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Asian Diaspora and East-West Modernity

Sheng-mei Ma
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    Asian Diaspora and East-West Modernity
    Book Description:

    Drawing from Anglo-American, Asian American, and Asian literature as well as J-horror and manga, Chinese cinema and Internet, and the Korean Wave, Sheng-mei Ma’s Asian Diaspora and East-West Modernity probes into the conjoinedness of West and East, of modernity’s illusion and nothing’s infinitude. Suspended on the stylistic tightrope between research and poetry, critical analysis and intuition, Asian Diaspora restores affect and heart to the experience of diaspora in between East and West, at-homeness and exilic attrition. Diaspora, by definition, stems as much from socioeconomic and collective displacement as it points to emotional reaction. This book thus challenges the fossilized conceptualizations in area studies, ontology, and modernism. The book's first two chapters trace the Asian pursuit of modernity into nothing, as embodied in horror film and the gaming motif in transpacific literature and film. Chapters three through eight focus on the borderlands of East and West, the edges of humanity and meaning. Ma examines how loss occasions a revisualization of Asia in children's books, how Asian diasporic passing signifies, paradoxically, both "born again" and demise of the "old" self, how East turns "yEast" or the agent of self-fashioning for Anglo-America, Asia, and Asian America, how the construct of “bugman” distinguishes modern West's and East's self-image, how the extreme human condition of "non-person" permeates the Korean Wave, and how manga artists are drawn to wartime Japan. The final two chapters interrogate the West's death-bound yet enlightening Orientalism in Anglo-American literature and China's own schizophrenic split, evidenced in the 2008 Olympic Games.

    eISBN: 978-1-61249-209-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction: Digging to China (or America)
    (pp. 1-6)

    Living is dying, an unscripted, unconscious rehearsal for the premiere of death—one show only for each individual serving the life sentence, cyclical reruns for collective humanity. In similar denial, modernity has dissociated itself from death and the other, death as the other. Modernity is a dream posited on the dialectical relation between self and other: industrialized West versus pre-industrial East at the turn of the last millennium; Chinese metropolises versus the rural hinterland at the turn of this millennium. In both and many more instances, the uneven development of technology results in a power binarism where the modern half...

  2. Chapter One Asian Cell and Horror
    (pp. 7-24)

    The human body is a cell, a prison house, from which the voice, the speaker of the mind, escapes through the invisible line of a cell phone, computer, or film reel. That umbilical cord to Western technology eases Asian subjects’ atomization, but paradoxically implicates the cell, telephone, and computer user in a web of bondage, a pandemic of evil, as exemplified by Asian horror films and ghost stories such asRingu(1998),The Eye(Gin Gwai, 2002),Oldboy(2003),Ju-On(2003), and many more. What connects such on-screen horror with the Asian audience and, increasingly, global cinema is a malaise...

  3. Chapter Two Asian Diaspora Does Vegas
    (pp. 25-36)

    When Asian diaspora plays, it oftentimes comes to Las Vegas or a casino or venue with gaming devices. Las Vegas and the like provide the culmination of Asian diaspora, which is, in essence, taking risks in casting oneself out of home and into the unfamiliar, a gamble in view of all the variables and pitfalls. The euphoria of possible winning is always haunted by the keen or repressed sense of loss over homeland, identity, or even youthful dream on the other side of the Pacific Ocean. Metaphorically, every facet of diaspora resembles gambling, with the high stakes involved in speculation...

  4. Chapter Three Diasporic Authors of Children’s and Young Adult Books
    (pp. 37-48)

    The concept of childhood, according to Phillippe Aries, “first appeared in the 1600s and gradually developed as children began to be distinguished from adults” (qtd. in Griswold , “The Disappearance” 35). Lillian Smith contends inThe Unreluctant Years(1991) that “the first modern picture books . . . appeared in the last quarter of the last century. With them are indissolubly associated the names of Walter Crane, Kate Greenaway and Randolph Caldecott” (108). Such attempts at genealogy are, needless to say, always West-centric. As a result, shadowed by early giants such as the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, Charles Dickens,...

