CFP for Panel for SCMS Conference (March 2018) in Toronto, Canada
Panel: Asian/American Identity Performance & Resistance
Chair: Philippa Gates
As Peter X. Feng argues, what the terms “Asian” and “Asian American” mean in American society and, certainly, Hollywood has been guilty of conflating all East/South-East nations and/or cultures into a single idea of Asian “otherness.” This is prevalent in mainstream film even today as films tend not to acknowledge the specificity of different Asian cultures and, instead, offer a generic image of “Asianness.” For example, actor Jason Scott Lee has played a variety of races in different films, including Inuit in Map of the Human Heart (Ward 1993), Polynesian in Rapa Nui (Reynolds 1994), and South Asian in The Jungle Book (Sommers 1994). Relatedly, the American film Memoirs of a Geisha (Marshall 2005) incited controversy when Ziyi Zhang and Li Gong were cast as the Japanese leads because of their greater bankability as well-known Chinese stars. This conflation of race is one of the main reasons that Hollywood’s long (and continued) history of representing Asians/Americans as problematic and racist; however, American film has also been guilty of offering other kinds of representations that undermine or devalue Asian/American identity. For example, fears of miscegenation between Anglo and Asian Americans were exploited in Hollywood films through a series of half-caste criminals, perhaps most famously Warner Oland’s in Shanghai Express (von Sternberg 1932).
Scholars like Susan Courtney have discussed the “interpretive confusion” that a film like Imitation of Life (Stahl 1934) caused with its biracial protagonist who attempts to pass as white, much to the dismay of her African American mother, but what about instances of films about racial identity performance in relation to Chinese immigrants? Do portrayals of racial confusion—or even the enactment of dominant stereotypes—provide opportunities for resistance against the mainstream conceptions of racial identity?
For this panel, we invite papers that explore the shaping of Asian American identity in American film. Specifically, we would be interested in papers that addressed examples of identity “passing,” racial confusion, and especially resistance in relation to Asian American identity.
Please send paper proposals of 250-300 words and a short bio of 50-100 words (including your institutional/departmental affiliations and current email) to Philippa Gates ([log in to unmask]) by Friday August 4th
Submitters will be notified a decision by Friday August 11th
Philippa Gates [log in to unmask]
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