Identifying and Mapping Issues, Theories, & Research in Asian/American Rhetoric(s): An Annotated Bibliography

Romance on a Global Stage: Pen Pals, Virtual Ethnography, and “Mail Order” Marriages

Posted in Uncategorized by Jennifer Sano-Franchini on February 1, 2010

Constable, Nicole. Romance on a Global Stage: Pen Pals, Virtual Ethnography, and “Mail Order” Marriages

One of Constable’s primary purposes seems to be to complicate stereotypes about transnational correspondence (commonly known as “mail-order”) marriages and relationships, focusing specifically on relationships between women from China and the Philippines, and white men from the US. Constable conducts “virtual ethnography” through “interviews, face-to-face encounters, and Internet communications that span two years or more” with Filipina and Chinese women and their partners (15).  Constable explains that her methodological decisions come in response to more text-based analyses, e.g. of catalogs, ads, and websites that connect American men to Asian women, which tend to be sensationalistic: “[E]thnographic field research can serve as a critique of textual and discursive approaches that overemphasize the sexual dimensions of correspondence courtship and overlook women’s agency” (11).

The larger theoretical work that Constable purports to do centers on the link between political economy and cultural notions of desire.  For example, she says, “I argue against a dichotomous or discontinuous view of love and opportunism that treats pragmatic concerns as incompatible with emotional ones.  I argue that political economy is not simply a backdrop to such a study, nor is it the determining force in creating correspondence marriages, but that cultural notions of love and desire are shaped by political economy” (11). To this ends, Constable discusses how certain assumptions about correspondence marriages affect political institutions; for example, she compares the immigration and naturalization policies and processes of Asian brides and Asian adoptees.  Constable considers adoption a privileged form of immigration, based on certain preconceptions about adoption as a “heroic act,” about Asians as “model minorities,” and about the possibility of natural love between parent and child as being more viable than love between prospective romantic partners.  She further explains that, “The cultural and class differences, as well as the sexuality, of the Asian wife are indelibly inscribed on her adult body, in contrast to the young child, who is viewed, in a sense, as a tabula rasa on which American middle-class values and identity can be more easily inscribed” (212).  Finally, Constable attempts to establish the wider relevance of her work, explaining that, “it is important to view correspondence relationships not as unique, but as representative of many of the issues and concerns raised by the institution of marriage in general” (224).


Desiring China: Experiments in Neoliberalism, Sexuality, and Public Culture

Posted in Uncategorized by Jennifer Sano-Franchini on February 1, 2010

Rofel, Lisa. Desiring China: Experiments in Neoliberalism, Sexuality, and Public Culture. Durham: Duke UP, 2007.

Desiring China “describes how the production of desire lies at the heart of global processes” in the context of post-Mao, post-socialist China after the June 4th, 1989, Tiananmen demonstrations (1). In this way, Rofel draws connections between national economies, public culture, and desire, or individual subjectivities. In sum, she says, “My argument, in brief, is that central to the meanings and practices of becoming a transnational citizen-subject in China is the historical and cultural constitution of ‘desire,’” and she adds, “One of my main arguments is that the construction of this inner self occurs through public allegories” (6).  To do this work, Rofel examines and analyzes pertinent public cultures: the soap opera Yearnings; a women’s museum established by feminist Li Xiaojiang in which gender is commodified (66); transnational homosexual identities; cosmopolitan Chinese identities as constituted through consumption, sex, and fashion; legal cases pertaining to intellectual property; and negotiations over China’s entry into the World Trade Organization, in order to observe how public cultures are simultaneously contingent upon and constitutive of definitions of desire and sexuality.  In other words, this book may be understood as a study of rhetorics of desire via public culture in the context of post-socialist China; Rofel observes how meaning created in certain texts (Yearnings) or spaces (the women’s museum) are mobilized, circulated, received, interpreted, and evaluated by audiences in this specific context.  The notion of transnational desire is fundamental to this text, both for the ways in which China desires and is desired by others: “These economic reform experiments initiated the process of creating ‘desiring China’” (7, 30).

Upcoming entries

Posted in Uncategorized by Jennifer Sano-Franchini on November 30, 2009

Abelman, Nancy and John Lie. Blue Dreams: Korean Americans and the Los Angeles Riots. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1997. 

Constable, Nicole. Romance on a Global Stage: Pen Pals, Virtual Ethnography, and “Mail-Order” Marriages. Berkeley: U of California P, 2003.

Dittmar, Linda and Gene Michaud, ed. From Hanoi to Hollywood: The Vietnam War in American Film. Rutgers UP, 1990. 

Dudden, Arthur. The American Pacific: From the Old China Trade to the Present. Oxford UP, 1994. 

