Volume 4, Issue 1, 2012
Editor's Note for JTAS 4.1
SPECIAL FORUM: Charting Transnational Native American Studies: Aesthetics, Politics, Identity
Introduction to the Special Forum entitled "Charting Transnational Native American Studies: Aesthetics, Politics, Identity," edited by Hsinya Huang, Philip J. Deloria, Laura M. Furlan, and John Gamber
This essay questions both the Special Forum’s invitation to chart a “Transnational Native American Studies” and its assertion, in the call for papers, that issues “surrounding place and mobility, aesthetics and politics, identity and community, and the tribal and global indigenous” have “emerged” from within “the larger frameworks of transnational American Studies.” Through a series of critical and interpretive engagements with examples of contemporary Indigenous arts and literature from the US, Canada, and Aotearoa/New Zealand, the author offers an alternative rubric of the “trans-Indigenous” for future work in global Indigenous Studies.
Recently, scholars and artists have queried the relationship between indigenous places—defined by their unique histories and meanings—and abstract spatial metaphors attending a current period of globalization. In this essay, Horton revisits two well-known works of digital video by Native North American artists to consider how they resolve an apparent tension between the indigenous lands they depict and the global networks in which they circulate: the internationally popular feature-length film Atanarjuat, the Fast Runner (2001), directed by Inuit artist Zacharias Kunuk, and the short video work Fountain (2005), created by Anishinaabe artist Rebecca Belmore for the Canadian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale. Both works feature human bodies interacting with tactile substances like ice and water, spiritual forces at work in the environment, and landscapes that fade in and out of abstraction. Their creative approaches to sound, montage, and projection techniques set in motion dialectics of displacement and emplacement. Atanarjuat and Fountain contribute to an expansive notion of indigenous places, one that values the historical and cultural specificity of locales as the starting point for unraveling the complexities of their relationships to distant people and places.
"¡Todos Somos Indios!" Revolutionary Imagination, Alternative Modernity, and Transnational Organizing in the Work of Silko, Tamez, and Anzaldúa
This essay builds on Shari Huhndorf’s analysis of the “significant implications” of Leslie Marmon Silko’s Almanac of the Dead for Indigenous Studies by setting the novel into the context of María Josefina Saldaña-Portillo’s analysis of how Zapatista organizing activities in Chiapas, Mexico, reshaped the “revolutionary imagination in the Americas” and helped to construct an “alternative modernity” that disrupts the empty signifier of “authentic” indigenous identity. The essay juxtaposes Silko’s novel with the work of emerging Lipan-Jumano Apache poet, scholar, and activist Margo Tamez, who is currently leading an effort to retribalize the Lipan Apache in the militarized US–Mexico borderlands of the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Adamson explores how Tamez and her mother are part of a growing indigenous movement to build capacity among transnational indigenous groups, groups who self-identify as “native” even though they may not be formally recognized by a nation-state, and nonnative groups whose interests in social justice and environmental protection overlap. Adamson explores how this movement is shifting the focus in Native American and American Studies away from debates about “authenticity” and cultural nationalism toward a renewed attention to hemispheric and global struggles for civil, human, and environmental rights. She also argues that, when Silko and Tamez are read together, their work suggests new avenues of interpretation for Borderlands/La Frontera and calls on scholars to reread/rethink Gloria Anzaldúa’s concept of mestizaje, not as mere adherence to mythological tropes, but as suggestive of the experiences of persons of indigenous descent living in communities that fall outside the category of “nation.” The experiences of Tamez and Anzaldúa with illness and toxins, and their writing about it, also challenge readers to imagine a coalition politics that is not exactly “post-identity” but no longer invested in the boundaries of identity. “Another world is possible,” but achieving this goal—Silko, Tamez, and Anzaldúa suggest—will require alliance-making and capacity-building to strengthen local, regional, and global abilities to meet the challenge.
