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Economic Citizens

Economic Citizens: A Narrative of Asian American Visibility

Christine So
Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    Economic Citizens
    Book Description:

    In the past fifty years, according to Christine So, the narratives of many popular Asian American books have been dominated by economic questions-what money can buy, how money is lost, how money is circulated, and what labor or objects are worth. Focusing on books that have achieved mainstream popularity,Economic Citizensunveils the logic of economic exchange that determined Asian Americans' transnational migrations and national belonging.

    With penetrating insight, So examines literary works that have been successful in the U.S. marketplace but have been read previously by critics largely as narratives of alienation or assimilation, includingFifth Chinese Daughter, Flower Drum Song, Falling LeavesandTurning Japanese. In contrast to other studies that have focused on the marginalization of Asian Americans,Economic Citizensexamines how Asian Americans have entered into the public sphere.

    eISBN: 978-1-59213-586-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-36)

    This passage, published in 1957, depicts an extraordinary moment of Chinese American alienation. Wang Chi-yang, representative of first generation Chinese American immigrants in the novel, sorts his money alone. What is striking about the passage is neither his careful counting of bills nor the copious amounts of currency. Instead, we realize what is odd about the scene is his alternative valuation of money—not according to what the bills might purchase, but in terms of their “newness,” their time of entry into economic circulation. Wang Chi-yang’s removal of money from circulation parallels his own isolation in San Francisco’s Chinatown. Depicted...

  5. 1 The Promise of Exchange: Production, Circulation, and Consumption within Chinatown Ethnographies
    (pp. 37-70)

    Early in his 1943 memoir,Father and Glorious Descendant, Pardee Lowe declares of his father’s thriving Chinatown business, “A new economic activity was born” (8). Although Lowe refers here to the creation of his father’s dry-goods store, which becomes a focal point for Chinatown commerce, he might well have also been speaking of the birth of a new Asian American literary economy as well. A national bestseller, this narrative of a successful San Francisco merchant was just one of a number of highly popular Chinese American books that detailed Chinatown life.¹ Offering an alternative perspective to their U.S. audiences, demoralized...

  6. 2 The Universality of Exchange: Japanese American Travel Narratives and the Emergence of the Global Citizen
    (pp. 71-98)

    In an essay that captures the fullness and complexity of anti-Japanese sentiment during the 1980s, Pulitzer-prize winning historian Theodore H. White easily links the economic aggression of Japan’s trade policies during the eighties to its military aggression during World War II. Characterizing the United States as a nation historically dedicated to fair play and one that was especially generous to a humiliated Japan in the aftermath of their defeat, White argues that Japan has repaid this goodwill by stealing American ingenuity, invading American markets, and erecting strict barriers against American imports. Japan’s current economic practices are contrasted with U.S. military...

  7. 3 The Embodiment of Exchange: Asian Mail-Order Brides, the Threat of Global Capitalism, and the Rescue of the U.S. Nation-State
    (pp. 99-126)

    Americus Mitchell’s provocative analogy reveals a great deal about the status of U.S. and Asian women in the global capitalist era. In three brief sentences, he succeeds in drawing on the backlash in the eighties and nineties against U.S. women who work outside the home, as well as on fears of Japan as an economic threat. Speaking specifically about his own decision to marry Ms. Malevo, he also confirms the global capitalist vision of Asian women as automatons, while gesturing toward the taboo of the Asian matriarch presiding over the typical American home. Mitchell’s comments suggest that a variety of...

  8. 4 The Logic of Exchange: Ordering the Chaos of Twentieth-Century Chinese Women’s History
    (pp. 127-156)

    ANew York Timesbook review of May-lee Chai and Winberg Chai’s memoirThe Girl from Purple Mountain: Love, Honor, War, and One Family’s Journey from China to Americaargues, “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” (Krist). The dubious distinction given to the Chinese as the most “accursed” peoples in the modern era marks the nation as symbolic of twentieth-century upheaval, a designation...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 157-162)
  10. References
    (pp. 163-170)
  11. Index
    (pp. 171-178)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 179-180)