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

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).

Rhetoric of the Asian American Self: Influences of Region and Social Class on Autobiographical Writing

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

Tasaka, Robyn. “Rhetoric of the Asian American Self: Influences of Region and Social Class on Autobiographical Writing.” Representations: Doing Asian American Rhetoric. LuMing Mao & Morris Young, eds. Utah State UP, 2008.

Tasaka examines “how region as well as social class affect students’ conceptions of themselves as Asian American and thus the ways in which they inscribe their racial and/or ethnic backgrounds in autobiographical writing assignments.” To provide context, she describes Hawai‘i’s historical and current racial environment, focusing specifically on Hawai‘i’s plantation history and English Standard education systems, before providing numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau to represent the current ethnic makeup of Hawai‘i, as well as statistics on the roster of the Hawai‘i State Legislature to illustrate the political presence of the various ethnicities. After briefly referencing scholarship on social class as it factors into student writing, Tasaka analyzes autobiographical writing by three students from the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa through the frameworks of double-consciousness, guided tour of culture, and social statement.  She supplements this analysis with interviews with the students.

The purpose of this piece as I understand it is to enact revisionist history by re-evaluating certain accepted notions of what it means to be Asian American: Asian American identity interacts closely with social and political status so that to talk about race or ethnic identity in isolation is ultimately reductive and problematic. Tasaka does rhetorical work that endorses a more complex understanding of Asian Americans than has been available in the existing literature, thereby re-interpreting the past to help us to better understand our present and future.