Greene, Graham. The Quiet American. Penguin, 2004. 

Kim, Nadia. Imperial Citizens: Koreans and Race from Seoul to LA. Stanford: Stanford UP, 2008. 

Lee, Jennifer. Civility in the City: Blacks, Jews, and Koreans in Urban America. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 2006. 

Lowe, Lisa. Immigrant Acts: On Asian American Cultural Politics. Durham: Duke UP, 1996.

Palumbo-Liu, David. “Disintegrations and Reconsolidations.” Asian/American: Historical Crossings of a Racial Frontier. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1999. 

Park, Kyeyoung. The Korean American Dream: Immigrants and Small Business in New York City. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1997. 

Rofel, Lisa. Desiring China: Experiments in Neoliberalism, Sexuality, and Public Culture. Durham: Duke UP, 2007.

Takaki, Ronald. Strangers from a Different Shore: A History of Asian Americans. Back Bay Books,1998. 

Thomson, James. Sentimental Imperialists. Harpercollins, 1985. 

Watson, James L., ed. Golden Arches East: McDonald’s in East Asia. 2nd ed. Stanford: Stanford UP, 2006.

Introduction to On Not Speaking Chinese: Living Between Asia and the West

Posted in Uncategorized by Jennifer Sano-Franchini on May 7, 2009

Ang, Ien. “Introduction.” On Not Speaking Chinese: Living Between Asia and the West. London: Routledge, 2001.

In the introduction to On Not Speaking Chinese, Ang centers on identity as it pertains to the postcolonial diasporic intellectual, “born in the Third World and educated and working in the West,” reflecting on her own experience as a Chinese born in Indonesia, and raised in the Netherlands (1). Of particular interest to rhetoric studies and Asian/American rhetoric(s) is Ang’s notion of hybridity, that space between Asia and “the West”: “‘Hybridity’ captures in a shorthand fashion the complexities and ambiguities of any politics in an increasingly globalized, postcolonial and multicultural world, a world in which heroic, utopian ideas of revolutionary transformation seem seriously out of touch even as sites of social struggle and political conflict have multiplied… Hybridity, here, should not be dismissed pejoratively as the merely contingent and ephemeral, equated with lack of commitment and political resoluteness, but should be valued in James Clifford’s words, ‘as a pragmatic response, making the best of given (often bad) situations…in limited historical conjunctures’. (3) In this way, Ang is particularly effective for grounding discussions of hybridity with rhetorical purpose: “Hybridity is a necessary concept to hold onto in this condition, because unlike other key concepts in the contemporary politics of difference–such as diaspora and multiculturalism–it foregrounds complicated entanglement rather than identity, togetherness-in-difference rather than virtual apartheid” (3).

Listening for Legacies, or How I Began to Hear Dorothy Laigo Cordova, the Pinay Behind the Podium Known as FANHS

Posted in Asian American Rhetoric(s) by Jennifer Sano-Franchini on May 7, 2009

Monberg, Terese Guinsatao. “Listening for Legacies, or How I Began to Hear Dorothy Laigo Cordova, the Pinay Behind the Podium Known as FANHS.” Representations: Doing Asian American Rhetoric. LuMing Mao & Morris Young, eds. Utah State P, 2008.

In this chapter, Monberg works “toward a more culturally contingent model of feminist historiography” and develops an “alternative” methodology and theory of listening as a model for Asian American rhetorics as a subject of study. Centering on the case of Dorothy Laigo Cordova and the Filipino American National Historical society (FANHS), Monberg explains that “certain methods of listening–because they are attentive to interdependencies among rhetorical space, memory, and history–are central to the makings of an Asian Pacific American ‘feminist’ rhetoric” (86). Furthermore, she argues that “while most feminist historiographers in rhetoric use the term listening, most forms of listening have largely reseted in seeing… To go beyond what is immediately visible and documented, then, requires what Jacqueline Jones Royster calls ‘a habit of critical questioning, of speculating in order to make visible unnoticed possibilities, to pose and articulate what we see now, what’s missing, and what we might see instead’” (86-7).

Monberg uses the method of oral history interview, and she reflects on this experience to discuss oral history as a site for listening, explaining that oral history methodologies are common in Asian Pacific American studies, but less so among feminist historiographers (90). However, “oral history is not a simple solution for making new forms of rhetoric ‘visible.’ For if a ‘text’ or rhetorical space is meaningful within a larger system of beliefs, then we also need to rethink the interpretive paradigms we use when listening for/to, in this case, a Filipina/o American ‘feminist’ rhetoric” (94). In sum, Monberg concludes that certain culturally contingent rhetorical capacities may remain hidden due to a preference for visible textual evidence, and “Listening is both a method for uncovering and for making an Asian Pacific American rhetoric, which must by necessity ‘explore other modes of retrieving and spacializing [rhetorical] history’” (103).

