East Main Street

East Main Street: Asian American Popular Culture

Shilpa Davé
LeiLani Nishime
Tasha G. Oren
Copyright Date: 2005
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 382
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  • Book Info
    East Main Street
    Book Description:

    Description not available.

    eISBN: 978-1-4798-7507-8
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Foreword
    (pp. xi-xvi)
    Robert G. Lee

    In response to the following passage from a 1976 poem promoting the English settlement of South Carolina, Georgia asked its readers to imagine the American colony as a potential commercial rival to China and India.

    The frugal matron and blooming Maid;

    The expiring Insects curious Work resume

    And wind materials for the British Loom:

    Our web to these shall all the Beauties owe,

    Which Asia boasts and Eastern Pride can show;

    With skilful China’s richest Damasks vie,

    And emulate the Chint’s alluring Dye.”¹

    While Georgia’s experiment with sericulture soon foundered on the wrong species of mulberry tree, the verse nevertheless...

  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)
    Shilpa Davé, LeiLani Nishime and Tasha G. Oren

    From henna tattoo kits available at your local mall to “faux Asian” fashions, house wares, and fusion cuisine; from the new visibility of Asian film, music, video games, and anime to current stylistic blending of hip hop, martial arts motifs, and “Japanese kitsch style,” Asian in fluences have thoroughly saturated the U.S. cultural landscape to become part of the vernacular of popular culture. Paradoxically, this current visibility of global “Asianness” renders the cultural presence of Asian Americans in mainstream American culture conceptually problematic: simultaneously hypervisible and out of sight. In the midst of a boom in both Asian American population...

  6. PART I: Globalization and Local Identities
    • Chapter 1 Trance-Formations: Orientalism and Cosmopolitanism in Youth Culture
      (pp. 13-31)
      Sunaina Maira

      Images and sounds of Asia emerged to mark the “cool” edge of U.S. popular culture in the 1990s in ways that express the contradictions of economic and cultural globalization, immigration, and racialization, contradictions that speak to the particular positioning of Asian Americans at this historical moment. In the late 1990s, for example, South Asian motifs and music became particularly visible in the latest manifestation of “Asian cool” at a time when South Asian immigration to the United States was growing rapidly, with an increasing number of South Asian labor migrants working in low-income jobs. South Asian American youth were justifiably...

    • Chapter 2 Making Transnational Vietnamese Music: Sounds of Home and Resistance
      (pp. 32-54)
      Kieu Linh Caroline Valverde

      Since the arrival of the largest exodus of Vietnamese to the United States in 1975,Viet Kieu¹ popular music production has evolved in interesting ways. Led by enthusiastic individuals and catapulted by technological advances, members of the overseas Vietnamese population have successfully created a global music industry.² Heavily influenced by exile and anticommunism,Viet Kieumusic has a special blend of nostalgia that appeals not only to the members of the diasporic communities but also to the residents of Viet Nam. Inversely, moreViet Kieusingers are braving the scrutiny of being labeled communist by the overseas community to return...

    • Chapter 3 Planet Bollywood: Indian Cinema Abroad
      (pp. 55-71)
      Jigna Desai

      India, the largest producer of feature films globally, produces almost twice as many films as Hollywood. Bollywood, Bombay’s Hindi-language cinema, is not only nationally popular, but also one of the most important in the world. Bollywood is a global cinema that positions itself against the hegemony of Hollywood. Unknown to many Westerners, Bollywood films have been familiar for many decades to viewers in the Middle East, East and Southeast Asia, and East Africa. More recently, Indian films have become increasingly popular in transnational migrant and diasporic South Asian communities. As part of world communications, these films produce economic, cultural, and...

    • Chapter 4 Model Minorities Can Cook: Fusion Cuisine in Asian America
      (pp. 72-94)
      Anita Mannur

      In a recent episode of the Food Network show,$40 a day, the host, Rachel Ray, traverses the multiple culinary spaces of New York City to accomplish her goal of eating well without exceeding her daily budget of forty dollars. During the lunch portion of the show, Ray finds herself atTabla, an upscale fusion Indian restaurant in midtown Manhattan. She opts to dine in the Bread Bar, at the lower level and less expensive section of the restaurant. On the show, chef Floyd Cardoz prepares a “Vegetable Frankie,” an Indian-style burrito—spicy vegetables rolled up in an Indian flatbread...

