The views and opinions expressed on this site and blog posts (excluding comments on blog posts left by others) are entirely my own and do not represent those of any employer or organization with whom I am currently or previously have been associated.
Academic Version: Applying my personal experiences and academic research as a professor of Sociology and Asian American Studies to provide a more complete understanding of political, economic, and cultural issues and current events related to American race relations, and Asia/Asian America in particular.
Plain English: Trying to put my Ph.D. to good use.
A couple of weeks ago, I made my first ever visit to China and I wanted to share some sociological observations with you about what I saw and experienced while I was there. My trip was under the auspices of my university’s International Programs Office (IPO) that’s in charge of all the study abroad programs on campus. From time to time, the IPO visits various study abroad sites around the world to make sure that they are high-quality programs for our students. Normally, the different staff at the IPO conducts these visits, but this time around, they asked me if I wanted to go to Beijing to check out the Council on International Educational Exchange’s (CIEE) programs in Beijing. It was an offer I could not pass up, so I jumped at the opportunity.
Specifically, the CIEE programs that I visited were based at Minzu University and Peking University. As the CIEE staff described to me, Minzu University was established in 1951 to basically assimilate members of China’s 56 ethnic minority groups (such as Tibetans, Uyghurs, Zhuang, Manchus, Hui, Miao, Yi, Mongols, etc.) into the majority Han culture. However, through the years, its focus and curriculum have evolved to become more tolerant and now promotes the retention of many aspects of culture and tradition among such ethnic minorities. Peking University is frequently called the “Harvard of China” and is considered to be the crown jewel of China’s university system. In its 2011-2012 ranking of universities around the world, the Times Higher Education listed Peking University as number 49 overall and as the top university in China.
Although I do not have anything to which I can compare these study abroad programs since this was my first such site visit, overall I found the CIEE programs at both universities to be comprehensive and impressive. There was a wide variety of academic and field opportunities for U.S. students at both schools to learn about Chinese language and culture inside and outside of the classroom. I found the staff there to be very friendly, professional, well-skilled, and enthusiastic about their programs. I also talked to a number of U.S. students currently studying abroad in these two CIEE programs and they all raved about the positive experiences they’ve had there. From what I saw during my site visit, I would certainly recommend these programs to my students.
While I was in China and in my conversations with the CIEE staff and with both Chinese and U.S. students, a recurring theme was that China seems to be at a crossroads in its history and that there are two important issues within which China is struggling to find its balance in terms of where it wants to position itself politically, economically, and culturally within the global community. Each of these issues that I’ll discuss in more detail below represent a paradox or set of interesting contradictions that are playing themselves out within modern Chinese society.
I am certainly not the first observer, analyst, or scholar to discuss these issues, nor can I claim to have comprehensive expertise on such issues. Nonetheless, I would like to share my observations as a sociologist who wants to apply my academic interest in how Asians (and China specifically) fit into the contemporary global community in the 21st century and how Asian Americans fit into these international dynamics as well.
The first paradoxical issue concerns the growing sense of nationalism in China. This nationalism was most recently manifested in angry and sometimes violent protests against Japan over some small islands that lie between China (Diaoyu in Chinese) and Japan (Senkaku in Japanese) and are claimed by both countries. More generally, nationalism directed against foreigners has been evident in China for a while and from time to time, flares up and can turn ugly.
In my conversations with different people in China, they mentioned that a famous Chinese philosopher named Lu Xun observed about a hundred years ago that China frequently see themselves as either superior or inferior in relation to foreign powers, but never equal to them — it’s either a feeling of superiority or inferiority. With this in mind, nationalist feelings of superiority or inferiority need points of comparison. In modern times, China has two main international points of comparison — in Asia, it’s Japan and in the western world, it’s the U.S.
My contacts also observed that in most cases, the average Chinese citizen will rarely express such nationalist feelings directly to a foreigner, there was one instance in which this nationalism was directly visible to me and other site visitors in this trip. Specifically, a group of us (all from the U.S. involved in the CIEE site visit) was walking through Peking University when a Chinese male in his mid-40s came up to us and started speaking Chinese to us. Unfortunately none of us spoke Chinese, but even after we said that to him in English, he still kept speaking. We then pulled a Chinese American study abroad student (let’s call him ‘Keith’) who was accompanying us while we were at Peking University into the conversation. The Chinese man then turned his attention to Keith and as Keith relayed to us later, went into a tirade against the presence of foreigners in China. Although this man was not shouting, he was obviously very assertive in expressing himself. Considering the recent protests against Japan, this was probably a relatively mild form of nationalism that we experienced.
The contradiction here is that China very much wants to attain a position of respect and status within the international community and wants to continue attracting international investment and promoting global trade. In other words, it needs to engage with the international community. But on the other hand, a large part of the national discourse within China emphasizes China’s superiority over foreign powers and in fact, advocates limiting or even eliminating the presence of foreigners inside China.
An interesting component to this emerging nationalism in China is that much of it was initiated and encouraged by the Chinese government, at least in the beginning. As other analysts have pointed out, when it comes to particular issues such as the disputes with Japan, Chinese government officials have tried to maintain a sense of diplomacy in public while behind the scenes, frequently allowed or even facilitated nationalist rhetoric and citizen protests to serve their political interests. The problem however, is that the Chinese government may be losing control over this nationalist monster that they’ve created. As one of my contacts noted, when you keep feeding the citizens ‘wolves’ milk,’ eventually they’ll grow up to be wolves.
I have written about this kind of “cultural schizophrenia” in China before. On the institutional and national level, this sense of fluctuating between two extremes while trying to find your identity is actually similar to what many Asian Americans face on the individual level as they try to balance the ‘Asian’ and ‘American’ sides of their identity. In China’s case, as it tries to solidify its position in the international community, it’s likely that such internal struggles will continue to take place and it remains to be seen how the emerging contradictions between the government’s ‘Dr. Jekyll’ and the nationalists’ ‘Mr. Hyde’ will play themselves out.
Where Do Chinese Americans Fit Into China?
The second sociological dynamic that I observed while in China relates to where Chinese Americans fit into modern Chinese society. Like a number of other Asian American scholars, I have a growing interest in looking at how Asian Americans fit into Asian societies and how they use both their Asian and American identities to potentially bridge the political and cultural gaps between the U.S. and Asian countries. As such, I was very interested in hearing from Chinese American students and their experiences studying abroad in China.
