Culture, Identity, Commodity

Culture, Identity, Commodity: Diasporic Chinese Literatures in English

Tseen Khoo
Kam Louie
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Culture, Identity, Commodity
    Book Description:

    Established and emerging scholars offer timely discussions of "diasporic Chinese studies," drawing on transnational, postcolonial, globalisation, and racialisation theories. The collection examines what is at stake in the consideration of diasporic literatures and the connections and fissures emerging in these new critical terrains.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-7327-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Contributors
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. INTRODUCTION: Culture, Identity, Commodity: Testing Diasporic Literary Boundaries
    (pp. 1-16)

    When I first conceived of the idea for a doctoral project that involved a comparative study of East Asian-Australian and East Asian-Canadian literatures, I was frequently asked whether I was Canadian or had family in Canada. It became clear that my interest in Asian-Australian material was “understood” in that I was marked as Asian-Australian (therefore, one assumes, intellectually predisposed to things Asian-Australian), but the Canadian connection failed to make sense.

    In the face of these queries, I would sketch the project in relation to comparative multiculturalisms and explain the constructive juxtaposition of postcolonial settler-invader cultures. This seemed to work. Traffic...

    • 1 “Peeking Ducks” and “Food Pornographers”: Commodifying Culinary Chinese Americanness
      (pp. 19-38)

      Asian styles, it seems, are all the rage in the United States. Chopsticks are used as fashionable hair accessories, t-shirts and dresses boast “Oriental” designs, and Crabtree & Evelyn’s signature “Floriental” fragrance combines floral scents that evoke the mystery and passion of the “Orient.” Markers of Asiannness are sold in commodified form to the “American” public in large retail stores as well as in smaller, but equally ubiquitous, chain stores such as “Ten Thousand Villages” that thrive on the commodification of otherness while maintaining an interest in promoting a progressive agenda geared towards safeguarding “ethnic” artifacts and culture and promoting an...

    • 2 Market Forces and Powerful Desires: Reading Evelyn Lau’s Cultural Labor
      (pp. 39-58)

      The relatively recent emergence of a critical mass of Chinese-Canadian literary texts, while exciting, also raises many challenges for racialized writers. As critic Roy Miki points out, asymmetrical power relationships continue to exist between readers, writers and cultural workers of colour “since publishers, reviewers, and critics (mostly white) control the conditions of receptivity and interpretation” (121). Moreover, the capitalist political economy these writers occupy constitutes a troubled and troubling terrain; commodification — be it of cultural production or women’s bodies — seems to be ubiquitous in the consumerist society in which we live. In the process of assigning exchange value...

    • 3 “There’re a Billion Bellies Out There”: Commodity Fetishism, The Uber-Oriental, and the Geopolitics of Desire in David Henry Hwang’s M. Butterfly
      (pp. 59-78)
      JODI KIM

      In the Afterword to his 1988 Tony Award-winning Broadway playM. Butterfly, David Henry Hwang seeks to address the charge that it is an “anti-American play, a diatribe against the stereotyping of the East by the West.” He insists that his work is rather “a plea to all sides to cut through our respective layers of cultural and sexual misperception, deal with one another truthfully for our mutual good, from the common and equal ground we share as human beings.” This humanist plea blunts the pointed political valence of the play, an allegory of the uneven geopolitical relations between the...

    • 4 “How Taste Remembers Life”: Diasporic Memory and Community in Fred Wah’s Poetry
      (pp. 81-106)
      LILY CHO

      In a poem aboutjuk, rice porridge, Fred Wah writes of a transpacific longing, memory, and “[h]ow taste remembers life” (Diamond74). This essay takes up Wall’s embrace of the connection between the taste and the memory, and the idea that the body can experience something that extends beyond the boundaries of the individual subject. Diasporas are by definition collectivities. If diasporas are constituted by the sadnesses of dislocation, can we conceive of a community bound by the dislocations of sadness? And, following from that, how do we think of these as agential connections rather than as obligatory and restrictive...

    • 5 “Where are you from?”: New Imaginings of Identity in Chinese-Australian Writing
      (pp. 107-128)

      Chinese-Australian writer and cultural critic Ouyang Yu points to the complex and ambiguous social location that the Chinese diaspora occupies in Australia in his poem “Alien.” As a migrant, Ouyang acknowledges that “this land does not belong to him,” but in his assertion that it “does not belong to them either,” he concomitantly challenges the assumed territorial rights of Anglo-Celtic Australians to “this land.” Like their Chinese-Australian counterparts, Ouyang reminds us that white “settler” Australians are also migrants in a more general sense. By designating Australia “this land,” Ouyang contests the British-Australian imposition of the name “Australia” onto a landmass...

