Picturing Model Citizens

Picturing Model Citizens: Civility in Asian American Visual Culture

Thy Phu
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 218
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  • Book Info
    Picturing Model Citizens
    Book Description:

    At the heart of the model minority myth-often associated with Asian Americans-is the concept of civility. In this groundbreaking book,Picturing Model Citizens, Thy Phu exposes the complex links between civility and citizenship, and argues that civility plays a crucial role in constructing Asian American citizenship.Featuring works by Arnold Genthe, Carl Iwasaki, Toyo Miyatake, Nick Ut, and others,Picturing Model Citizenstraces the trope of civility from the nineteenth to the twenty-first centuries. Through an examination of photographs of Chinese immigrants, Japanese internment camps, the Hiroshima Maidens project, napalm victims, and the SARS epidemic, Phu explores civility's unexpected appearance in images that draw on discourses of intimacy, cultivation, apology, and hygiene. She reveals how Asian American visual culture illustrates not only cultural ideas of civility, but also contests the contradictions of state-defined citizenship.

    eISBN: 978-1-4399-0722-1
    Subjects: Sociology, Art & Art History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Prologue
    (pp. 1-5)

    Should civility govern public discourse and the conduct of citizens? This seemingly simple question sparked fierce debate in response to incendiary statements about Jared loughner’s infamous shooting spree in a suburb near Tucson, Arizona, on January 8, 2011. Nineteen people were shot, and six of them died, including Chief Judge John Roll and nine-year-old Christina Taylor Green. Among those injured was Democratic congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Although the attack, the latest in a decades-long rash of mass shootings, reignited familiar discussions about gun control, what was unusual about it was civility’s sudden and surprising centrality.

    After all, the lone, crazed shooter...

  5. Introduction: Clasped Hands and Clenched Fists
    (pp. 6-25)

    It is May 10, 1869, and the mood is jubilant in Promontory Point, Utah, where workers have just finished joining two lines of the transcontinental railway that link the east with the West. To mark this momentous event, wine bottles are uncorked and hats are doffed. Strangers exchange smiles; hands clasp together. Photographers, commissioned by the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroad companies, join the celebrations, but the photographs they take are not merely illustrations. Instead, like the railways they depict, the photographs participate in the act of nation building, contributing to the project of visual unification that Alan Trachtenberg...

  6. 1 Spectacles of Intimacy and the Aesthetics of Domestication
    (pp. 26-53)

    Rare is the person who is satisfied with her passport photo. Instead, she may feel a sense of misrecognition¹ and wonder whose face gazes unsmiling back at her. Set against the requisite unflattering plain (“white or off-white”) background in accord with the strict regulations outlined by the passport office that also stipulate the precise dimensions of the holder’s face (“⅛ to ⅜ inches”) as well as the size of the portrait itself (“2 × 2 inches”), it nevertheless matters little if she recognizes herself, so long as border guards do.² Identifying the citizen with the photo she carries among her...

  7. 2 Cultivating Citizenship: Internment Landscapes and Still-Life Photography
    (pp. 54-83)

    Since the introduction of William Petersen’s concept of the model minority to Americans in 1966, this figure has, despite ongoing attempts to discredit its authenticity, swiftly become an enduring part of popular discourse. Even though the model minority myth has been the focus of numerous debates, few critics have noticed that Petersen took pains to illustrate what this figure looked like; his lengthy article was accompanied by photographs notable for their depiction of laboring Japanese American farmers. By calling on his fellow Americans to cast aside their prejudices and embrace the model minority—exemplary because of this uncomplaining productive industry...

  8. 3 A Manner of Apology: Transpacifism and the Scars of Reparation
    (pp. 84-120)

    Few scenes of reconciliation could be more touching than that between Kim Phuc, the famous “girl in the picture”¹ whose anguished escape from the flames of a napalm attack is captured in one of the most famous war photographs of the twentieth century, Huynh Cong “Nick” Ut’s Pulitzer Prize-winningTrang Bang, 1972(Figure 3.1), and John Plummer, the veteran who has claimed responsibility for ordering the air strike that fateful day. in drawing explicitly on the “Abrahamic language” that structures even secular state apologies.² the exchange between Kim Phuc, a born-again Christian who is currently a UN Goodwill Ambassador and...

  9. 4 Racial Hygiene: SARS, Surgical Masks, and the Civility of Surveillance
    (pp. 121-146)

    On April 4, 2003, President George W. Bush invoked Executive Order 13295, extending the list of quarantinable diseases maintained by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to include severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).¹ A disease that first emerged in november 2002 in Guangdong, China, SARS quickly spread within East and Southeast Asia and, in a globalized age of widespread travel, inevitably to Europe and North America before it was finally contained in July 2003.² That SARS turned out not to pose a direct threat to the United states (there were ultimately only twenty-nine probable, and no confirmed, cases) suggests, paradoxically,...

  10. Postscript: The Inhospitable Politics of Repatriation
    (pp. 147-158)

    In 1999, seventeen-year-old Kim Ho Ma and two friends, members of a Khmer gang in seattle, Washington, were convicted of manslaughter in the shooting death of a rival gang member. Ma was sentenced to thirty-three months in a correctional facility. Yet even after serving his time, he remained incarcerated at an immigration detention center. His punishment continued; shortly afterward, he was deported to Cambodia, a country he did not know, having escaped with his mother as a refugee when he was only seven. Nearly three years after his mug shot was taken, another photograph, part of his Cambodian repatriation papers,...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 159-188)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 189-204)
  13. Index
    (pp. 205-209)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 210-210)