Conclusion to Written on Bamboo and Silk: The Beginnings of Chinese Books and Inscriptions

Posted in Asian Rhetoric(s) by Jennifer Sano-Franchini on May 7, 2009

Tsien, Tsuen-Hsuin. “Conclusion.” Written on Bamboo and Silk: The Beginnings of Chinese Books and Inscriptions. U of Chicago P, 2004.

In this conclusion, Tsien discusses in more detail the types of writing materials used in ancient China, explaining that “Some of them were hard and durable [e.g. bones, shells, metal, stone, jade, pottery, clay], others soft and perishable [e.g. bamboo, wood, silk, paper].” Writings on hard surfaces are generally called inscriptions, and writings on perishable materials are usually considered books (199). Tsien explains that these two types of materials served distinct purposes: “The perishable materials, which were more convenient and sometimes less expensive, were used extensively for government documents, historical records, literary compositions, personal correspondence, and other writings of daily use. The permanent materials…were used for making commemorative or other inscriptions of more lasting value. The former were intended primarily for horizontal communication among contemporaries and the latter for vertical communication across generations.” including spirits or ancestors, as well as sons and grandsons; however, there were deviations from these general norms (199-200). Tsien goes on the describe methods of writing and duplication, styles of Chinese script, and the growth of vocabulary which occurred with the evolution of Chinese writing (202-3).

Introduction to Written on Bamboo and Silk: The Beginnings of Chinese Books and Inscriptions

Posted in Asian Rhetoric(s) by Jennifer Sano-Franchini on May 7, 2009

Tsien, Tsuen-Hsuin. “Introduction.” Written on Bamboo and Silk: The Beginnings of Chinese Books and Inscriptions. U of Chicago P, 2004.

Tsien explains how prevailing religions and the dynasties in power influenced the production of and access to texts, and in effect, literacy and culture in Ancient China, thereby highlighting the politics of writing distribution and how sociopolitical influences affect the accumulative formation of culture, and knowledge. Tsien begins by describing the variety of materials and writing technologies used and invented by Chinese for writing, including paper, block printing, bamboo, silk, brush pen, and lamp-black ink along with their early attempts “toward the mechanical multiplication of writings” (2), which then led to an elaborate classification system of literature in China (3). In ancient China, writing was used for communication with the spirits, government documents and archives (developed extensively under the Zhou dynasty), and led to a literati class of recorders, users, and custodians (5, 7). Tsien suggests that with the Warring States period came private writings and collections, and the previously unseen notion of authorship in Chinese writing, as well as a growth in literacy among Chinese people (10-11). After the end of the feudal period in China, came the “burning of books,” a preventive measure of censorship and though control, which was meant to enforce unification. “A great many ancient books were destroyed, but certain kinds of writings were preserved for government monopoly” (12).

After the Qin empire was overthrown as result of a peasant revolution, the Han dynasty, which formed the foundation for a national culture, brought the rise of Confucianism and the restoration of ancient works (13). At this time book collecting “was engaged in by not only the government but by individuals as well,” including prices, high officials, and scholars, and the first comprehensive Chinese dictionary, Shuowen jiezi was printed (15-16). While “Books were produced and accumulated on a large scale…, great losses were suffered during the several political disturbances” (16). During the “Dark Ages” after the collapse of the Han, “Confucianism continued among the intellectual classes; Daoism emerged and developed as a religion; and Buddhism, which was first introduced to China at the beginning of the Christian era, flourished…” These developments led to the popularization of religious literature: “The introduction of Buddhism was an important milestone not only in the history of Chinese thought and religion but also in the development of Chinese scholarship and the popularization of literature” (17).

Nothing Can Be Accomplished If the Speech Does Not Sound Agreeable: Rhetoric and the Invention of Classical Chinese Discourse

Posted in Asian Rhetoric(s) by Jennifer Sano-Franchini on May 7, 2009

Liu, Yameng. “Nothing Can Be Accomplished If the Speech Does Not Sound Agreeable: Rhetoric and the Invention of Classical Chinese Discourse.” Rhetoric Before and Beyond the Greeks. Lipson, Carol and Roberta A. Binkley, eds. Albany: SUNY P, 2004.

