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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Transpacific Identities in Film and Literature

  • Author(s): Cheng, Paul
  • Advisor(s): Yamamoto, Traise
  • et al.

In her vital 2003 work, Imagine Otherwise, Kandace Chuh argues for an intervention in Asian American studies using a transnational analytic. As globalization increases in the twenty-first century, the continued movement of peoples, capital, and cultures across the Pacific Rim in myriad forms ranging from traditional immigration to new global digital networks demonstrates the importance of continuing the use of a transnational paradigm in Asian American studies. Moreover, within this specifically transpacific framework, this study specifically focuses on the role of visual culture, in the form of the global circulation of film and film images. As Stuart Hall and Paul Gilroy have argued for African American cultural identity, it is within this global circuit of film that minority communities and individuals have constructed their myriad cultural identities. Thus, this study considers the ways in which Asian American minority subjects interact within this transpacific network of global circulation of film. In other words, this project sits squarely at this intersection of these three theoretical strands: the transpacific, the role of visual culture, and the creation of an Asian American identity.

Specifically, this study explores the various ways in which different works film and literature articulate both the realities and possibilities of new transpacific identities constructed within this web of global economic, political, and cultural exchanges. Moreover, in thinking about the role of movies and film is to also think about the distance between the spectacular nature of filmic imagery and the everyday lived reality of minority subjects. Furthermore, filmic imagery, especially the Hollywood film product that is the subject of this study, is often highly ideological, offering imagery and representations that both reflect and establish white hegemonic power and control. To this end, the novels of Jessica Hagedorn, Dogeaters, The Gangster of Love, and Dream Jungle serve to establish a paradigm for the relationship between film and its spectacular nature and the individual living in her quotidian reality. Thus, the different works in this study offer different ways in which individual identities are created both because of, and often in spite of, the spectacular constructions of Asians and Asian Americans.

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