In addition to ‘Keith’ (mentioned above), I also spoke at length to another Chinese American student; let’s call her ‘Kathy.’ They both described similar experiences of feeling caught in a “cultural limbo” while in China. That is, on the one hand, their physical appearance is Asian and more specifically, Chinese. But on the other hand, their nationality is American. This frequently means that upon first contact, most Chinese nationals assume that they are Chinese. But once they start talking, they are quickly seen as American, even though they speak Chinese pretty well.
Both Keith and Kathy noted to me that once this happens, more often than not, Chinese nationals lose interest in speaking to them. I asked them why and they said that Chinese tend to be more interested in talking to ‘regular’ Americans — i.e., White Americans. In other words, even within China, while they are treated generally as Americans (rather than as Chinese), Chinese Americans are generally not seen as representing the ‘normal’ image or perception of what Chinese think of as ‘American’ — i.e. they are not White.
Nonetheless, Kathy and Keith told me that once they got used to this cultural dynamic, they were eventually able to create and embrace their own “Chinese American” identity that is neither completely Chinese nor completely American, but a fluid combination of both. Upon doing this, they said that they felt more comfortable using this identity to begin bridging the cultural gaps between China and the U.S. in small ways during their stay in China.
This process of creating an ‘Asian American’ identity that combines and bridges two sets of cultures is what Americans of Asian ancestry have been doing for centuries. It is with this understanding in mind that I think Asian Americans are positioned to take make tangible contributions toward applying their globalized and transnational characteristics and experiences to bridging the political and cultural gaps between the U.S. and Asian countries. In fact, scholars are beginning to examine and describe examples of Asian Americans in different social settings acting as ‘cultural ambassadors‘ in Asian societies.
Therefore, if countries such as China continue to pursue a position of respect within the wider international community while still retaining elements of their national identity, they can learn from Chinese Americans who have have years of experience and expertise in doing exactly that — integrating themselves into mainstream U.S. society while keeping elements their Chinese culture intact. This is not to say that it has been a seamless or smooth process and in fact, Chinese- and Asian Americans have been and continue to face suspicions and challenges regarding their ‘real’ identity.
Nonetheless, institutional changes taking place, such as the ongoing effects of globalization, greater transnationalism, and increased multiculturalism, have transformed the racial, ethnic, and cultural landscape of both U.S. society and the world in general. Within this new social environment, there are new opportunities for minority groups such as Asian Americans to assert an identity that legitimately incorporates elements of, and for the benefit of, different societies and cultures.
There is an old Chinese saying that goes, “May you live in interesting times.” From a sociological point of view, this is indeed a very interesting time for China and there are a number of interesting ways that Chinese Americans (and Asian Americans as a whole) can participate in forging a more inclusive path forward into the 21st century.
My colleague Leta Hong Fincher published an op-ed in the New York Times yesterday about China’s “leftover women,” or shengnü (剩女). “Leftover women” is a very direct translation–the character 剩 is the same as in shengcai, or leftover food.
The confluence of a traditional preference for boys over girls and a strict one-child policy for urban families has led to a surplus of men. Changing social norms and greater educational and career opportunities for women mean that many women are delaying marriage; when they partner up, they have higher standards than ever before.
Worried that a glut of unmarried men and women will be detrimental to social stability, the state has begun to promote the stigmatization of unmarried women in their late 20s and beyond. They are particularly targeting educated women, since those are the least likely to marry:
In 2005 fully 7 percent of 45-year-old Shanghai women with college degrees had never married, according to Wang’s research. [...] “It’s a sharp departure from before, from near-universal female marriage.” Indeed, there’s a common joke that there are three genders in China: men, women, and women with Ph.D.s. Men marry women, and women with Ph.D.s don’t marry.
How exactly does the government scare educated women into marrying? By making the state feminist organization tell educated women that they are in school because they are ugly, and that their expiration date is fast approaching! For her article, Fincher translated some excerpts from the All-China Women’s Federation website. Among them was this gem:
Pretty girls don’t need a lot of education to marry into a rich and powerful family, but girls with an average or ugly appearance will find it difficult. These kinds of girls hope to further their education in order to increase their competitiveness. The tragedy is, they don’t realize that as women age, they are worth less and less, so by the time they get their M.A. or Ph.D., they are already old, like yellowed pearls.
How are Asian American women dealing with pressures to marry? The government might not be comparing them to cold pizza, but many have families with “old country” ideas about marriage and relationships. To boot, some Asian American groups have higher levels of educational attainment than the national average, meaning more years in school–years in which all genders might feel like they are off the marriage market.
Asian American women: what do you think of this shengnü business? Are your families pressuring you to get married? How do you deal with that? Please tell us in the comments.
Students at a Chinese language school in Vancouver. Photo by Felex Liu (Flickr/Creative Commons).
Thank you, C.N., for inviting me to write for Asian-Nation. I hope to contribute to this blog a perspective on Asian America that looks both within and beyond the United States. The Asian American experience has been transnational since the very beginning, and has only become more so with economic globalization, the increasing affordability of travel and communications technologies, and the acceptance of multiple citizenship. Though the boundaries of the nation-state have not become irrelevant, I believe that we must look at Asian Americans as situated in the United States and in the larger global context.
With that frame in mind, I would like to introduce you all to some of the transnational dimensions of my current research on extracurricular Chinese language schools. What kinds of influence do the US, Mainland Chinese, and Taiwanese governments have in these schools, and how do the schools handle these influences?
I am currently conducting an ethnography of two Chinese schools. One school is located outside of an ethnic enclave and serves a predominantly upper-middle-class student body. The other, in the heart of an urban Chinatown, serves mainly students from working-class backgrounds.
It is in the interest of the Mainland Chinese and Taiwanese governments to support extracurricular Chinese language programs like these. As anthropologist Gladys Nieto (2007) argues, these schools foment cultural and linguistic ties between children of immigrants and their ethnic homeland. Not only do these programs open up the possibility that these children “return” to their ethnic homeland and invest in the homeland state’s economic and political projects, but they may also make them more sympathetic advocates for the homeland in their country of residence.
The US government has been marginally involved in these schools for decades. For example, many schools do not have their own facilities and will rent public schools or community centers for the day. With the designation of China as the world’s emerging superpower, federal and local government investment in Chinese language programs has increased dramatically. There are national initiatives for teaching and learning “critical languages” such as Chinese, and at least one school district has mandated that all students learn the language. Though these initiatives have generally ignored privately-run extracurricular programs like the ones I am researching, the opportunity is wide open.
These extracurricular programs are often in need of space, financial support, and affordable materials. They will apply for help from the three governments as they are able. What kinds of assistance they seek and from whom they seek this assistance depends on community politics, language ability, and connections (or, in Mandarin, guanxi 關係). How they balance the competing influences coming from the three governments depends on the same three factors.