The extensive and enduring commitments to nationhood within Native American Studies have unsurprisingly engendered in the field extensive and enduring resistance to transnational theoretical and methodological frameworks. This is largely because scholarly transnationalism fundamentally seeks to unmoor intellectual work from national(ist) affiliations. This, of course, directly contradicts the commitments to nationhood within Native Studies. Yet even while conventional transnational modes of critical inquiry present trajectories and objectives that threaten to undermine the core commitments of Native American Studies, the judicious use of particular aspects of conventional transnationalism and the development of innovative conceptions of transnationalism can serve the field.
While conventional transnationalism seeks to decenter the nation in any form—and therein maintains a strict opposition between nationalism and transnationalism—the mode of indigenous transnationalism that Bauerkemper and Stark propose decenters the settler-state while recentering Native nationhood. Maintaining Native American Studies’ commitments to nationhood, this mode of inquiry intentionally and self-consciously underscores the boundaries that distinguish Native nations as discrete polities. Through an analysis of Anishinaabe law and diplomacy, this mode of inquiry serves to lay the groundwork for recognizing the transnational flows of intellectual, cultural, economic, social, and political traditions between and across the boundaries of distinct yet often—though not always—allied and mutually amenable Native nations.
SPECIAL FORUM: Redefining the American in Asian American Studies: Transnationalism, Diaspora, and Representation
Introduction to the Special Forum in honor of Sau-ling Wong, entitled "Redefining the American in Asian American Studies: Transnationalism, Diaspora, and Representation," edited by Tanfer Emin Tunc, Elisabetta Marino, and Daniel Y. Kim
How did singer Wang Leehom, a Chinese American raised in the suburbs of New York, end up becoming one of the industry heavyweights of Mandopop (Mandarin-language pop music)? This essay uses Wang as a case study to investigate how discourses of race, market, and belonging are reworked in global contexts. Drawing on Sau-ling Wong’s theoretical insights on transnational processes of race, citizenship, and belonging, it argues that Wang capitalizes on a fluid dynamic of sameness and difference to appeal to a heterogeneous Chinese-speaking audience that stretches across China to Taiwan, Hong Kong, Southeast Asia, and the greater Chinese diaspora. Through an examination of the racial and national contexts that frame Wang’s participation in Mandopop, this essay analyzes the particular calibrations of Chineseness that emerge from the singer’s music and public image and the imperfect translation of identities such as Chinese American, Chinese diasporic, and Chinese across diverse linguistic and national communities.
This essay puts into conversation two rarely conjunctive discourses: posthumanism, which focuses on how technological mediation forces a reconsideration of the very categories of “subject,” “object,” and “literature”; and Asian American literary criticism, which seeks to continually interrogate how Asian American subjects are produced, reproduced, and represented. Putting these two discourses into conversation yields several important results: for one, posthumanist theory allows for a more complex understanding of the shift, within Asian American criticism, from nation-bound models to transnational frameworks. Moreover, posthumanism’s emphasis on technological mediation provides an important new theoretical framework for Asian American literary criticism, particularly in terms of the way that subjects are produced and reproduced in conjunction with technological objects. At the same time, Asian American literary criticism’s focus on the material effects of cultural productions pinpoints and illuminates a critical aporia in posthuman theory: its uncertain and equivocal treatment of race and ethnicity. The essay concludes with a reading of Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries’ Traveling to Utopia: With a Brief History of the Technology. Considered together, the form and content of the piece enact an aesthetics of “posthuman difference,” which both highlights the limits, and requires the strengths, of posthumanist and Asian Americanist discourse.
Migration, Displacement, and Movements in the Global Space: Ming-Yuen S. Ma’s Multi-Media Project Xin Lu: A Travelogue in Four Parts
In her recent work, Sau-ling Cynthia Wong draws critical attention to the implications of the formation of an Asian American “diaporic community” in cyberspace, where race still operates as an organizing principle of power relations. Although cyberspace is not confined by national borders, Wong examines how subversion of and intervention in race- and sex-based hierarchies in cyberspace can articulate Asian American identities in relation to diasporas and the nation-state. This essay explores the politics of artistic invention in diasporas as embedded in the disruption, dislocation, and fragmentation in Ming-Yuen S. Ma’s multi-media project, Xin Lu: A Travelogue in Four Parts—a series of four experimental videos about Chinese diasporas. It argues that by moving outside the nation-space into the experiential and virtual “global space” of diasporas, Ma’s work addresses Wong’s concerns and enacts a viable “virtual mediation” that situates Chinese diasporas in the historical contexts of British colonialism and American racial exploitation and exclusion. This movement also entails confronting other forms of oppression, including sexism and heterosexism in both the East and West. While giving voice and visibility to the struggles of racial and sexual minorities across national borders, Ma demonstrates the possibilities of a historicized critical approach to diasporas, one which underlies Wong’s insistence in critiquing gendered and racialized power structures both within and outside the nation-state.
