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Thinking Its Presence 2017 has ended
Events from 9:00am to 5:00pm are open only to registered attendees. Please register before October 9, 2017 at https://universityofarizonapoetrycenter.submittable.com/submit/81274/pre-registration-thinking-its-presence-2017-conference-university-of-arizon. For more information, please visit https://poetry.arizona.edu/TIP2017.
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Thursday, October 19 • 9:00am - 10:50am
Asian American Subjectives: The History and Development of Asian American Literature

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Asian American Subjectivities

Event type: Panel/Discussion

 The great Filipino novelist and revolutionary José Rizal, while he was studying medicine and philosophy in Madrid, wrote a letter to a friend in 1883, in which he described native Spanish reactions to his presence at their universities:

 “they called me Chinese, Japanese, American [that is, Latin American], etc., but not one Filipino! Unfortunate country—nobody knows a thing about you!”

Unfortunate: and yet, there are certain benefits to nobody knowing a thing about you. Benedict Anderson, writing about this letter in The Age of Globalization, notes that this misidentification is not experienced by Rizal as a great pain or a lack. The ignorance around him, compared to the rigid racial hierarchy of the colony, is liberating instead. Back home Indios like himself found themselves, alongside Chinos, as racially inferior to the Filipinos, which at the time referred specifically to people of Spanish descent living in the Phillipines.

“In Spain, however, Rizal and his fellow students quickly discovered that these distinctions were either unknown or seen as irrelevant. No matter what their status was back home, here they were all filipinos, just as the Latin Americans in Madrid in the late eighteenth century were americanos, no matter if they were from Lima or Cartagena, or if they were creoles or of mixed ancestry. (The same process has produced the contemporary American categories “Asians,” and “Asian Americans”.)”

Asians in America used to be subject to this process, anyway: having come to America as mostly Chinese, Japanese and Filipino, widespread ignorance, fear and hatred resulted in a process of racialization whereby the previously distinct communities could come together to discuss what it was they had in common. Through this process “Asian America” was invented.

Asian America’s long afterlife outside of the immediate moment of its necessity speaks to its emotional resonance. It’s a dream of a shared culture in the face of oppression. In a way, the concept is utopian. Today we are many decades into its dissolution into a demographic category, a term of description. What is its use for those populations who did not experience the specific collective alienation of those who invented the term but found ourselves clothed in it anyways? Is it still a political term, and in what way is it political?

Furthermore, the application of the created demographic of “Asian American” has its continued impact and consequences -- upon the demographic as both artificial and organic whole -- on the political, educational, cultural, institutional development of Asian America. Jennifer Lee and Min Zhou, in “The Success Frame and Achievement Paradox: The Costs and Consequences for Asian Americans,” write that “Applying the concept of frames to our research, we find that 1.5- and second-generation Chinese and Vietnamese respondents framed ‘a good education’ similarly, despite the dissimilar educational backgrounds of their immigrant parents.”

 

 

Though Asian American identity has stabilized - or at least, demographically, appears to have stabilized - the cultural and institutional processes which created it churn along, albeit in different ways. Literature was then and remains today the machine through which new subjectivities are developed and put to the test. We propose to discuss with the attendees the how history of Asian American literature built up the subjectivities which made something like Asian America possible and new subjectivities being developed by Asian American writers today.


Moderators
avatar for Mai Nguyen Do

Mai Nguyen Do

Founder & Executive Editor, Rambutan Literary
Do Nguyen Mai – name written family name to middle name to first name – is a Vietnamese American poet and advocate for Vietnamese American progress. She is the founder of Rambutan Literary, the co-founder of CA25 United for Progress, and the author of Ghosts Still Walking.

Speakers
avatar for Mai Nguyen Do

Mai Nguyen Do

Founder & Executive Editor, Rambutan Literary
Do Nguyen Mai – name written family name to middle name to first name – is a Vietnamese American poet and advocate for Vietnamese American progress. She is the founder of Rambutan Literary, the co-founder of CA25 United for Progress, and the author of Ghosts Still Walking.
avatar for Tyler Nguyen

Tyler Nguyen

Tyler Nguyen is a designer and occasional contributor to Hanoi-based AJAR press.
avatar for Bryan Thao Worra

Bryan Thao Worra

Correspondent, Innsmouth Free Press
"Why march to the beat of a different drummer when you can rumba?" | | A Laotian American poet and transcultural adoptee, I work actively to support Laotian, Hmong and Southeast Asian artists and writers around the world. | | I am the author of the books BARROW, On The... Read More →


Thursday October 19, 2017 9:00am - 10:50am
Poetry Center Conference Room 207 Poetry Center

Attendees (4)