Here are some more announcements, links, and job postings about academic-related jobs, fellowships, and other related opportunities for those interested in racial/ethnic/diversity issues. As always, the announcements and links are provided for informational purposes and do not necessarily imply an endorsement of the organization or college involved.
The APIA Spoken Word & Poetry Summit is a biennial gathering of Asian Pacific Islander American community artists and activists. It’s happening August 4-7 in beautiful Minneapolis and Saint Paul, Minnesota. We come together to:
provide space for artists and activists to learn from each other and build community
recognize spoken word performance as a source of new language, new ideas, new dialogues and understandings, and creative fodder for activism and organizing
acknowledge the arts as a critical, elemental component in building, empowering, and transforming our communities and ourselves
The theme for this year’s Summit is “Moving It Forward, Bringing It Back.” We envision the 2011 Summit as a space to foster intergenerational dialogue with an explicit elder presence, a youth component, and activities for all those in between. We will also explore the various ways spoken word has pushed into other genres (theater, music, film) while bringing it back to our poetic roots. Similarly, we will foster a dialogue on past APIA social movements and present possibilities, encouraging participants to bring the conversation back to their own organizations and localities.
The Overseas Young Chinese Forum (“OYCF”), a non-profit organization based in the United States, is pleased to announce that it is now accepting applications for its Teaching Fellowships, which sponsor short term teaching trips by overseas scholars or professionals (Chinese or non-Chinese) to universities or other comparable advanced educational institutions in China. The subjects of teaching include all fields of humanities and social sciences, such as anthropology, art, communication, economics, education, geography, law, literatures, philosophy, political science, sociology, etc.
OYCF will grant 15 fellowship awards to support short term teaching trips during the Academic Year of 2011-12, including six (6) OYCF-Ford fellowships in the amount of $2,500 each and nine (9) OYCF-Gregory C. and Paula K. Chow fellowships in the amount of $2,000 each. The application deadline is August 15, 2011. Awards will be announced on September 15, 2011.
If you have a Ph.D., J.D., J.S.D. or a comparable graduate degree from, or is currently an advanced doctoral candidate (having passed the Ph.D. qualification examination and finished at least three years of graduate studies) in a university in North America or other areas outside China, and are interested in teaching a covered subject in a college or graduate school in Mainland China, please find on line the Information and Application Procedures for the OYCF Teaching Fellowships at http://www.oycf.org/Teach/application.DOC.
Ph.D. students are highly encouraged to apply because an independent teaching experience will add significant weight in the resumes and help build strong connection with China’s academia. We also give preference to advanced Ph.D. student applicants who would combine this teaching opportunity with their dissertational research in China.
As noted therein, preference will be given to teaching proposals that include comparative or interdisciplinary perspectives; are about subjects that China is in relative shortage of teachers; or will be conducted at universities in inland provinces and regions. This year, we dedicate at least 3-4 fellowships as the Central or Western Region Teaching Fellowships to teaching fellows who plan to teach in an inland province or autonomous region. Accordingly, teaching proposals specifically designed for teaching in these regions are especially welcome.
To submit your application, you will need an application form, a brief letter of interest, curriculum vitae or resume, a detailed course syllabus, an invitation letter from your host institution in China. For more information about OYCF or its teaching program, please visit http://www.oycf.org. For questions concerning OYCF Teaching Fellowships or their application process, please contact Qiang Fu at email@example.com.
OCA-Greater Chicago, one of the fifty chapters of Organization of Chinese Americans, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing the social, political, and economic well-being of Asian Pacific Americans (APAs), is proud to offer six different types of scholarships for APA high school seniors.
Each scholarship is valued at $2,500 and a total of ten scholarships will be awarded. In order to be eligible, applicants must be a permanent resident of the Chicagoland metropolitan area, a current high school senior who identifies as Asian Pacific American entering college or university in Fall 2011, demonstrate financial need, be a permanent resident or US citizen, have a cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 or above (on a 4.0 scale), and have a strong history and intent of community service.
“OCA-Greater Chicago wishes to thank all of the donors who established these scholarships. Their generosity will help APA high school students overcome financial barriers and attain higher education,” said George Mui, OCA-Greater Chicago chapter president. The six types of scholarships are:
ADI Medical Scholarship (1)
Donated by ADI Medical
Preference for applicants interested in pursuing a pre-med major, with a particular interest in Neurology and focus on moving into medical research, especially as it relates to the development of new treatments for cognitive brain disorders such as Dementia or Alzheimer’s
Alex and Kitty Pon Scholarship (1)
Donated by Alex and Kitty Pon
Preference for applicants who study supply chains, logistics or transportation
Chung Yan Mui Scholarship (4)
Donated by the Mui Family
CPI Solutions Scholarship (2)
Donated by Patrick Chew and Peggy Sim
Grace Lai Memorial Scholarship (1)
Donated by OCA-Greater Chicago
Preference for applicants who are passionate about visual or performing arts
Sue An Yoon Memorial Scholarship (1)
Donated by OCA-Greater Chicago
To learn more and apply for these scholarships, please visit the OCA National website. All applications are due Monday, August 15, 2011 at 11:59 PM CST.
Amerasia Journal invites faculty to nominate exceptional graduate student essays (masters and doctoral level) in the interdisciplinary field of Asian American and Pacific Islander Studies for the Lucie Cheng Prize. The winning article will be published in Amerasia Journal, and $1000 will be awarded.
The Lucie Cheng Prize honors the late Professor Lucie Cheng (1939-2010), a longtime faculty member of UCLA and the first permanent director of the UCLA Asian American Studies Center (1972-1987). Professor Cheng was a pioneering scholar who brought an early and enduring transnational focus to the study of Asian Americans and issues such as labor and immigration.
Submission: Nomination must be submitted via email by the graduate advisor no later than October 1, 2011 and include:
Graduate Advisor Name, Title, Institution, and Contact Information
Graduate Advisor Recommendation (500 word limit)
Graduate Student Brief CV (2 page)
Essay (5000-7000 words) in WORD file according to the Amerasia
The Center for Asian American Media (CAAM) is thrilled to announce our Call for Entries for the 30th Annual San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival (SFIAAFF)! SFIAAFF accepts films and videos made by or about Asian Americans and Asians of any nationality. All lengths and genres will be considered.
SFIAAFF takes place every March in California’s Bay Area and is the nation’s largest showcase for new Asian American and Asian films. Since 1982, SFIAAFF has been an important launching point and advocate for Asian American independent filmmakers and a vital source for new Asian cinema.