The 2008 San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival presented three narrative films, Never Forever, Pretty to Think So, and West 32nd, with suggestively similar interests. Namely, all three films focus on “horizontal” (rather than intergenerational) conflicts between characters distinguished by class, legal status, and migration history but connected by ethnic or racial identifications. This article argues that the films, individually and collectively, participate in ongoing deliberations about the borders of Asian America by juxtaposing and organizing distinct models of conceiving Asian American identity. In particular, the films suggest the limitations of privileging certain formations of Asian America over others by both dramatizing and embodying their uneasy coexistence. Tensions between minority, immigrant, and diasporic positions become evident not only through their plots, characterizations, and stylistic elements but also in their complex production and distribution histories. The films together highlight the necessity of attending to the difficult questions of ethnic and racial identification and material inequity that are manifest when the various narratives of affiliation and difference espoused by each model encounter one another.
This essay examines the relationships of performing bodies to elaborate “Asian/American corporeal citations” and argues that such citations create the grounds for a politics of mobility. Revisiting and extending Sau-ling Wong’s theoretical engagement with “myths of mobility,” it specifically uses the nexus of mourning, performance, and racialization to rearticulate modes of cultural passing by constructing a lineage through several men: screen star Toshiro Mifune, actor Lane Nishikawa (who invokes Mifune through Nishikawa’s elegiac solo piece Mifune and Me), and the author (disciplined through acting classes with Nishikawa). The stakes of re-membering are further articulated through the interweaving of the bodily acts associated with the death of the author’s grandfather, Bo Jung. Joining the principal argument with this more personal reflection is an attempt to think through the implications of Nishikawa’s theatrical memorial and to grapple with loss and the complex, nonlinear structures of memory that attend it. Ultimately, all the cultural transmissions discussed place the body at the center of transnational, racial, and ethnic discourses. In so doing, the essay revises kinship as the foundation for what might otherwise be too easily read as diasporic cultural productions.
“Call Me an Innocent Criminal”: Dual Discourse, Gender, and “Chinese” America in Nie Hualing’s Sangqing yu Taohong/Mulberry and Peach
This essay discusses Nie Hualing’s novel Sangqing yu Taohong (Mulberry and Peach: Two Women of China) as a literary text that intensely engages Chinese identity and Chineseness as a global, transnational cultural phenomenon, while at the same time narrating a story of migration to the US that spurs the emergence (within the text) of some of the most localized, politically charged concerns of Asian American cultural discourse. While the publication of Nie’s novel coincides with the initial articulations of Asian American identity in the context of political activism, Sangqing yu Taohong/Mulberry and Peach also anticipates the growing interest for contextualizing the Asian American experience as a transnational phenomenon. In its representation of Chinese migration to America and female sexuality as issues that stretch ethical and political boundaries and blur the distinction between private and public discourses, this novel constructs identity as both politicized and uncontainable, anticipating, again, some key components of Asian American cultural discourse since the 1990s. This excess of signification reproduces the tension between “model minorities” and “bad subjects” that makes Asian American discourse inescapably political. This political nature, in turn, intertwines public and private frameworks of reference, as well as ethnic, national, and transnational dimensions of signification.
