American Studies Association: Contested Visions of Home: Asian/American Diasporic Subjectivities in the Media

American Studies Association 2016

Contested Visions of Home: Asian/American Diasporic Subjectivities in the Media

Sat, November 19, 8:00 to 9:45am, HYATT REGENCY AT COLORADO CONVENTION CTR, Level 3, Mineral Hall G

Session Submission Type: Paper Session: Traditional Format


Asian/American subjectivities are deeply shaped by the concept of home. For some, home is a place of stability and safety. Yet for diasporic subjects whose identities are marked by movement and displacement, home can be rife with contestation and disruption. Asian/American understandings of home cannot be delinked from systemic racism, gender oppression, and modern colonialism. Moreover, the troubled relationships that Asian/Americans have had to citizenship can make it difficult to speak up, voice their struggles, or navigate the violence and upheaval that have defined their experiences of home.

In this panel, we examine the creation of home through an interdisciplinary exploration of media representations, looking at the way Asian/American visions of home are created and overturned within film, radio, journalism, and digital media. Through interrogating these representations of Asian/American bodies, voices, and experiences, we seek to answer the questions such as, what does home mean for Asian/Americans when the home may be the site of violence? How do different forms of media provide access to Asian/American expressions of home, and how are opportunities for resistance both revealed and obscured through these stories? As Asians cross geographies, notions of how they belong in a given moment are deeply shaped by violence and sociopolitical instabilities. Violence takes on many faces: domestic violence, human trafficking, exclusionary policies, and histories of military engagement. Within the stories of Asian/Americans in the diaspora, we seek to unravel the various contested meanings of home that prevail in spite of this violence, and in doing so, have come to define Asian/American politics, social dynamics, and history.

Annie Fukushima will open our panel with an exploration of the violence against Asian migrants who have been trafficked into domestic servitude, asking how the concept of debt can help us to better understand their struggles. Through an analysis of legal court records and media circulations, she posits a form of unsettled witnessing as key to understanding the way that these populations are rewriting their understanding of home. Terry Park then explores the figure of Walt Kowalski in Clint Eastwood’s film Gran Torino (2009), asking how his history as a Korean War veteran impacts the relationship he builds with his Hmong American neighbors. The way that Kowalski polices the borders of his white picket-fenced home can be read in conjunction with Trans-Pacific circulation of Korean War and Cold War security practices that shape our definition of “home” and “not home,” ultimately revealing what it would take to transform those boundaries. Finally, Lori Lopez will present her research on the way that Hmong American women are using audio media in new ways that can begin to counter their long histories of displacement and disruption. She argues that Hmong American women are using these different media platforms to broadcast their collective voices and facilitate conversations by using their own cultural heritage as a strength, and in doing so, can create a diasporic space of belonging.

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