Center for Asian American Media presents
30th San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival
March 8-18, 2012
San Francisco | Berkeley | San Jose
Call for Entries
Deadlines 2011: Early: September 2 / Late: September 30 / Withoutabox Extended: October 7 Entry Information
The largest showcase of Asian and Asian American cinema in North America. All genres and lengths accepted. Submit online or with a printed entry form.
A number of recently-published books, media articles, and an infographic provide some interesting and useful information about China and Chinese Americans, summarized below:
China’s One Child Policy
Throughout the last couple of decades, there has been much discussion about China’s One Child Policy that was implemented back in the 1970s to “encourage” Chinese families from having, as the name suggests, just a single child as a way to slow China’s population growth. However, most Americans know little about the details, especially as there are increasing calls for China to change the policy. Fortunately, Good Transparencies has created an infographic that visually illustrates the main highlights of the One Child Policy (click on the thumbnail below for a larger version):
Over the past 30 years, China’s red-hot economic growth has lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, reshaped the global economy and given rise to a new power on the global stage. But that breakneck growth has also created an expanding wealth gap, major environmental problems, widespread corruption, a growing imperative to innovate and popular pressure for political reforms. . . .
But as this phase of China’s economic development draws to an end, a new phase has begun. Call it China 2.0. . . . China’s leaders worry about growing too fast. Premier Wen Jiabao said in March the expansion is “unbalanced, uncoordinated and unsustainable.” To address that, the next five-year plan incorporates reforms already under way and charts a roadmap designed to keep the economy from veering off the track. . . .
The goal is to keep the economy growing, spread wealth from the industrial coastal cities to inland provinces and rural areas, encourage more domestic spending, spur innovation and deliver expanded social services to sparsely populated areas that lack them.
Eating dogs and cats–which is an age-old delicacy in China–could soon be against the law. Currently, dog and cat meat is viewed as promoting bodily warmth. But if the law passes, people who eat either animal could face fines of up to $730 or 15 days in jail. Organizations involved the practice would face fines up to 100-times as much.
“I support this proposal. Whether you judge this as a question of food security or emotions, there is absolutely no necessity in China for people to eat dogs and cats,” said Zeng Li, the founder of the Lucky Cats shelter in Beijing. . . . The law has been in the draft stage for over a year and will be submitted to higher authorities come April. But draft legislation can take years to approve. . . .
The economic impact of this law would be small as China’s affluent don’t partake in the delicacy. In fact, such traditions have received much scrutiny from affluent, pet-loving, urban middle class. And online petitions against dog and cat consumption have attracted tens of thousands of signatures.
Every week a new book title announces an “irresistible” tilt east, the emergence of “Chimerica” and a not-too-distant future when China “rules” the planet. The mainstream media, and especially the business press, are gripped by the narrative of China taking over the world. . . .
But the coverage of China’s global inroads has been profoundly short on context, particularly when it comes to how China is—and is not—surpassing the U.S. as a global power. There are plenty of stories of a Chinese-sponsored infrastructure project or a Chinese company cutting a deal to feed its “insatiable thirst” for raw materials, while Western involvement of similar or greater magnitude is lucky to make a headline at all.
Meanwhile, a close look at the key economic metrics and the subtler shades of power, such as cultural influence and humanitarian aid, reveals that while China is indeed one of the great powers in the world now (late last month it officially overtook Japan as the world’s second-largest economy), its influence is mixed, and often undercut by America’s.
Cutting-edge programs like those at the immersion charter school Yu Ying in Washington, D.C., and reports of Chinese-language courses popping up in heartland America would all seem to suggest that Americans are on the fast track to learning Chinese—and ultimately understanding China. . . . You’ll be hard-pressed, the reasoning goes, to find anyone who doesn’t think grasping the language of the world’s fastest-growing economy is a good idea.
But the sad fact is that Americans are not learning Mandarin, the main tongue spoken in mainland China, in droves. Just take a look at the numbers. According to the Center for Applied Linguistics, in 2008 only 4 percent of middle and high schools that offer foreign-language instruction included Mandarin. That’s up from 1 percent in 1997.
While that initially seems like respectable growth, the same survey reveals that 13 percent of schools still offer Latin and a full 10-fold more schools offer French than Mandarin. How is it that one a dead language and the other a language primarily used to impress your dinner companion can trounce one spoken by 1.3 billion natives and many millions more expats and immigrants abroad?
The US administration seems to be trying to convince its public of another untruth: that China is the true cause of America’s economic woes — and that China possesses “weapons of mass economic destruction.” What is that weapon of mass economic destruction? The humble yuan, which the US says has been manipulated to hurt the American economy. . . .
Economist Paul Krugman recently said China’s trade surplus with the US had grown in the past decade even without the yuan rising sufficiently against the dollar. Before America’s economic 9/11, however, its consumers seemed happy to get affordable Chinese goods year after year and its businesspeople were busy making profits from lucrative partnerships with Chinese companies. . . .
China’s stimulus for its economy has created opportunities for Western countries’ exports, too. . . . China would readily buy more advanced technologies from America, but Washington is reluctant to sell them. . . . . Hopefully, [Americans] will see through their politicians’ desperate attempt to shift the blame for the country’s problems to China in order to cover their own failures.
U.S. Army veteran Joaquin Lim sensed something was amiss with the troop that had popped up at civic events in Southern California’s Chinese-American communities. At a flag raising ceremony honoring a Chinese holiday, the Walnut city councilman stopped one of the recruits and asked to see his military ID. “There were actually typos on the ID card,” Lim said. “Right away, I knew something was wrong.”
Those suspicions came into the spotlight Tuesday when authorities arrested the so-called “supreme commander” of the U.S. Army/Military Special Forces Reserve unit and charged him with duping Chinese immigrants into thinking they had truly enlisted in the American armed forces.
Prosecutors say Yupeng Deng, 51, recruited 100 other Chinese immigrants . . . at the cost of several hundred dollars, to help improve their chances of obtaining green cards and U.S. citizenship. . . . The case — which was investigated by the FBI and Department of Defense — highlights the vulnerability of immigrants desperately seeking to belong in a new country and naive to the norms of a society in which, for example, military recruits don’t pay to enlist.
skilled immigrants are leaving the U.S. in droves. This is because of economic opportunities in countries like India and China, a desire to be closer to family and friends, and a deeply flawed U.S immigration system. It doesn’t matter whether we call this “brain drain” or “brain circulation”– it is a loss for America. Innovation that would otherwise be happening here is going abroad. . . .