Gish Jen’s 2004 novel The Love Wife highlights the foreign presence within American national boundaries but plays with the reader’s expectations of a novel of immigration to deconstruct the categories of citizen and immigrant, foreigner and native, protagonist and antagonist, host and guest. This blurring between antagonist and protagonist in the novel captures the dynamics of hospitality: through a delicate series of adjustments, concessions, and compromise, guest and host can exchange places with one another. Tapping into fears particularly emergent in the post-9/11 era of immigrants as poised to infiltrate America, Jen’s novel engages with the anxiety evoked by the foreigner’s presence but complicates this notion through her careful examination of the ethnic- and gender-inflected dimensions of that response, as well as through the resolution of the plot. Considering the trope of hospitality within contemporary Asian American works also helps illuminate fiction’s role in evolving definitions of “Asian American” and “America” in the “post-national” era.
A Subject of Sea and Salty Sediment: Diasporic Labor and Queer (Be)longing in Monique Truong’s The Book of Salt
Caught having an affair while employed at the home of the governor-general of Saigon, Vietnamese cook, migrant worker, and narrator of Monique Truong’s The Book of Salt, Binh, is cast out of his natal home, and sets off for the open sea, winding up as a live-in cook in the household of lesbian couple Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. As an abstract source of labor and culinary pleasure to those he encounters in Paris, Binh concludes, despondently, that he is, “nothing but a series of destinations with no meaningful expanses in between.” Yet the “expanses in between,” most notably in reference to waterways, allude to a central trope of Vietnamese culture. Incorporating Vietnamese symbolism with formative migratory experiences, this essay argues that Truong constructs a subject who can be read through both affective forms of national belonging as well as a broader queer diasporic community. It also explores Binh’s percipient tongue as one that is ever critical of the dynamics of power and privilege, and ever sensitive to the variances in salt (of sea, sweat, tears). The Book of Salt thus mediates the possibility of a gustatory epistemology and community constituted in the sensate, attuned to divergent experiences of mobility, labor, and love.
In 1953, Chiang Yee, a Chinese American travel writer and artist, began to write and exchange Chinese-language dayou poems with Yang Lien-sheng, a Harvard professor. These poems, seemingly casual, unrestrained, humorous, and sometimes emotional, reflected the sentiments of diaspora poets, their feelings about displacement, profession, language, and home. This article is a study of the cultural and literary significance of these dayou poems. Written during the Cold War era by Chinese scholars, they stand in sharp contrast with mainstream publications in both China and America. They are not merely an instance of Chinese poetic form being practiced overseas; when examined against their sociocultural context, these verses raise significant issues concerning displacement and homeland, career and cultural identity, and “mother tongue” and public expression. They reveal an ethos that diaspora poets have never publicly manifested in their English-language writings. Thus, a study of these dayou poems may deepen our understanding about Asian American literature, lead to a better appreciation of writing in languages other than English, and open up a new, exciting topic within Asian American Studies.
In the context of the expanding discourse of transnational Asian American Studies, this essay studies Kimiko Hahn, particularly her engagement with East Asian traditions in her poetry, and shows how her work exemplifies a transcultural Asian American literature that requires reading beyond the domestic boundaries of the United States. Drawing on Walter Benjamin's and Gayatri Spivak’s translation studies, it examines how Hahn critiques the assimilationist representation of Asian women in translations of Asian texts such as Arthur Waley’s version of Lady Murasaki’s The Tale of Genji. It then reads how, based on her thoughts about literary translation, Hahn experiments with creative practices of “translation,” including a retranslation of Ezra Pound’s Chinese images and untranslation of zuihitsu. Rewriting Ezra Pound’s Chinese images, Hahn reconstructs women’s voice in ancient Chinese writings. Undoing the simplistic interpretation of the classical Japanese form zuihitsu, her restorative untranslation of the form makes connections between the discursive agency of ancient Asian women writers and contemporary women poets. Thus, Hahn’s translational writing reveals a poetics of “continental drift,” a poetics that calls attention to the necessity of reading Asian American literature in transnational and transcultural contexts.
