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).

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‘You are entrapped in an imaginary well’: the formation of subjectivity within compressed development – a feminist critique of modernity and Korean culture

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

Cho, Han Hae-Joang. “‘You are entrapped in an imaginary well’: the formation of subjectivity within compressed development – a feminist critique of modernity and Korean culture.” Michael Shin trans. The Inter-Asia Cultural Studies Reader. Chen, Kuan-Hsing and Chua Beng Huat, ed. London: Routledge, 2007.

Cho discusses how the notion of “turbo capitalism,” originally used to describe the rapid swell of capitalism after the fall of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe in the late 1980s, can also be used to describe the basis for Korean economic success, at the expense of what Cho considers a cultural loss. Cho contends that turbo capitalism has in effect left Korea with superficial cultures as well as an “overwhelming individual adaptability to the status quo” (294), essentially functioning as a neo-colonial ideological structure. In discussing the formation of subjectivity in Korea, Cho also argues that Korean conceptions of patriotism, as displayed in the official discourse where “the nation, the state and the people are one and the same” (Cho 300), is contrary to individualistic philosophies of the West, and is a cause for conflict between the community (nation/family) and the individual.

Minor Re/Visions: Asian American Literacy Narratives as a Rhetoric of Citizenship

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

Young, Morris. Minor Re/Visions: Asian American Literacy Narratives as a Rhetoric of Citizenship. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 2004.

Minor Re/Visions examines the ways literacy and race intersect in American culture, in particular, the ways the perception of a person’s citizenship is overdetermined because of competing ideological constructions about literacy and race. The processes of reading and writing literacy narratives is one means for people of color to develop and articulate their negotiation of citizenship, in particular arguing for ‘cultural citizenship’…which attends ‘not only to dominant exclusions and marginalizations, but also to subordinate aspirations for and definitions of enfranchisement…’” (7) Young considers literacy beyond skills of reading and writing, articulating it as a “power used against others to maintain systems of oppression… Not “inherently ‘good’ or even neutral…, it becomes a set of practices… used by different people for different purposes” (148). These practices are grounded in “‘both behavior and the social and cultural conceptualizations that give meaning to the uses of reading and/or writing’” (10). While literacy is oftentimes taken for granted, it “‘has proven to be a difficult and contentious topic of investigation because its place in American culture has become so complex and conflicted’” (10). (see also pp. 11, 24)