Surprisingly, 72% of Indian and 81% of Chinese returnees said that the opportunities to start their own businesses were better or much better in their home countries. Speed of professional growth was also better back home for the majority of Indian (54%) and Chinese (68 percent) entrepreneurs. And the quality of life was better or at least equal to what they’d enjoyed in the United States for 56% of Indian and 59% of Chinese returnees.
In the 1980s, a wave of Chinese from Fujian province began arriving in America. Like other immigrant groups before them, they showed up with little money but with an intense work ethic and an unshakeable belief in the promise of the United States. Many of them lived in a world outside the law, working in a shadow economy overseen by the ruthless gangs that ruled the narrow streets of New York’s Chinatown.
The figure who came to dominate this Chinese underworld was a middle-aged grandmother known as Sister Ping. Her path to the American dream began with an unusual business run out of a tiny noodle store on Hester Street. From her perch above the shop, Sister Ping ran a full-service underground bank for illegal Chinese immigrants. But her real business—a business that earned an estimated $40 million—was smuggling people.
As a “snakehead,” she built a complex—and often vicious—global conglomerate, relying heavily on familial ties, and employing one of Chinatown’s most violent gangs to protect her power and profits. Based on hundreds of interviews, Patrick Radden Keefe’s sweeping narrative tells the story not only of Sister Ping, but of the gangland gunslingers who worked for her, the immigration and law enforcement officials who pursued her, and the generation of penniless immigrants who risked death and braved a 17,000 mile odyssey so that they could realize their own version of the American dream.
Mulan, the warrior maiden who performed heroic deeds in battle while dressed as a male soldier, has had many incarnations from her first appearance as a heroine in an ancient Chinese folk ballad. Mulan’s story was retold for centuries, extolling the filial virtue of the young woman who placed her father’s honor and well-being above her own. With the publication of Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior in the late 1970s, Mulan first became familiar to American audiences who were fascinated with the extraordinary Asian American character. Mulan’s story was recast yet again in the popular 1998 animated Disney film and its sequel.
In Mulan’s Legend and Legacy in China and the United States, Lan Dong traces the development of this popular icon and asks, “Who is the real Mulan?” and “What does authenticity mean for the critic looking at this story?” Dong charts this character’s literary voyage across historical and geographical borders, discussing the narratives and images of Mulan over a long time span—from premodern China to the contemporary United States to Mulan’s counter-migration back to her homeland.
As Dong shows, Mulan has been reinvented repeatedly in both China and the United States so that her character represents different agendas in each retelling—especially after she reached the western hemisphere. The dutiful and loyal daughter, the fierce, pregnant warrior, and the feisty teenaged heroine—each is Mulan representing an idea about female virtue at a particular time and place.
The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was a historic act of legislation that demonstrated how the federal government of the United States once openly condoned racial discrimination. Once the Exclusion Act passed, the door was opened to further limitation of Asians in America during the late 19th century, such as the Scott Act of 1888 and the Geary Act of 1892, and increased hatred towards and violence against Chinese people based on the misguided belief they were to blame for depressed wage levels and unemployment among Caucasians.
This title traces the complete evolution of the Exclusion Act, including the history of Chinese immigration to the United States, the factors that served to increase their populations here, and the subsequent efforts to limit further immigration and encourage the departure of the Chinese already in America.
I presume that by now, all of you have heard about the debate and controversy over Amy Chua’s book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, her accompanying article in the Wall Street Journal provocatively titled, “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior,” and the resultant backlash throughout American society and on the internet from Asian Americans and non-Asians alike.
Although I have not yet read her book, from her various public appearances lately and based on other people’s summaries of her points, I understand that her main arguments are that American parents tend to be too lax in their parenting styles, particularly when it comes to not emphasizing hard work, persistence, and total commitment to education and other tasks necessary for your child to be a high achiever in contemporary American and global societies. In her own words on the Wall Street Journal article, she writes:
A lot of people wonder how Chinese parents raise such stereotypically successful kids. They wonder what these parents do to produce so many math whizzes and music prodigies, what it’s like inside the family, and whether they could do it too. Well, I can tell them, because I’ve done it. Here are some things my daughters, Sophia and Louisa, were never allowed to do:
attend a sleepover
have a playdate
be in a school play
complain about not being in a school play
watch TV or play computer games
choose their own extracurricular activities
get any grade less than an A
not be the No. 1 student in every subject except gym and drama
play any instrument other than the piano or violin
not play the piano or violin . . .
To get good at anything you have to work, and children on their own never want to work, which is why it is crucial to override their preferences. This often requires fortitude on the part of the parents because the child will resist; things are always hardest at the beginning, which is where Western parents tend to give up. But if done properly, the Chinese strategy produces a virtuous circle. Tenacious practice, practice, practice is crucial for excellence; rote repetition is underrated in America.
I’ve been meaning to comment on her points for a while and I also know that there are plenty of other writers and bloggers who have already weighed in on this subject. However, I’ve been occupied with preparing for the start of the new semester and have not been able to read many of their responses yet. Therefore, I apologize if I am restating points that others have already brought up.
As I describe in more detail below about the specific arguments Chua makes that I agree and disagree with, the main point that I want to emphasize is that parenting does not have to be an “either-or” proposition — there does not have to be a rigid line drawn between “rigorous” and “permissive” styles, nor does there have to be a complete separation of “Chinese” and “American” styles. As I have consistently emphasized throughout this blog, frequently there is an artificial division between these two identities that inevitably creates unnecessary barriers, misunderstandings, and tensions between all those involved.
Instead, I want to emphasize that it is possible to achieve a balance between these two identities. This is what Asian Americans have been doing for a while now — taking different elements of each culture to meld and synthesize them into their own style that includes the best of each. As I discuss below, I believe this applies to parenting styles and the drive for achievement and success as well.
In Defense of Chua
One of her points with which I agree is that for whatever reasons, it is very common and indeed beneficial for many (as in a large number, but certainly not all) Asian, Asian American, and immigrant parents to place a very strong and heavy emphasis on educational achievement and success. Many native-born American parents do so as well, but I am reminded of an article that I used for a previous course on racial/ethnic demography, “Test-Score Trends Along Racial Lines, 1971 to 1996: Popular Culture and Community Academic Standards,” written by Ronald F. Ferguson (a chapter in America Becoming: Racial Trends and Their Consequences, 2001). The article described data to show that when it comes to parental expectations of their children’s academic performance, Asian parents who were high school dropouts still had higher expectations of their children than White, Black, and Latino parents who had a college degree.
