Annotation: Rachel C. Lee’s “Introduction” (1999)

Peer-Review: 0

Lee, Rachel C. “Introduction.” The Americas of Asian American Literature. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1999. 3-16. Print.

In the “Introduction” of her book, Lee asserts that the critical tendency to merely focus on how “America” is conceived and represented in Asian American fiction obscures other significant themes these authors address, namely, gender and sexuality. Lee locates this problematic trend as stemming from the historical tension between “feminism and ethnopolitical critique.” She argues that the project spearheaded by Frank Chin and Jeffrey Paul Chan to “recuperate Asian American manhood” against white racist, imperialist emasculation has essentially closed off discourse about Asian American women or at least ascribed them as subservient topics for critical analysis. Lee emphasizes that the expense of reclaiming Asian male masculinity is often the oppression and exploitation of women (not only by the dominant white society but also through acts of intra-racism and -sexism), whose plight has been largely rendered invisible and needs to be urgently examined.

Lee adopts a “New Americanist” critical framework that explores “America” beyond the rigid boundaries of the U.S. nation-state, “in a broader context, in hemispheric, regional, and global terms” (4, 5). But while she expresses excitement over the trasnationalization of American studies, as more and more scholars are beginning to explore the effects of globalization, diaspora, and postcolonialism, Lee is also deeply concerned about how this new trend may “undermine the vitality of Asian American feminist critique” (10). Because of the deep historical relation between “cultural nationalism” and feminism, as the nation is challenged as a framework of analysis in our ever increasingly globalized world, feminism may once again be relegated as subservient to discourses of transnationalism (11). Lee concludes that one of the primary aims of her book is to establish a framework that reconciles “Asian American gender critique with its new sources in theories of subaltern womanhood and the gendering of international labor” (11). She ultimately strives to examine how these female lives are shaped by imaginings of “America” and the broader flows of global capital.

Annotation: Thuy Linh Nguyen Tu’s “Good Politics, Great Porn” (2003)

Peer-Review: 0

Tu, Thuy Linh Nguyen. “Good Politics, Great Porn: Untangling Race, Sex, and Technology in Asian American Cultural Productions.” AsianAmerica.Net: Ethnicity, Nationalism, and Cyberspace. Eds. Rachel C. Lee and Sau-Ling Cynthia Wong. New York: Routledge, 2003. 267-280. Print.

In this essay Tu discusses how the online porn industry thrives from the presence and representation of Asian bodies. She emphasizes that contrary to claims about cyberspace as virtual and immaterial, web industries such as porn reaffirm that bodies really do matter online. Porn sites, in fact, make gender and race hyper-visible as users are encouraged to input these qualities in their search for a desired sexual object. Tu reveals that the online porn industry also problematically reinforces and perpetuates Orientalist notions about Asian women, “that they are exotic and hold limitless sexual knowledge, yet docile and eager to please” (268). With the Internet as the vehicle of information transmission, these stereotypes and fantasies regarding Asian women are even more troublingly circulated to a mass global audience.

Yet Tu does not view the Internet as merely a vehicle of oppression as she notes the work of people such as Mimi Nguyen. She deliberately names and describes her site, “Exoticize This,” in provocative terms to jam and disrupt digital pathways, redirecting users looking for porn to a web page that discusses Asian American feminist issues. Kristina Wong’s mock porn site, BigBadChineseMama.com, strives to further a similar project as Nguyen, by displaying Asian female bodies that do not correspond to Orientalist fantasies, ultimately shattering those myths. Tu in addition describes Bindigirl, a fascinating work of digital art by Prema Murthy. She notes that in the bio of this pornographic Asian female avatar, Bindi recognizes her hyper-sexualization and the failure of technology to liberate her. Bindi’s pointed awareness of herself as a sexual object leads her to demand money from her viewers, which can be interpreted as some kind of resistance. Murthy’s use of CU-SeeMe technology, which requires people who view her art to specifically interact with it and become a part of the performance is also displaces users from the usual position of passive voyeur to literally experience how it feels to be watched and recorded. While Tu ultimately celebrates the work of these individuals who are introducing much-need politicized art to the Web, she also recognizes the potential danger of these artists relying on irony and humor to convey their messages, which can be easily misinterpreted.