    • Chapter 5 “PAPPY’S HOUSE”: “Pop” Culture and the Revaluation of a Filipino American “Sixty-Cents” in Guam
      (pp. 95-114)
      Vicente M. Diaz

      Hilario Diaz was an indio from Iba, Zambales. He hung with the big boys because as anherbolario, Hilario possessed folk knowledge that impressed theillustrados, and had practical applications for the nationalist march against the imperialists. Hilario’s son, Vicente, extended the lineage as a highly decorated freemason and through advancedcartillas. And then Vicente’s eyes met those of Bibiana Valero, a fellow educator and a staunch mestiza, who mandated that Vicente first convert to Catholicism, and renounce his affiliation with the Church’s sworn enemy. From his decision, and her satisfaction, came Ramon, the first son, who received a law...

  7. PART II: Cultural Legacy and Memories
    • Chapter 6 “Within Each Crack/A Story”: The Political Economy of Queering Filipino American Pasts
      (pp. 117-136)
      Victor Bascara

      Near the end of Wong Kar Wai’sHappy Together, Fai, the film’s long-suffering and pragmatic protagonist, spots Ho (played by the late great Leslie Cheung), his ex who has again turned to a life of hustling. After their final breakup, he discovers Ho in a public restroom in Buenos Aires. A year earlier, they had gotten stranded in the Argentine capital while on vacation; they parted company, reunited, and then parted again. In the lavatory, Fai was shocked to find himself in the same space as Ho, although he was there for some anonymous sex himself.

      At that moment, he...

    • Chapter 7 “A Woman Is Nothing”: Valuing the Modern Chinese Woman’s Epic Journey to the West
      (pp. 137-153)
      Christine So

      Gary Krist begins hisNew York Timesbook review of May-lee Chai and Winberg Chai’sThe Girl from Purple Mountain: Love, Honor, War, and One Family’s Journey from China toAmerica with the following, “If living in interesting times is the curse it’s reputed to be, then few people in history have been as accursed as the Chinese in the 20th century. . . . Little wonder, then, that such a turbulent era has inspired so many excellent memoirs” (2001). The cataclysmic events of twentieth-century China have indeed captured the attention of Western audiences and publishers. From the revolution against...

    • Chapter 8 Between Yellowphilia and Yellowphobia: Ethnic Stardom and the (Dis)Orientalized Romantic Couple in Daughter of Shanghai and King of Chinatown
      (pp. 154-182)
      Hye Seung Chung

      Throughout the 1990s, media scholars writing about Hollywood’s representation of Asians have privileged a handful of now-canonized silent films, such asThe Cheat(Famous Players, 1915),Madame Butterfly(Famous Players, 1915), andBroken Blossoms(United Artists, 1919), which are continuously recycled in critical discourse.¹ Each of these texts—like their latter-day permutations, includingThe Bitter Tea of General Yen(Columbia, 1933),Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing(20th Century–Fox, 1955),Sayonara(Warner Bros., 1957), andThe World of Suzie Wong(Paramount, 1933)—share the theme of interracial romance (or sexual contract) entrenched in the Orientalist imaginary of racialized and gendered...

    • Chapter 9 Whose Paradise? Hawai‘i, Desire, and the Global-Local Tensions of Popular Culture
      (pp. 183-203)
      Morris Young

      A few years ago, as I was sitting at the Honolulu International Airport waiting for my flight back to Michigan, I heard another person—clearly a tourist—make the following comment: “Honolulu is like New York City in the middle of the ocean. If you want to see the real Hawai‘i you need to go to the neighbor islands.” As someone born and raised in Honolulu, I was slightly put off by the remark and even contemplated a response: “What do you mean therealHawai‘i?” Of course it became clear that what this person imagined as Hawai‘i and what...

    • Chapter 10 Miss Cherry Blossom Meets Mainstream America
      (pp. 204-221)
      Rebecca Chiyoko King-O’Riain

      Denigrated as “low-brow” culture and antifeminist in the past, beauty pageants have been largely ignored within sociology and Asian American Studies. White feminist critiques of beauty and speci fically of beauty pageants (Wolf 1991; Bordo 1993) rightly analyze the detrimental effects pageants can have on women. However, they miss some of the subtle details of cultural production, particularly among women of color (King 2001). Recently, however, interest in beauty pageants has been increasing, as they are being seen as important arenas in which diverse cultural meanings are integrated and are given tangible form in the bodies of beauty queens (Callahan...

    • Chapter 11 How to Rehabilitate a Mulatto: The Iconography of Tiger Woods
      (pp. 222-246)
      Hiram Perez

      Tiger Woods’s tongue-in-cheek identification as “Cablinasian” on theOprah Winfrey Showin April 1997 resulted in such contentiousness within the black community that Winfrey followed up later that same month with a program devoted to the “Tiger Woods Race Controversy.”¹ Woods’s identification as Cablinasian during that interview has more often than not been taken out of context. He relates arriving at that category (“Ca, Caucasian; bl, black; in, Indian; Asian—Cablinasian”)² during his childhood as a survival strategy against racist taunting and violence, including an incident after the first day of kindergarten when he was tied to a tree and...

