Contemporary Popular Culture and the Politics of Asian American Representation, Resistance, and Cultural Production
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Despite their increasing visibility in mainstream popular culture, problems in Asian American representation continue to manifest. For example, there is renewed interest in infantilizing, colonial images of Asian women, as well as the outright exclusion of Asian bodies, commonly swapped out for white ones for allegedly better marketability. In this dissertation, I articulate the new spaces, discourses, and agents that enable and reproduce these narratives. With a critical focus on agency, meaning-making, and political intervention, I interrogate the representations of Asian Americans in pop culture texts, audience responses to those texts and to protests of the texts, and emergent counter-hegemonic Asian American cultural productions. I pay particular attention to the heterogeneity of Asian and Asian American audiences because they help us to understand how their varying histories and political and ideological perspectives color their negotiations with mainstream American pop culture texts, which, in contrast, tend to cast the figure of the Oriental in homogenous ways as inherently foreign, humorless, unassimilable, or consumable. I argue that this analysis of audience discourses is largely possible because the Internet, and social media in particular, has changed the ways in which we negotiate racial meaning. We now wrestle with racial ideology publicly, sometimes anonymously with strangers online, which creates an opportunity to investigate ideological beliefs and examine assumptions about how Asian Americans think they fit, or fail to fit, within a white-dominated American society. Finally, I explore Asian American blogs, online cultural productions that continue to illustrate the heterogeneity of Asian American audiences, and also serve as powerful sources of independent, critical perspectives that I argue can help to decolonize the Asian American imagination.
- Communications