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The Americas of Asian American Literature

by Rachel C. Lee

Drawing on a wide array of literary, historical, and theoretical sources, Rachel Lee addresses current debates on the relationship among Asian American ethnic identity, national belonging, globalization, and gender. Lee argues that scholars have traditionally placed undue emphasis on ethnic-based political commitments--whether these are construed as national or global--in their readings of Asian American texts. This has constrained the intelligibility of stories that are focused less on ethnicity than on kinship, family dynamics, eroticism, and gender roles. In response, Lee makes a case for a reconceptualized Asian American criticism that centrally features gender and sexuality.Through a critical analysis of select literary texts--novels by Carlos Bulosan, Gish Jen, Jessica Hagedorn, and Karen Yamashita--Lee probes the specific ways in which some Asian American authors have steered around ethnic themes with alternative tales circulating around gender and sexual identity. Lee makes it clear that what has been missing from current debates has been an analysis of the complex ways in which gender mediates questions of both national belonging and international migration. From anti-miscegenation legislation in the early twentieth century to poststructuralist theories of language to Third World feminist theory to critical studies of global cultural and economic flows, The Americas of Asian American Literature takes up pressing cultural and literary questions and points to a new direction in literary criticism.

The Exquisite Corpse of Asian America

by Rachel C. Lee

The Exquisite Corpse of Asian America addresses this central question: if race has been settled as a legal or social construction and not as biological fact, why do Asian American artists, authors, and performers continue to scrutinize their body parts? Engaging novels, poetry, theater, and new media from both the U.S. and internationally--such as Kazuo Ishiguro's science fiction novel Never Let Me Go or Ruth Ozeki's My Year of Meats and exhibits like that of Body Worlds in which many of the bodies on display originated from Chinese prisons--Rachel C. Lee teases out the preoccupation with human fragments and posthuman ecologies in the context of Asian American cultural production and theory. She unpacks how the designation of "Asian American" itself is a mental construct that is paradoxically linked to the biological body. Through chapters that each use a body part as springboard for reading Asian American texts, Lee inaugurates a new avenue of research on biosociality and biopolitics within Asian American criticism, focused on the literary and cultural understandings of pastoral governmentality, the divergent scales of embodiment, and the queer (cross)species being of racial subjects. She establishes an intellectual alliance and methodological synergy between Asian American studies and Science and Technology Studies (STS), biocultures, medical humanities, and femiqueer approaches to family formation, carework, affect, and ethics. In pursuing an Asian Americanist critique concerned with speculative and real changes to human biologies, she both produces innovation within the field and demonstrates the urgency of that critique to other disciplines.

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