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Vexed Alliances: Asian American Mixed Race Representation


Nearly twenty years have passed since the possibility of identifying as more than one race was made possible on the 2000 U.S. census. Much of the national discourse around the “browning of America”--the idea that the United States was rapidly becoming a minority-majority nation--has been celebratory; the mixed race subject, it seems, has left tragedy behind to become a new sign of national inclusion. Scholars of mixed race studies, however, have raised concerns over how such celebratory treatment eclipses a long and often troubling history of mixed race in the United States: tolerated under slavery and colonialism but elsewhere legally and socially proscribed. Through an analysis of representations of mixed race in Asian American literature, this project considers how centering on mixed race uniquely illuminates the contours of suppressed white monoracial identification that underwrites dominant American culture. Focusing specifically on representations of Asian American mixed race allows for a more nuanced discussion of the historical, cultural, and political nuances of mixed race that emerge when examined in light of a particular minority group. 

The first chapter considers how Diana Chang’s novel The Frontiers of Love deploys the emerging subjectivities of her central mixed race characters to expose classic psychoanalysis’ assumption of a monoracial family. Focusing on Aimee Liu’s Face, the second chapter discusses the ambivalence with which monoracial groups view mixed race subject, whose allegiance is understood as suspect. The third chapter examines how Chang-Rae Lee’s Native Speaker offers a complex critique of mixed race as a form of biological assimilation. Grappling with the frontier myth as it relates to mixed race subjectivity, the fourth chapter contemplates the role that American expansionist narratives have played in the construction of mixed race identity as revealed in John Yau’s “Hawaiian Cowboy” and Nina Revoyr’s Wingshooters.

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