East Main Street: Asian American Popular Culture

East Main Street: Asian American Popular Culture

East Main Street: Asian American Popular Culture

East Main Street: Asian American Popular Culture

Synopsis

From henna tattoo kits available at your local mall to "faux Asian" fashions, housewares and fusion cuisine; from the new visibility of Asian film, music, video games and anime to the current popularity of martial arts motifs in hip hop, Asian influences have thoroughly saturated the U.S. cultural landscape and have now become an integral part of the vernacular of popular culture.

By tracing cross-cultural influences and global cultural trends, the essays in East Main Street bring Asian American studies, in all its interdisciplinary richness, to bear on a broad spectrum of cultural artifacts. Contributors consider topics ranging from early Asian American movie stars to the influences of South Asian iconography on rave culture, and from the marketing of Asian culture through food to the contemporary clamor for transnational Chinese women's historical fiction. East Main Street hits the shelves in the midst of a boom in Asian American population and cultural production. This book is essential not only for understanding Asian American popular culture but also contemporary U.S. popular culture writ large.

Excerpt

Robert G. Lee

In response to the following passage from a 1736 poem promoting the English settlement of South Carolina, Georgia asked its readers to imagine the American colony as a potential commercial rival to China and India.

The frugal matron and blooming Maid;

The expiring Insects curious Work resume

And wind materials for the British Loom:

Our web to these shall all the Beauties owe,

Which Asia boasts and Eastern Pride can show;

With skilful China’s richest Damasks vie,

And emulate the Chint’s alluring Dye.”

While Georgia’s experiment with sericulture soon foundered on the wrong species of mulberry tree, the verse nevertheless serves to remind us that Asia has been present in the American popular imagination from the onset of European settlement in the Americas.

Desire and revulsion are the dialectic that defines America’s cultural engagement with Asia. Europeans discovered “America” in their search for a new path to the riches of the Indies and China and used its vast stores of silver to purchase the spices and manufactures of the “East.” Americans have long imagined the markets of Asia to be the answer to periodic crises in the economy. If Asia was the object of commercial desire, Asians themselves were, however, the objects of social revulsion. As the racial Other marked as indelibly foreign, the Oriental subject has been central in the ongoing debate about what and who belongs in American culture.

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