Asian American Culture

There are a number of Asian American cultural producers who are moving and  shaking the fields of visual art, music, spoken word, film, theater, sports, and performance, but due to years of systemic racism, racialization and marginalization a number of works by Asian Americans just never get reviewed, analyzed, and sometimes even seen, heard or read.

Assignment: You will position yourself as a cultural critic and Asian American studies scholar.  You will critically review and analyze the same object of study that you described. You are first going to review it and tell us what makes this object of whatever something to see, hear, or taste– its interventions in the world of fashion or genre of romantic comedies et al.  Are there any shortcomings and limitations of the work that you feel you should note?  Ideally, you are trying to convince us to take the time to check out and see, listen, or taste something.

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You are not writing a BIOGRAPHY of a person, ad copy for a product, or a summary of a book/movie. You are also engaging in an ANALYSIS of why this cultural object of study matters, contextualizing the artwork or tv show as part of a larger phenomenon. For example, how does your person of interest intervene in the politics of food making, the sport of rock climbing?  How is a particular cultural phenomenon reflective of a shifting demographic within the Asian American community? How is an individual performer complicit in perpetuating stereotypes of Filipino Americans or reaffirming a Euro-American standard of beauty? How does the cultural production fit perfectly or fit ambivalently in this category called Asian American?  How important is it to mention or point to an individual’s “Asian American” upbringing in discussing his/her accomplishments?  How does it change the way we see this person’s accomplishments differently if we analyze this work within an Asian American cultural studies framework?  What are the oppositional possibilities of the select work, if any? You don’t have to answer ALL of these questions, but you should try to address and engage some of these questions.

Objective:  To encourage you to use your analytical skills and critically engage an Asian American Cultural production as more than just cool, good, bad, interesting, “Asian American.”  Why is this object of study, a work of Asian American culture. What does it do: reflect a form of racist love, resist our understanding of US culture, highlight the importance of self-care when grievances of racism or patriarchy are left unheard?

ASA 4 Keywords (as of 2/13/21)

Culture        national culture        US culture
racist love        dual personality        Asian American culture
cultural nationalism    assimilation            order of white supremacy
hegemony        world exhibition        world as exhibition
Stereotype        benevolent assimilation.          imperialism
race            gender                                racialization       
citizenship                orientalism                            model minority
racial melancholia.      racial disassociation                  color blind society
multiculturalism.          racial liberalism.                      neoliberalism


1)  To begin writing a cultural critique or critical analysis of a cultural object, begin by asking a question.
For example:
How does Faye Ng’s Bone represent Chinatown?
How does Faye Ng’s Bone challenge the formative structure of a normative family and the mother-daughter narrative so prevalent in Asian American literature?
How do particular themes in a pop song intersect with similar concerns outlined in Asian American cultural criticism?  While ____’s song does not explicitly ever articulate the term “Asian American,” her recounting of an encounter recalls the figure of the model minority
What role does “race” play in The Master of None?  In this particular episode of The Master of None, Aziz Ansari foregrounds generational differences, but also racism.

2)Come up with a thesis topic/statement/question and use that as your guide. Approach your paragraphs as building blocks to your argument. Every paragraph should have a topic sentence that identifies the main idea of the paragraph. A topic sentence also states the point you wish to make about that subject. Generally, the topic sentence appears at the beginning of the paragraph. It is often the paragraph’s very first sentence. A paragraph’s topic sentence must be general enough to express the paragraph’s overall subject. But it should be specific enough that the reader can understand the paragraph’s main subject and point. The supporting details in the paragraph (the sentences other than the topic sentence) will develop or explain the topic sentence. Read all the supporting details in the paragraph and think about the ideas it discusses.

3)This is not a heavy-duty research paper. You do not have the space or time to write about the entire history of pop music and how a particular band fits into or challenges this history. 

4)You have already written the description, add to it, revise it as per your TA’s comments and questions, but no need to rewrite it unless you absolutely feel you need to do so.

5)Please note, we have access to google too so cite your references. Wikipedia is useful but not always reliable. We want to hear your VOICE and CRITICAL VIEWPOINT, not what somebody else’s take. Please keep in mind too that this is an ASIAN AMERICAN STUDIES class so think about what we have been reading and discussing in class, the different concepts being introduced in relation to your paper. If you can engage Frank Chin’s concepts or David Eng’s lecture go for it. But if you can’t, no need to force it.Your critical analysis paper will be graded on the strength and clarity of your review and analysis.

REMEMBER:  Take your paper or project and the content seriously.  If you don’t, how do you expect us to take you seriously?  Write in clear prose and have a coherent argument about why this cultural production matters.  At the same time, take risks and go beyond what has been discussed in class or what other critics have said…challenge and push yourself.

p.s.  – you don’t have to read these reviews of Lee Isaac’s film Minari but they are good examples of how to do a (film) review but also shows you different takes on the film. Consider what the reviewers share in seeing this film,  but also check out how they diverge in the way they see and analyze the film.

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