My point is, it is not necessarily a bad thing to expect your children to not just perform well, but to excel, academically or otherwise. Particularly in this age of globalization, the need for advanced educational and professional skills in order to stay competitive in the global marketplace is readily apparent and increasingly stressed by almost everyone from all backgrounds. We also know that, as it currently stands, the American educational system needs much improvement in terms of preparing our young people to meet the challenges of the 21st century. In other words, as a society, we as Americans should not and cannot settle for mediocrity if we expect to retain our standard of living.
As other sociological research as also shown, many Asian and Asian American parents also understand that as a racial minority in American society, almost by necessity, they need to push their children a little further to make sure that they are able to overcome some of the hurdles and barriers that stand in our way when it comes to socioeconomic success and full institutional integration into American society, especially in tough economic times when competition for jobs and other resources is even more intense and potentially filled with racial tension and hostility.
With this in mind, I also find it quite unfortunate that some of the criticism directed at Chua includes elements of racism that link her to China’s recent emergence to become the new “yellow peril” threat to the U.S. and even death threats against her personally. Time magazine’s recent article on this debate summed up the global context of this debate nicely:
The tiger mother’s cubs are being raised to rule the world, the book clearly implies, while the offspring of “weak-willed,” “indulgent” Westerners are growing up ill equipped to compete in a fierce global marketplace. . . .
These national identity crises are nothing new. . . . In the 1980s, we fretted that Japan was besting us with its technological wizardry and clever product design — the iPod of the ’80s was the Sony Walkman — and its investors’ acquisitions of American name-brand companies and prime parcels of real estate. . . . [Now] our rivalry with the Japanese has faded as another one has taken its place: last year, China surpassed Japan as the world’s second largest economy.
The U.S. is still No. 1 — but for how long? We’re rapidly reaching the limit on how much money the federal government can borrow — and our single biggest creditor is China. How long, for that matter, can the beleaguered U.S. education system keep pace with a rapidly evolving and increasingly demanding global marketplace?
Such fears about the U.S. losing its position as the unquestioned political, economic, and cultural superpower are real and valid. At the same time, it is one thing to criticize Chua for her parenting style, but it’s a different matter altogether to reinforce and perpetuate anti-Asian stereotypes and advocate committing violence towards her and others who are perceived to be threats to the “American” way of life. In fact, for many Asians and Asian Americans, such racism only confirms the ongoing challenges we face and the need to overachieve as a reaction to such racial hostility.
More generally, I also feel that Chua unnecessarily and unfortunately reinforces this artificial distinction between “Chinese/Asian” and “American.” Beyond the inherent overgeneralizing that Chinese mothers do this while American mothers do that, Chua does not seem to give much credence to the possibility that many Chinese Americans and Asian American parents do both — that we combined the best elements of the different cultures with which we’re familiar. In fact, this is just another example of the kind of “transcultural” assimilation that Asian Americans have done ever since we first arrived in the U.S.
As this CBS News video shows, even parents in China are increasingly rethinking their “success at any cost” approach to parenting that Chua insists is “superior”:
As it relates to parenting, I also do not believe it is not a contradiction to instill a drive for achievement and excellence while also nurturing a sense of independence and an understanding that there is more to life than just material success. Toward that end, I personally do not feel that, in order to stress the importance of personal achievement, parents need to berate, criticize, or shame their child. Chua’s “tough as nails” methods may eventually instill a sense of confidence and achievement in her daughters but I am pretty sure there are less harsh and extreme ways to accomplish the same thing. They might include letting our children work out herself many of the interpersonal difficulties that they encounter everyday and explaining to the child the various individual and institutional challenges that lie ahead of her them and that if they expect to have a comfortable standard of living, they will need to accomplish and at times, master certain tasks toward that goal.
Perhaps I am being too idealistic to think that my daughter has the ability to truly understand these multi-level and long-term issues about what she needs to do now in order to have certain things later. But then again, isn’t that what Chua is basically telling her daughters as well?
Have you heard the hub-bub about the National Football League’s (NFL) decision to postpone the recent game between the Philadelphia Eagles and Minnesota Vikings due to the snowstorm that hit the east coast over the weekend? There’s a lot of debate about whether whether that was the right call — the NFL argues that they postponed the game due to concerns about fans safely getting to and leaving the stadium in the middle of a snowstorm.
On the other hand, others argue that football has a long history of being played in rough weather, with fans braving the elements in order to enjoy the experience involved in attending such games. For example, the Governor of Pennsylvania, Edward Rendell (a Democrat if it matters) said that the NFL’s decision shows that we’re becoming a nation of “wusses.” But as shown in the video clip from NBC News below, what got the attention of many Asian Americans was his comment comparing the U.S. to China:
We’re becoming a nation of wusses. The Chinese are kicking our butt in everything. If this was in China, do you think the Chinese would have called off the game? People would have been marching down to the stadium, they would have walked and they would have been doing calculus on the way down.”
I’m still trying to decide what to make of Rendell’s comments. In the meantime, let me ask you (you can answer in the online poll below): Are Rendell’s comments about the Chinese offensive to Asian Americans?
In case you’re the nostalgic type, here are some posts in this blog from November of years past:
2009: The U.S. and China: A Love-Hate Relationship President Obama’s trip to Asia highlights some of the contradictory, love-hate sentiments that many Americans and its institutions seem to have with Asians/Asian Americans.
A few recent articles about China caught my attention. After taking them all in, one common theme became clear to me: China has made a lot of economic and cultural progress in recent years as it strives to become the next global superpower. At the same, as my previous blog posts have mentioned, China still lags other countries and societies when it comes to certain issues such as human rights, consumer protection, etc.
With this dichotomy in mind and as these most recent articles will highlight, China seems to be at a crossroads: is China willing to and capable of taking the next step and becoming a truly respected global superpower, or is it fated to just have economic power without real global acceptance as a legitimate ‘developed’ nation?
Specifically, in a recent column in Time magazine, Fareed Zakaria argues that despite the ongoing controversy over whether China’s government deliberately devalues its currency to artificially keep its goods cheap in overseas markets, China’s real problem is that, for it to continue to stay globally competitive, it needs to invest in improving the human capital (education, postindustrial job skills, etc.) of its citizens:
The real challenge we face from China is not that it will keep flooding us with cheap goods. It’s actually the opposite: China is moving up the value chain, and this could constitute the most significant new competition to the U.S. economy in the future. For much of the past three decades, China focused its efforts on building up its physical infrastructure. It didn’t need to invest in its people; the country was aiming to produce mainly low-wage, low-margin goods. As long as its workers were cheap and worked hard, that was good enough. . . .
