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Popular culture, sometimes denigrated as “low culture”, is often dismissed in favor of “high culture”, yet its ubiquity means it has massive social influence in the formation of personal, community, and national identity. This course will ask students to critically engage with and problematize definitions of “popular” and “culture,” while introducing students to representations of Asian Americans in U.S. popular culture and Asian cultural production. We will start with a historical survey of how Asians and Asian Americans have been represented in U.S. media in 19th and 20th century popular imaginary, ultimately focusing on contemporary modes of representation, production, and engagement. Media covered will be diverse (including literature, film, graphic narrative, music, games) and require development of flexible and critical reading practices specific to each media. Similarly, emphasis will also be placed on genre and its limitations and potentials for the production of representations and narratives that complicate, counter, or subvert those commercially accepted my mainstream U.S. culture. The variety in form and content encompasses a wide breadth of Asian American cultural production and situates it within a larger U.S. social, historical, and cultural framework.
Your success in this course will be measured by your ability to:
- Demonstrate an understanding of Asian American representation and history in general, and Asian Americans popular culture and media in particular.
- Critically engage with Asian American media through a variety of theoretical and methodological approaches.
- Contextualize a diverse body of Asian American media texts within significant historical periods, demonstrating particular familiarity with Asian American history and U.S. race relations.
- Translate and interpret texts through appropriate, media specific close readings and cultural analysis into original persuasive and appropriately supported arguments.
Students are required to complete two tasks for each meeting, which are identified in the schedule as “Spectatorship” and “Reading.” “Spectatorship,” in this sense does not mean passive viewing or consumption, but active and critical engagement with primary texts. Upon viewing, reading, or interacting with the “Spectatorship” texts, students are expected to be able to apply theory and critique from the “Reading” and discuss them in class and online.
Course texts include:
Course Reader: Available from AS
Shortcomings, Adrian Tomine
American Born Chinese, Gene Luen Yang
Citizen 13660, Miné Okubo
Chew, John Layman
M. Butterfly, David Henry Hwang
Yankee Dawg You Die, Philip Kan Gotanda
Diary of a Manhattan Call Girl, Tracy Quan
Ping Pong Playa, Jessica Yu (2007)
Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, Danny Leiner (2004)
Better Luck Tomorrow, Justin Lin (2002)
Saving Face, Alice Wu (2004)
Various videos, Wong Fu Prod.
Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars