Interethnic Intimacies: Production and Consumption


This course examines the cultural politics and the political economies of “interethnic intimacy” or “intercourse,” broadly defined, as represented in literature and visual culture from and about Asia. From missionaries and picture brides to movements of transnational capital and labor, from techno-Orientalism and “Asian exotica” to international adoptions, from virtual realities to military prostitution to interracial romance, the encounters of different racial or ethnic identities trigger deep anxieties and pornographic fascination from the past to the present, in differing configurations. The course examines such shifts within and beyond “Asia,” and asks why cultural representations matter in the ways societies construct, produce, 2 and consume objects of desire and repulsion. Texts from literature, visual culture, and history will be read along with theories of critical race studies, gender and sexuality, postcolonialism, globalization, visual culture, and other representative technologies of the self/other, contextualized in “Asian Empires” from the past to the present.

Issues to be explored are representations of cross-cultural interactions of “Asia” in the mass media from Hollywood to East Asia and the Middle East. For example, the films of three “Asian femme fatales,” Anna May Wong, Yamaguchi Yoshiko, and Ch’oe Seunghui and the regional and global circulations of their images will be explored contextualized in historical interactions of the Asia-Pacific. The global Asian city of Shanghai features prominently in all three women’s careers and other filmic representations. Field trips to important historical locales in the city as well as conversations with local scholars and artists invited to class and to excursions will enrich the course experience. Interdisciplinary research methods including ethnography, literary and film analyses, historical study, and urban studies will be incorporated.

This course is a revision of an existing freshman seminar, opened for all levels of students. With the rise of Asia, a course that puts complex geopolitical relations in historical and contemporary contexts will help students (from China and elsewhere) to think critically about why questions about how race, ethnicity, class, and gender intersect and matter for 21st century global citizens.

The course will be taught as a combination of lectures and seminar-style discussions. It fulfills requirements for CCI, EI, CZ, ALP, SS.

Interethnic Intimacies: Production and Consumption

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