  8. PART III: Ethnicity and Identification
    • Chapter 12 Bruce Lee in the Ghetto Connection: Kung Fu Theater and African Americans Reinventing Culture at the Margins
      (pp. 249-261)
      Amy Abugo Ongiri

      In 1974 innovative animation studio Hanna-Barbara debuted a short-lived cartoon series for television based on the exploits of a mild-mannered, albeit lazy, janitor turned kung fu kicking superhero calledHong Kong Phooey. Hong Kong Phooey’s superhero attributes, which included clumsy kung fu and “jive talk,” were activated when he jumped head first into a trash dumpster outside the police station that he was responsible for cleaning. The character was voiced by well-known African American character actor Scatman Crothers, who would go on to gain a certain notoriety during the Blaxploitation era for his participation in the partially animated and incredibly...

    • Chapter 13 “Alllooksame”? Mediating Asian American Visual Cultures of Race on the Web
      (pp. 262-272)
      Lisa Nakamura

      Asian Americans use the Internet more than any other ethnic group in America, including whites.¹ According to data gathered in a 2001 study by the Pew Internet and American Life Report, “fully 75% of English-speaking Asian-Americans have used the Internet. Numbering well over 5 million, these Asian-American Internet users are also the Net’s most active users. By comparison, 58% of white adults, 43% of African-Americans, and 50% of English-speaking Hispanics are online” (Spooner 2001) . This little-known digital divide between Asian Americans and all other American ethnic groups with regard to Internet use calls into question prior notions of the...

    • Chapter 14 Guilty Pleasures: Keanu Reeves, Superman, and Racial Outing
      (pp. 273-291)
      LeiLani Nishime

      I was discussing with a friend the relative merits ofThe Matrixand theMatrix Reloadedthe other day, and I mentioned that the second movie featured many more people of color. My friend responded, “But the savior is still some white guy.” I countered with the argument that Reeves is hapa not white.¹ Pleased by my friend’s surprised response, I couldn’t resist reeling off the names of other hapa celebrities like Dean Cain or The Rock or Rob Schneider or the Tilly sisters (Meg and Jennifer) who recently outed themselves as half-Chinese. By the time I’m done I’ve added...

    • Chapter 15 Cibo Matto’s Stereotype A: Articulating Asian American Hip Pop
      (pp. 292-312)
      Jane C. H. Park

      In 1996 Yuka Honda and Miho Hatori, of the now defunct independent hip hop/alternative pop band Cibo Matto, appeared on a special food segment of MTV’sHouse of Style. The Japanese-born female musicians served as guides on a culinary tour of fashionable ethnic cuisines in New York City. The stint followed the release of their debut album,Viva! La Womanby Warner Bros. Records, which contained songs heavily laced with food themes and imagery. A few years later, Hatori and Honda performed on PBS’sSessions on West 54thto promote their second album,Stereotype A. In response to host John...

    • Chapter 16 Apu’s Brown Voice: Cultural Inflection and South Asian Accents
      (pp. 313-336)
      Shilpa Davé

      In this scene fromThe Simpsonsepisode “Much Apu about Nothing,” Apu vents his frustration about falsely posturing in both dress and accent as someone who is culturally and stereotypically represented as American. Driven to obtain an illegal ID card because of the imminent passage of Spring field’s Proposition 24 to deport illegal immigrants, Apu dons the garb and behavior that he thinks are typical of a patriotic, legal American, namely, a cowboy hat, N.Y. Mets shirt, and an awkward John Wayne drawl.¹ Apu clearly speaks to the actions of immigrants who feel culturally pressured to assimilate, to act and...

    • Chapter 17 Secret Asian Man: Angry Asians and the Politics of Cultural Visibility
      (pp. 337-360)
      Tasha G. Oren

      At a festival postscreening discussion of Justin Lin’sBetter Luck Tomorrow, an enthusiastic Roger Ebert praised the work, hailing it as a generational breakthrough: a film mostly populated by Asian American actors that isn’t “about” Asian Americanness. Public prodding revealed the difficulty of such an argument as Justin Lin uncomfortably straddled the line between being an Asian American director of an Asian American production and being an up-and-coming young director with an MTV and Paramount distribution deal and a film poised to perform that most American of transformations: from an independent labor of love to a mainstream success.

      To a...

  9. About the Contributors
    (pp. 361-364)
  10. Index
    (pp. 365-382)