Fred Korematsu, plaintiff of the landmark 1944 case Korematsu v. United States, had facial cosmetic surgery to try to escape the mass incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II. This article examines the popular and legal discussion of his surgery at that time, which conveys that fears of Japanese spies and the supposed inability to distinguish Japanese, captured in the famous Life magazine article “How To Tell Your Friends from the Japs,” directly influenced the courts’ rulings on the legality of the incarceration. The deliberate decision of the Supreme Court to excise this issue from the Korematsu opinion, which disclaimed racism as a root cause of the incarceration, is exposed through archival documents and drafts that betray a deep interest in his surgery, as do the government and lower court documents. As a heroic figurehead of civil rights, Korematsu complicates the discussion of surgical patients as complicit, drawing attention instead to the legalized discrimination that drives such choices.
This essay argues that Cha’s DICTEE trains the reader in strategic language games in order to resist bellicose identities. It engages contemporary studies of multilingual literature in the United States, challenging overly optimistic visions of an inclusive cosmopolitanism that elides problems of gender, race, class, and nation. Sau-ling Wong’s “Denationalization Reconsidered” is used to examine these issues in relation to defense funding, language policies, and historical tensions between ethnic studies and area studies in the US. As this essay posits, Cha addressed many of Wong’s concerns avant la lettre.
Looking In, Looking Out: The Chinese-Caribbean Diaspora through Literature—Meiling Jin, Patricia Powell, Jan Lowe Shinebourne
Few scholars have focused on the Chinese diaspora in the Caribbean, and it is only fairly recently that the literature written by Caribbean writers of Chinese origin has aroused interest. This essay interrogates the lack of visibility of Chinese-Caribbean writers, like Meiling Jin and Jan Shinebourne, whose ancestors arrived in Guyana in the nineteenth century as indentured workers, and are now considered to be Caribbean writers of Guyanese origin living in the UK, with the Chinese element being (almost) erased (but not quite). This essay also considers Patricia Powell since she focuses on the Chinese diaspora in the Caribbean, even though she is not of Chinese origin but a Jamaican American writer.
“Speaking German Like Nobody’s Business”: Anna May Wong, Walter Benjamin, and the Possibilities of Asian American Cosmopolitanism
In the summer of 1928 in Berlin, the noted German Jewish philosopher Walter Benjamin (1892–1940) and Chinese American actress Anna May Wong (1905–1961) shared an unlikely encounter that set in relief European and American conceptions of modernity as well as white European intellectual and American racial minority cosmopolitanisms. On July 6, 1928, Benjamin published the results as “Gespräch mit Anne May Wong” [“Speaking with Anna May Wong: A Chinoiserie from the Old West”] on the front page of the leading German literary review, Die Literarische Welt. Read against a cache of Wong’s writings, the encounter and the writings are significant for how they intervene in constructions of cosmopolitanism and racial and gendered difference. This encounter raises questions concerning the relationship between Asian America, modernity, race, gender, and cosmopolitanism, linking notions of cosmopolitanism to a discourse of race in the transnational American context. Benjamin’s struggles in fully characterizing Wong also point to the antagonism between racialized American modern femininity and Eurocentric cosmopolitanism.
Becoming-Animal in Asian Americas: Ruthanne Lum McCunn’s God of Luck and a Watanabean Triptych (Three Poems by José Watanabe)
Considering the implicit North American and Anglophone core of Asian American literature traditionally conceived, this essay discusses two examples of literatures of the Asian Americas. A narrative of a Chinese coolie’s heroic escape from a Peruvian guano mine, Ruthanne Lum McCunn’s novel God of Luck (2008) introduces a lesser-known point of view to the field: the nineteenth-century Chinese coolie in Peru. Rather than embrace the emblematic hero who accedes to voice, this essay attempts to read outside of an anticipated rubric of individual politico-economic repletion. In the poetry of Peruvian writer José Watanabe (1946–2007), motifs of animal encounter abound—yet dogs, fish, and other kinds of life are never deployed as a discrete metaphor through which we can see and know ourselves. As readers we are shifted to the edge of the world, in a “becoming-animal” that explores not the Asian American, but its restless morphing, illegibly human or otherwise.
Book reviews of Christian Collet and Pei-Te Lien, eds., The Transnational Politics of Asian Americans (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2009); and Setsu Shigematsu and Keith L. Camacho, eds., Militarized Currents: Toward a Decolonized Future in Asia and the Pacific (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2010).