  5. Chapter Four A Child’s Passing into Asian Diaspora
    (pp. 49-61)

    When Hakyung Kang, my daughter’s twelve-year-old classmate in East Lansing, Michigan for four years, prepared to return to Seoul, Korea, with her family in the summer of 2006 at the completion of her dad’s doctorate, she, quiet and reserved, never voiced her feelings about the imminent departure. On the eve of their flight, when she carpooled with my daughter and I asked her what she herself would have chosen, she whispered in the backseat: “Stay.” “How about your mom?” I pursued. “Go,” she answered. Somewhat atypical in her family’s circular itinerary, Hakyung is, nevertheless, one of many Asian children in...

  6. Chapter Five yEast for Modern Cannibals
    (pp. 62-83)

    Much ink (computer printers’ blood) has been spilled by Western critics on Dracula and his dark horde, by Asianists on Lu Xun’s “Diary of a Madman” and the Korean Wave’s cannibalistic motif, and by Asian Americanists on food pornography. My argument herein, however, proposes a dinner table of three, each guest drawn to the host of yEast, the construct of East or Orient, including self-Orientalizing, as the agent for selfhood. The gathering of blood-sucking and flesh-eating cannibals reveals a communal interest in modernity, which is but a veiled, sublimated form of monstrosity, a projection of one’s own neuroses, a self-amputation...

  7. Chapter Six Bugman in Modernity
    (pp. 84-100)

    According to theAnimal Encyclopediapublished by the popular Dorling Kindersley book publisher, the animal kingdom “divides into two types: those animals without backbones, called invertebrates; and those with backbones, called vertebrates. . . . Most invertebrates are insects—with more than one million described and catalogued” (16). The counterparts to insects, or the most populous species among vertebrates, are, of course, humans. Yet it appears that the two ends of the animal kingdom are often forgotten—the top tier occupied byHomo sapiensand the bottom occupied by insects within the Anthropoid phylum; both seem to have taken leave...

  8. Chapter Seven Kim Ki-duk’s Nonperson Films
    (pp. 101-112)

    Korea’s national dish or side dish, kimchi, has made only cameo appearances in Kim Ki-duk’s corpus of over a dozen films, for instance, in3-Iron(2004), where the trespassers into empty houses (Bin-jip, the original Korean title) claim the homeowners’ dinner table as their own. Indeed, kimchi rarely occupies a place in Kim’s staged meals because in miming—pun intended—the lives of marginalized, taciturn protagonists, the filmmaker never has much use for regular Korean meals with multiple bowls of meats and vegetables, kimchi included. While such a plentiful, everyday menu constitutes a staple scene in the Korean Wave’s family...

  9. Chapter Eight Nakazawa’s A-bomb, Tezuka’s Adolf, and Kobayashi’s Apologia
    (pp. 113-122)

    “The twentieth century began with a futuristic utopia and ended with nostalgia,” writes Svetlana Boym inThe Future of Nostalgia(xiv). This zeitgeist of looking backwards materializes in Japanese manga and anime as a belated rendezvous with World War II, as a gaze across half a century into the Rising Sun and the invariable averting from the blinding rays of wartime history. Japanese comic’s “return of the repressed” entails a coming to terms with the collective trauma that allegedly ended in 1945, yet this yearning to engage a specific past of great pain is adulterated by the human instinct for...

  10. Chapter Nine Orientalism Goes to War in the Twentieth Century
    (pp. 123-137)

    Orientalism does not go to war; Orientalism is war, with East and West pitted against each other ideologically, if not militarily. In war, one engages the enemy to inflict maximum injury, to do away with the other altogether, at least its will to wage war. Orientalism as a Western imaginary that subjugates the East, hence, befits the aims of war perfectly; war, in turn, culminates the Orientalist urge of domination. As Carl von Clausewitz notes, war is “nothing but the continuation of policy with other means” (On War69), Orientalism in wartime is, at the very least, an extension of...

  11. Chapter Ten Hyperreal Beijing and the 2008 Olympics
    (pp. 138-146)

    The Beijing Olympics commenced on 8 August 2008 with great fanfare in the opening ceremony orchestrated by the fifth-generation filmmaker Zhang Yimou, aided by Steven Spielberg (before he quit to protest China’s policy on Darfur) and what thePeople’s Dailydubs the “five-tiger generals,” including such a Chinese celebrity as the “fireworks” artist Cai Guoqiang (“Zhang Yimou” 1). The number 888 is pronounced “bu, bu, bu” (as in “but”) in Cantonese and is considered close to “fu, fu, fu” (as in the f-word) for “prosper, prosper, prosper.” A Cantonese habit long adopted by the whole country, the auspicious date of...