positionality expressed by the poem encompasses multiple generations of a Korean family divided and scattered by the Korean War: a Korean American daughter who dedicates the poem to her father and writes in his voice, and the father who in turn addresses in the poem the parent(s) he had to leave behind when fleeing south during the war. Indeed, the poem opens with his address: “You whom I could not protect /...

  8. 5 The War-Surplus of Our New Imperialism Vietnam, Masculinist Hypervisibility, and the Politics of (Af)filiation
    (pp. 193-236)

    From Hollywood to Hanoi,a personal documentary made by Vietnamese American actress and fi lmmaker Tiana (Thi Thanh Nga), opens with the following epigraph:

    I am neither a communist

    nor a nationalist:

    I am Vietnamese.

    Is it not enough?

    For thousands of years

    that’s what I’ve been:

    Don’t you think that’s enough?

    WHO AM I? by Tru Vu¹

    This articulation of what we could call a poetics of nonalignment rejects the ideologies of both communism and nationalism, and embraces instead a third term—“Vietnamese”—as identity and ontology. In declaring “I am Vietnamese” and asking “Is it not enough? ,...

  9. Epilogue: Imagining an End to Empire
    (pp. 237-242)

    In this book, I have analyzed how Asian American critique and cultural politics imagine America’s imperial pasts and presents in Asia by reframing the Cold War as at once a geopolitical, cultural, and epistemological project of imperialism and gendered racial formation undergirding U.S. global hegemony. In doing so, I have privileged culture as a potent site of knowledge, one that offers discombobulating diagnostics and analytics, what I have called an unsettling hermeneutic, of America’s exceptionalist (inter)national “identity politics” in the latter half of the twentieth century and beyond. While Asian American cultural texts have been literally and figuratively domesticated as...

  10. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 243-246)
  11. Notes
    (pp. 247-290)
  12. Index
    (pp. 291-306)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 307-307)