Forward Editor’s Note for JTAS 4.1
Special Editor’s Note for JTAS 4.1’s Forward
Gordon Chang’s essay, excerpted from East–West Interchanges in American Art: A Long and Tumultuous Relationship, focuses on Zhang Shuqi, a Chinese-born artist who worked in the United States during the period of World War II and acted as a cultural diplomat for China. Zhang strongly influenced American mass culture by bringing methods of Chinese brush painting to a general audience. However, despite the popular “orientalist” association of Zhang’s art with traditional brush painting (and, beyond that, timeless Chinese culture), his work was in fact strikingly modern.
This excerpt from William A. Gleason’s Sites Unseen: Architecture, Race, and American Literature juxtaposes the work of Richard Harding Davis and Olga Beatriz Torres, two international travelers during the generation preceding US involvement in World War I. Davis, a popular author and magazine editor, barnstormed through Central and South America, which he made the subject of a popular travelogue and “imperialist novel.” Torres, a teenaged girl, traveled north from Mexico into the United States and reported on conditions there in a series of letters published after her death. Yet despite their obvious disparities in point of view, the two works not only address similar themes of US power (albeit from different directions) but they both focus on architecture and how it reflects race and class structures. The excerpt forms a fascinating counterpoint to Rhys Isaac’s pioneering study of architecture and social hierarchy in colonial Virginia, The Transformation of Virginia, 1740–1790 (1983).
Daniel Kotzin’s Judah L. Magnes: An American Jewish Nonconformist offers a new view of Magnes, a prominent American rabbi and Zionist leader who emigrated to Palestine after World War I and became the first president of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Paradoxically, as Kotzin demonstrates, it was through his work in Jerusalem that Magnes most clearly sought to realize his American values. In the face of pressure from leaders of the Yishuv for a Jewish state, Magnes championed democracy, humanistic values, and Jewish–Arab binationalism.
Margarita Marinova’s text is excerpted from her new work Transnational Russian-American Travel Writing. The work’s purpose is to examine “the diverse practices of crossing boundaries, tactics of translation, and experiences of double and multiple political and national attachments” found in a group of writings about encounters between Russians and Americans between 1865 and the Russian Revolution of 1905. (These encounters provide a prelude to the more famous American travelogue of 1930s Soviet satirical writers Ilya Ilf and Evgeny Petrov, Odnoetazhnaia Amerika [Single-Storied America].) Contrasting viewpoints on race and ethnicity form an important element of Marinova’s corpus, and one fine example is the extract shown here, which treats the encounter of Russian-Jewish revolutionary Vladimir Bogoraz (Tan) with a Black American student working as a Pullman porter, and the Russian’s unwittingly humorous incapacity to view him outside of stereotypes (in a fashion that anticipates the character of the mother in Shirley Jackson’s mordant short story “After You, My Dear Alphonse”).
Birgit Brander Rasmussen’s Queequeg’s Coffin: Indigenous Literacies and Early American Literature is a fascinating discussion of various non-alphabetic writing by indigenous peoples. According to its blurb, it “recovers previously overlooked moments of textual reciprocity in the colonial sphere, from a 1645 French-Haudenosaunee Peace Council to Herman Melville’s youthful encounters with Polynesian hieroglyphics.” The text reproduced here takes on Melville’s iconic novel Moby Dick and explores Ishmael’s description of the tattoos on the body of the Polynesian harpooner Queequeg and on his coffin. Rasmussen posits these as a fictionalized embodiment of actual Polynesian writing.
This is a pair of excerpts from the anthology Bridging Cultures: International Women Faculty Transforming the US Academy. The book is composed of a series of memoirs by foreign-born women scholars working in various disciplines, in which they reflect on their personal experiences as foreigners in US academia. The introduction by Federica Santini, Sabine H. Smith, and Sarah R. Robbins underlines the crucially feminist nature of “standpoint epistemology”—that is, the identifying and critiquing of one’s own particular viewpoint and “positioning.” Sabine Smith’s contribution proceeds to recount her own experience as a foreign-born woman scholar, and how she both contributes to the education of her students through her understanding of her native German language and culture and is herself shaped by her position as an outsider in the United States—Smith glories in the sense of liberation her status offers her.