Now China wants to get into higher-quality goods and services. That means the next phase of its economic development, clearly identified by government officials, requires it to invest in human capital with the same determination it used to build highways. Since 1998, Beijing has undertaken a massive expansion of education, nearly tripling the share of GDP devoted to it. In the decade since, the number of colleges in China has doubled and the number of students quintupled, going from 1 million in 1997 to 5.5 million in 2007. China has identified its nine top universities and singled them out as its version of the Ivy League.
That rationale makes perfect sense to me — as the world economy becomes more globalized, postindustrial, and information- and data-intensive, workers with these advanced educational and job skills are poised to have an advantage in the labor market. This is basically what the rest of the world believes as well. But as a New York Times article points out, the problem in China however, is that this rush and pressure to improve one’s education seems to be increasingly associated with academic fraud:
The exposure of Mr. Zhang’s faked credentials provoked a fresh round of hand-wringing over what many scholars and Chinese complain are the dishonest practices that permeate society, including students who cheat on college entrance exams, scholars who promote fake or unoriginal research, and dairy companies that sell poisoned milk to infants. . . .
[A] lack of integrity among researchers is hindering China’s potential and harming collaboration between Chinese scholars and their international counterparts, scholars in China and abroad say. . . . Pressure on scholars by administrators of state-run universities to earn journal citations — a measure of innovation — has produced a deluge of plagiarized or fabricated research. . . . [E]arlier this year, The Lancet, the British medical journal, warned that faked or plagiarized research posed a threat to President Hu Jintao’s vow to make China a “research superpower” by 2020. . . .
[P]lagiarizers often go unpunished, which only encourages more of it. . . . The Chinese government has vowed to address the problem. Editorials in the state-run press frequently condemn plagiarism and last month, Liu Yandong, a powerful Politburo member who oversees Chinese publications, vowed to close some of the 5,000 academic journals whose sole existence, many scholars say, is to provide an outlet for doctoral students and professors eager to inflate their publishing credentials.
Fang Shimin and another crusading journalist, Fang Xuanchang, have heard the vows and threats before. In 2004 and again in 2006, the Ministry of Education announced antifraud campaigns but the two bodies they established to tackle the problem have yet to mete out any punishments.
We do need to keep in mind that in many Asian countries, there is a greater sense of collective harmony and group cooperation that differs from the ethos of individualism and “every-man-for-himself” that is more prominent in western countries. Also considering the rash of American corporate greed and deceit that contributed to the onset of the current recession, fraud is certainly not exclusive to China.
At the same time, and as Chinese authorities seem to recognize at least verbally, it is clear that this mentality of malfeasance is a problem that needs to be addressed for China to move closer toward full acceptance and respect as a true global superpower.
Another aspect of China’s “cultural schizophrenia” that caught my attention concerns the Nobel Peace Prize being awarded to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, a former literature professor who has been variously persecuted by the Chinese government the past 20 years for championing democratic reform. The vast majority of the world is applauding the choice of Liu for the prize, with the obvious exception being the Chinese government. However, as a different New York Times article notes, another notable group of critics against Liu are other Chinese pro-democracy dissidents:
In recent days, a group of 14 overseas Chinese dissidents, many of them hard-boiled exiles dedicated to overthrowing the Communist Party, have been calling on the Nobel committee to deny the prize to Mr. Liu, whom they say would make an “unsuitable” laureate. In a letter, the signatories accused Mr. Liu of maligning fellow activists, abandoning persecuted members of the Falun Gong spiritual movement and going soft on China’s leaders. “His open praise in the last 20 years for the Chinese Communist Party, which has never stopped trampling on human rights, has been extremely misleading and influential,” they wrote. . . .
The letter and calls from other detractors have infuriated many rights advocates, inside and outside of China, who say the attack distorts Mr. Liu’s record as a longtime proponent of peaceful [and pragmatic] change. . . . More recently, Mr. Liu was given an 11-year prison sentence last Christmas for his role in shaping a manifesto, known as Charter ’08, that called for popular elections and an end to the Communist Party’s unchallenged grip on power. . . .
Whatever the merits of the anti-Liu Xiaobo camp, their very public sentiments provide a window into the state of the overseas Chinese dissidents, a fractured group beset by squabbling and competing claims of anti-authoritarian righteousness. . . . Even if they have differences over strategy, many intellectuals and activists inside China describe Mr. Liu as a dynamic thinker who appealed both to members of the party and many of its die-hard opponents.
Despite — or perhaps because of — Mr. Liu’s compassionate and forgiving nature, he seems to be caught in the “key to failure” conundrum as articulated once by Bill Cosby: “I don’t know what’s the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.” In other words, his opposition to authoritarian rule has made him an enemy of the state to the Chinese government, but apparently he is not considered “radical” enough for other pro-democracy Chinese dissidents. It’s the classic no-win scenario.
It also reminds me of similar intra-ethnic tensions within the Vietnamese American community in which hard-line anti-communist refugees often accuse others within their community of being a communist when there is a disagreement on some issue. Another example is when some Asian Americans dismiss or criticize other Asian Americans for not being “Asian” enough, particularly those who are adopted or mixed-race.
On the one hand, it’s obviously unrealistic to expect that all Chinese — both inside and outside the country — to agree on all issues and aspects of their society and government policies. On the other hand, when members of your own community reject one of their own, particularly when it comes to a highly prestigious award such as the Nobel Peace Prize, it makes me wonder about whether such a fractured group can effectively act as a respected counterbalance to China’s authoritarian rule and its continuing less-than-stellar record on human rights.
Every country has its own problems and its contradictions when it comes to establishing a united identity and collective path forward so in that regard, China is no different from, say, the U.S. Also, I am not suggesting that China should blindly conform to all social aspects and policies that are characteristic of western societies. But what is unique in China’s case is that it wants very, very badly to ascend to the position and status of being a globally respected political, economic, and cultural superpower.
In many ways, China already has enormous global influence. But that is not necessarily the same as global respect and authority.
Here are some more announcements and links out that have come my way relating to Asians, Asian Americans, or racial/ethnic minorities in general. As always, links to other sites are provided for informational purposes and do not necessarily imply an endorsement of their contents.
The Overseas Young Chinese Forum (“OYCF”), a non-profit organization based in the United States, is pleased to announce that it is now accepting applications for its Teaching Fellowships, which sponsor short term teaching trips by overseas scholars or professionals (Chinese or non-Chinese) to universities or other comparable advanced educational institutions in China. The subjects of teaching include all fields of humanities and social sciences, such as anthropology, art, communication, economics, education, geography, law, literatures, philosophy, political science, sociology, etc.