Liu discusses how the traditional predominant representation of “originators of classical Chinese discourse as primarily ‘philosophers’ or ‘thinkers’” rather than rhetorical critics in the academic literature has negatively affected subsequent research in rhetoric. By examining the rhetorical theory of Han Feizi and the concept of nan, or rebuttal, Liu explains that “rhetorical invention [in Classical China] is contingent on a primordial ambiguity or indeterminacy and is enabled only by the absence of an ultimate ‘arbitrator.’” Liu also includes Mencius as among those who “adopt[ed] the strategy of technically deconstructing the rhetoric of an opponent so as to discredit his ideology” (149). Liu additionally addresses the problematic neglect of the “textuality of history” in unilinear historical accounts of the development of classical Chinese rhetoric: such accounts treat “‘existing social or cultural conditions’ as a given and a prior order ontologically separated from discourse,” denying “discourses’ role in creating social and cultural meanings that shape the perceptions, desires, feelings, and hence behaviors of individual or institutional actors.” Ultimately, such stances “[fail] to properly to acknowledge the extent to which ‘cultural patterns and crises of ancient China”…were themselves products of discursive practices at that time (153).

Liu concludes that “the traditionally received approach to mapping [classical Chinese rhetoric] remains trapped in its own conceptual, theoretical, and interpretive myopia”. Through textual analysis, Liu discovers that “1. instead of a mere byproduct of philosophical inquiries, classical Chinese rhetoric was a discipline/practice in its own right and what the originators of traditional Chinese discourse were busy doing can better be described as rhetorical criticism; and 2. despite their differing politicoideological commitments and the fierce contention among heterogeneous “Ways” that resulted, the various ‘schools’ or discourse communities actually shared much in their rhetorical theinking and their modes of rhetorical practice.” These contending discursive communities were able to engage one another in a critical, inventive, and productive manner due to “a reservoir of shared rhetorical resources, ranging from noncontroversial assumptions about the telos and the methodology of discursive practices, agreed-upon values and criteria, to commonly employed concepts, genres, criteria, techniques, strategies” (161).

The Use of Eloquence

Posted in Asian Rhetoric(s) by Jennifer Sano-Franchini on May 7, 2009

Xu, George Q. “The Use of Eloquence.” Rhetoric Before and Beyond the Greeks. Lipson, Carol and Roberta A. Binkley, eds. Albany: SUNY P, 2004.

Xu examines the notion of “eloquence”–and I think this choice of word purposeful–in the classical Chinese context, explaining, “Ironically, and perhaps uniquely, however, verbal eloquence was not valorized by classical Chinese thinkers, and on the contrary the views found in their texts reveal a general mistrust of it, a sentiment common to almost all major schools of thought despite their fundamental philosophical differences, but it is most conspicuously and extensively reflected in Confucian texts” (115). Xu goes on providing sociopolitical historical context as well as implications for the Confucian position against eloquence: “their condemnations had the effect of silencing dissident views” (116). He also contends that this attitude has had long-lasting influence in Chinese culture, for example in perpetuating certain conceptions of hierarchy and seniority, and in silencing views contrary to the government endorsed doctrine: “In contemporary China, theoretically Marxism has supplanted Confucianism for more than half a century, but the Confucian tenet remains influential…” (125) Xu refers to the silencing effects of a rhetoric of “patriotism”, as it is defined by certain groups. He concludes, saying that “Confucian antipathy toward eloquence has deeply penetrated into the collective consciousness of the Chinese people…it has been so inextricably embedded in Chinese culture that a proper understanding of Chinese rhetoric would be all but impossible without taking it into full account” (125).

Confucian Silence and Remonstration: A Basis for Deliberation?

Posted in Asian Rhetoric(s) by Jennifer Sano-Franchini on May 7, 2009

Lyon, Arabella. “Confucian Silence and Remonstration: A Basis for Deliberation?” Rhetoric Before and Beyond the Greeks. Lipson, Carol and Roberta A. Binkley, eds. Albany: SUNY P, 2004.

To “place Confucius within a defined rhetorical tradition and to place Confucius in twenty-first century rhetoric,” Lyon examines remonstration and silence in Lunyu (The Analects) as they relate to deliberation and democracy (131-2). Lyon uses deliberative rhetoric “with its historical connections to democracy… [as] a lens for understanding Confucian rhetoric and its relationship to current democratic and civil rights movements in Asia” (131).  Lyon seems to focus on positive attributes of “Confucian silence,” (at least in contrast to George Xu) which she says, “is valued as…a positive tool, for building relationships; it works through emphasizing the worth of action, the character of the silent one, and the wisdom of not engaging what cannot be changed” (137). “Here, silence is not to be viewed as a “lack,” but it rather parallels action, which is positioned in contrast to glib speech. “Silence can indicate questions, promises, denial, warning, threats, insult, requests, command, deference, and intimacy” (137).  Furthermore, Confucian silence, in pedagogical contexts, “obliges students to find their own way” (138).