In his book By Order of the President: FDR and the Internment of Japanese Americans (2001), Greg Robinson discussed FDR’s decision to remove Japanese Americans from their homes and concentrate them in internment camps. Now in this chapter from his recently published book, After Camp: Portraits in Midcentury Japanese American Life and Politics, he unearths Roosevelt’s grandiose and frightening idea of their return to civil society by scattering them—two or three families at a time—in small towns, all away from the west coast. He also thought such a scatter plan would suit refugee European Jews who he hoped would settle in Latin America. Indeed he thought ethnic minorities crowded into American cities might also benefit if resettled in small towns. While this is a racial story, FDR’s vision here was also driven by the rural sentiments of FDR, the gentleman farmer. That produced some highly regarded programs, most notably the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and the “Greenbelt towns.” But the massive population transfers that Robinson shows to have been on the president’s mind would have made a mockery of the US rights tradition. Of equal importance, Robinson’s examination of the role of major social scientists recruited to the project provides an object lesson in the dangers of intellect seduced by power.
Excerpt from Trans-Americanity: Subaltern Modernities, Global Coloniality, and the Cultures of Greater Mexico
José David Saldívar’s work, excerpted from Trans-Americanity: Subaltern Modernities, Global Coloniality, and the Cultures of Greater Mexico, focuses on Américo Paredes, whom he refers to as a “proto-Chicano.” Here he discusses Paredes’s columns written from Asia for the United States Army magazine Stars and Stripes and how his experience in Asia between 1945 and 1950 crossed with and informed his evolving viewpoint on US–Mexican borderlands and his “outernationalist” envisioning of a “Greater Mexico.”
Amy Sueyoshi’s Queer Compulsions: Race, Nation, and Sexuality in the Affairs of Yone Noguchi is a fascinating study of the writings and character of the transnational Japanese-born poet Yone Noguchi during his years in the United States, as seen through the prism of his interlocking sexual/romantic affairs with western writer Charles Warren Stoddard, historian Ethel Armes, and editor Léonie Gilmour (a liaison that produced the famed sculptor Isamu Noguchi). Sueyoshi’s detective work, matched with her sensitive analysis, allows readers to grasp the complicated ways that race, class, and “exoticism” inform intimate relations.
Saving Civilization from the "'Green-Eyed' Monster": Emma Goldman and the Sex Reform Campaign against Jealousy, 1900–1930
This article explores the Anglo-transatlantic dimensions of the early twentieth-century sex reform movement through the lens of an emotional economy, which, Hustak argues, marked a specific historical moment in defining political alliances at the level of embodied felt relations of power. The article examines the importance of the collaboration between British and American sex reformers by focusing on how their radical feminist and socialist politics were underpinned by their attacks on jealousy. Hustak suggests here that new transatlantic relationships were forged by British and American sex reformers through their consideration of the emotional constitution of white middle-class citizens who were similarly shaped by capitalist and patriarchal institutions that crossed national divides, while also articulating a special kinship among white middle-class citizens in cosmopolitan bohemian communities on both sides of the Atlantic. Hustak’s use of the term "emotional economy" highlights how white middle-class British and American sex reformers shared similar concerns over a declining white middle-class birthrate, the nervous exhaustion of white middle-class bodies, and the eugenic future of white middle-class civilization. She suggests that sex reformers' campaigns against jealousy highlighted communal ties that defied national boundaries by identifying shared emotional constitutions along the lines of whiteness, eugenic reproduction, and professional work regimes. Hustak uses the specific case study of sex reformer and anarchist Emma Goldman's activities in Greenwich Village as an example of an influential early twentieth-century transnational reformer whose attacks on jealousy as the "'green-eyed' monster" occurred in the wider context of an Anglo-transatlantic politics of emotion.