    • 6 The Problem of Diaspora: On Chinese Canadian Cultural Production in English
      (pp. 129-150)

      In contemporary cultural theory, the termdiasporahas come to refer, in a rather loose sense, to the production of cultural identities in the aftermath of various histories of migration and dispersal as well as to a range of critical projects committed to rethinking the question of cultural identity. In the process, the term diaspora has become what Jana Evans Braziel and Anita Mannur call “a major site of contestation” (2) and the subject of some of the most vigorous and heated debates in recent memory. Some scholars view these debates as a sign of the compromised nature of the...

    • 7 “Forays into Acts of Transformation”: Queering Chinese-Canadian Diasporic Fictions
      (pp. 153-182)

      The term “Asian Canadian,” as I have discussed elsewhere, has proved to be problematic because of the diversity of subjectivities it attempts to include.² A number of critics have suggested that “Asian American” is a term always already in crisis,³ a view that may apply equally to “Asian Canadian.” Although “Chinese Canadian” may appear less problematic because it seems to signify a single “ethnicity,” it, too, has been made to work overtime in an attempt to encompass a large diversity of subjects, from late nineteenth-century working-class migrants from southern China who built the railroads, paid head taxes, and were excluded...

    • 8 Decentring Orientalist and Ocker Masculinities in Birds of Passage
      (pp. 183-204)

      The West did not pay attention to China prior to the Opium Wars in the early nineteenth century; and when it did, China was described as a magnificent country of learning and culture. By the beginning of the twentieth century, the marvels of Cathay described by Marco Polo had long since given way to murky images of sin, drugs, and pagan barbarism. The most influential and popular written texts to project such an image are those by Sax Rohmer, who presents in detail “a mental picture of Dr Fu Manchu, the yellow peril incarnate in one man.” Fu Manchu is...

    • 9 Exporting Feminism: Jade Snow Wong’s Global Tour
      (pp. 205-228)

      Shawn Wong’s brief portrayal parodiesThe Joy Luck Club’s feminist plot structure and the triumphalism and sentimentality that drive it. While his male protagonist would reject such a narrative as exalting Chinese-American women at the expense of Chinese culture, ironically, Wong’s own story of the originary moments of Asian American literature is both sentimental and ultimately triumphant. A young college student who wanted to be a writer in the late 1960s, he could find no ethnic role models and set out to recover Asian-American male writers forced into obscurity by the vicious cycle of American racism and indifference: “I asked...

    • 10 Sleep No More: Ouyang Yu’s Wake-up Call to Multicultural Australia
      (pp. 231-252)

      In the title poem of Ouyang Yu’s first collection,Moon Over Melbourne, a homesick Chinese poet compares the Australian moon to the moon celebrated by countless poets in his homeland. The moon is the same, and at the same time different. Like the ancient Chinese moon, it inspires poetry — and madness — but in Australia poetry is born of frustration and loss, of everything this foreign moon fails to be. The “bastard” moon over suburban Melbourne evenlooksAustralian; “mooching” along in an “air-conditioned,” “I-wouldn’t-care-less” kind of mood, it mimics the country’s indifference towards the newcomer and towards everything...

    • 11 On Ascriptive and Acquisitional Americanness: The Accidental Asian and the Illogic of Assimilation
      (pp. 253-278)

      Published in 1998,The Accidental Asian: Notes of a Native Speakerconcludes a century of Asian-American autobiography riddled with the anxiety of national belonging.² Intuiting a powerful Orientalism that renders being Asian and American conceptually and experientially incompatible, Eric Liu dismisses his biological inheritance as “accidental” while deliberately affirming his “nativity” both to the English language and the geopolitical sphere of the United States.³ His poignant reflection on the chance elements of one’s being and the transformative processes of one’s becoming has led an enthusiastic Henry Louis Gates, Jr to proclaim the book, after Richard Wright’sBlack Boy, “a major...

    • 12 “Many Degrees of Dark and Light”: Sliding the Scale of Whiteness with Simone Lazaroo
      (pp. 279-298)

      Simone Lazaroo’s novels,The World Waiting to Be Made(1994) andThe Australian Fiancé(2000), interrogate the historical practice of marking difference by an imperial white gaze that reads skin as a visible sign of otherness. Signaling Lazaroo’s importance to the developing field of Asian-Australian women’s writing, both novels foreground the dominion of white vision as an externally divisive and psychologically dispossessing process, particularly for their unnamed Eurasian narrators, whose bodies are racialized, colored, and exoticized under sustained white scrutiny.The World Waiting to Be MadeandThe Australian Fiancégive rise to new ways of thinking about the normalizing...

  10. Index
    (pp. 299-313)