OYCF will grant 15 fellowship awards to support short term teaching trips during the Academic Year of 2010-11, including five (5) OYCF-Ford fellowships in the amount of $2,500 each and ten (10) OYCF-Gregory C. and Paula K. Chow fellowships in the amount of $2,000 each. The application deadline is August 15, 2010. Awards will be announced on September 15, 2010. More information can be found at: http://www2.asanet.org/sectionasia/jobs.html
Date: Saturday, July 24
Time: 3-5 PM
Location: Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center
Community Room 38 Ash St. Boston Chinatown
Helen Gym, Asian Americans United
Cecilia Chen, Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund
Students from South Philadelphia High School
On December 3rd, some students at South Philadelphia High School attacked other students, two dozen Asian American youth, while school personnel looked on. The Asian American students, supported by community members and others, have organized, marched and met with an unresponsive school administration. A civil rights suit is being pursued.
What happened? How did the students and community build an effective coalition, what is the legal case and situation, did anti-immigrant sentiment played any role, and are Asian American students facing similar issues locally? What can we do? We hope to discuss these and other questions with principals in Philadelphia and local activists.
Sponsors: Asian/Pacific Islander Movement, Institute for Asian American Studies at University of Massachusetts Boston, Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center, A-WAY Youth Collaborative, Massachusetts Asian American Resource Workshop, Asian American Educators Association.
It is our great pleasure to invite the professional community to participate at the 2nd Asian MBA Leadership Conference and Career Expo (AMBA) which will be held from August 26th to 28th, 2010 at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City.
In 2009 we made history with the launch of this groundbreaking event. Over 2,500 present and emerging leaders from the pan-Asian community came together to rise to new heights and to overcome barriers faced in the corporate world. AMBA, through its inaugural event, was the spring board for many new careers and helped to propel numerous more to greater horizons.
Over the course of two and a half days, Asian American MBAs, professionals and executives will be a part of the largest professional development, recruiting and networking event ever staged for the community. AMBA’s Leadership Conference will comprise of a comprehensive forum of events including presentations from acclaimed keynote speakers, expert panel discussions, workshops, networking sessions, the AMBA Global Diversity Forum and Asian Affinity Group Leaders Summit and the prestigious Gala Awards Leadership Dinner. AMBA’s career expo offers an unparalleled opportunity for leading companies to connect with the nation’s best Asian American talent.
Call for Papers — Asian American Literature: Discourses and Pedagogies (AALDP), Special Issue on Mixed Heritage Asian American Literature
Special Issue Guest Editor, Wei Ming Dariotis. War babies, love children, tragic half-breeds, cosmopolitan saviors — how are mixed heritage Asian Americans imagined in Asian American literature, drama, and film? How are they represented in literature by people who are not Mixed Heritage Asian Americans? How are mixed heritage Asian Americans imagining and expressing themselves?
This special issue invites scholars and writers to explore how one might teach such narratives and texts in various academic contexts. While traditional pedagogical lenses are appropriate, we especially encourage Critical Mixed Race Studies approaches to analyzing mixed heritage Asian American literature.
Additionally, some themes to consider might include:
Mixed heritage Asian American characters in literature by authors of heritage other than Asian American
Mixed heritage Asian American characters in science fiction and fantasy, or other “genre” literature
Mixed heritage Asian American children’s literature
Queer themes in mixed heritage Asian American literature
Asian American transracial adoptees
Transnational mixed heritage Asian American identities
Multigenerational mixed heritage Asian Americans
Multiple-minority mixed heritage Asian Americans
Song lyrics, spoken word, and other non-traditional forms exploring mixed heritage identity would also be welcome (e.g. Colin “Senbei” Ehara’s “Paper Bullets”). All articles must be between 2,000-7,000 words. Please follow the most current MLA format. Book reviews on related texts are also welcome. Book reviews must be under 1,000 words. Please follow the most current MLA format.
Please address all inquiries for this Special Issue to Dr. Wei Ming Dariotis at firstname.lastname@example.org. Full final articles must be submitted by July 1, 2011.
Hi, I am part of a not-for-profit organization called Asian American Art Centre at NYC. For the past several years, the Asian American Arts Centre has held a series of slide slams, allowing new, young, or emerging artists the opportunity to present and talk about their work, meet and network with each other as well as with more established artists and critics/curators.
Last year, the Centre hosted three slide slams, showcasing the work of fifteen artists working in various media. This august we are planning to host two art slams. We need your help to spread the word. Can you publish this artist opportunity at your website or post our website as a link? Thanks…Here is the description for the call.
ArtSlam is an opportunity for artists to share their work with peers, general audience and art professionals in an open forum for critical exchange. This presentation can be done in slides or digital format. We are inviting all artists of Asian and Asian-American descent as well as those who have been significantly influenced by Asia to submit their work for participation.
If you are interested in participating, please send us:
6-10 images of your work (CD with images in jpg. format, slides or photographs are fine)
1 page artist statement
Abbreviated artist statement (2-3 lines) for the program
For those who are unfamiliar, “Orientalism” is a term used by academics and cultural critics that generally refers to a set of biases, stereotypes, cultural images, and popular portrayals of Asians and/or Asian Americans — individually, nationally, or institutionally — as exotic, hypersexual, submissive, effeminate, dangerous, and/or inferior. Orientalism is frequently manifested in the overrepresentations of Asians and Asian Americans in mainstream TV shows and movies as one-dimensional geisha, ninja, prostitute, or martial arts characters.
As another examples, my fellow sociologist bloggers at Sociological Images alerted me to an interesting post by Caustic Cover Critic (CCC) that examines stereotypical elements in mainstream books and novels about China or Japan:
If you’re designing a cover for a book by a Chinese or Japanese writer, or with a Chinese or Japanese setting, it seems that there are some compulsory elements which must be included. For variety’s sake, there are four elements, but you MUST use at least one of them. Advanced designers, of course, may use two or more.
To summarize CCC’s post, the four elements (with some example covers) are:
#4: A Woman’s Neck
As you can see, these elements are present in books that are written by both Asians/Asian Americans and non-Asians. In other words, even Asian and Asian American writers are not immune to Orientalist tendencies. In those cases, my guess is that such Asian/Asian American authors are “encouraged” (or perhaps even “compelled”) by their publishers (who are almost always American) to create these kinds of Orientalist covers to appeal to American perceptions and stereotypes of China, Japan, and other Asian countries and societies.
Either way, it is indeed sad to see that at least judging by these book covers, mainstream American society sees Asian and Asian American culture in such a one-dimensional and stereotypical way. As one of my colleagues once said to me, “It’s exhausting to be exotic.”