Raising The Wild Flag: E. B. White, World Government, and Local Cosmopolitanism in the Postwar Moment
This essay argues that the writer E. B. White, best known for his literary essays and children’s books, also had a significant but neglected career as a political writer. It considers his writings, during and just after World War II, on the subject of world government, and argues that he made the case for world federation by way of a novel model of cosmopolitanism that results from love of place and country rather than from dispensing with them. It considers the reception of his 1946 book The Wild Flag and the productive tension between White’s skepticism about political advocacy and his attempt to imagine a public for world government as constituted through his vision of cosmopolitanism.
Reprise Editor’s Note for JTAS 4.1
This 1994 article by Jeffrey Gray originally appeared in the journal NOVEL: A Forum on Fiction (Duke University Press). An early foray into transnational American Studies, Gray’s analysis of the role “Europe” plays both in the narrative and in the life of the author herself begins with a discussion of the object of art—the self as exoticized, distanced other—imagined and displayed against the carceral black body in the American imaginary, an imaginary that holds the protagonist, Helga, hostage to an indeterminacy represented by her mulatto status. Gray argues that the “quicksand” of the search for essence, whether located in the body or in the eyes of others, eventually dissolves the protagonist’s sense that a change of place can change the truth that essence does not exist. Gray references the shared observation among African American international celebs (Richard Wright, James Baldwin, and Josephine Baker—whose 1973 interview with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., is cited) that “being different is different” in Europe, yet that otherness is finally also not an experience of self, which the narrative (and perhaps the author’s life as well) proves to be endlessly deferred.
In their beautifully researched study and critical edition, Nellie Arnott’s Writings on Angola, 1905–1913: Missionary Narratives Linking Africa and America (Parlor Press), authors Sarah Robbins and Ann Ellis Pullen examine in fine detail the historical record of the transnational network of literary work produced by Arnott. Tracing her legacy in the study’s third chapter, “Writing on Multiple Journeys,” the authors argue on behalf of Arnott’s capacity to create authority and celebrity as well as a sense of community among her distant readers, underscoring the powerful and influential role that missionary women’s writing (mimicking to some extent the popular genre of travel writing) played in shaping attitudes at home, not only with regard to race, but also in relation to women’s roles, place, and purpose. Robbins and Pullen display a conscientious resolve not to obscure the inherent contradictions in Arnott’s changing perspectives as they offer a historical narrative based on Arnott’s public and private texts, which also reveal the “consistent inconsistency” in her attitudes and beliefs. Details of and insights into educational practices in missionary schools, including the observation that mothers in the US appreciated the fact that their middle-class Christian children were sharing curriculum with Umbundu children in Angola, invite interesting conclusions about the transnational, transgenerational, and gendered effects of women’s work in the missionary world.
The Global Classroom Project, a joint experiment in long-distance, cross-cultural, transnational learning (“not,” the authors point out, “the one-sided ‘missionary’ instruction typical of distance learning courses”), is outlined in “Intercultural Communication in the Global Classroom” by TyAnna K. Herrington and Yuri P. Tretyakov, originally published in 2004 in Russian-American Links: 300 Years of Cooperation (Russian Academy of Sciences). Here, the authors review the history of their experiment in communication studies, which revealed a number of challenges in intercultural communication styles among Russian, Swedish, and American students. This valuable study lends insight into early attempts to bring “collaborative” practice to transnational and cross-cultural constituencies meeting each other for the first time. The “chaos” that the authors report is read as a space for unstructured and unimagined discoveries for students and professors alike, testifying perhaps to broad, non-ideologically informed but technologically enhanced creative and transnational networks yet to come.
The article traces the history and current role of gendered migration and sexual labor through an exploration of the contradictions inherent in gendered migration in which rural youth are migrating to the cities of the developing world while sex-customers migrate to “hot” tourism destinations. The author focuses on the economic nature of this migration within the context of the two main concepts used to understand women’s migration: refugees and trafficking. Case studies, particularly from Asia, reveal that a blanket application of the trafficking label misinterprets the agency, daily life, and even the oppression of sex workers. By examining the factors that influence women’s migration for work and the conditions that perpetuate their entrance into the sex industry, the author concludes that there is need to take into account the limited choices in today’s global economy that compel women to engage in sex work. She questions therefore the utility, in developed countries, of criminalizing these activities, suggesting instead that they be protected by extending their rights.