Imagining the Nation; Asian American Literature and Cultural Consent
Whenever "the nation" is "imagined," Americans of Asian ancestry are excluded by common "cultural consent" as alien/alienated "Others," as citizens of their ancestral nations. Due to recent immigration from many Asian nations, the globalization of economies, including the Pacific Rim, and especially the efforts of some Asian American writers, the situation has improved--somewhat. Still, if Asian-American writers stress the American in their representations, they are denying the Asian. If they stress the Asian, they have bought into American "cultural consent" its racist representations of Asian-Americans. Further, they themselves can't help but think within "the nation's" ongoing restrictive racist "cultural consent" paradigm, because as Americans they have unconsciously internalized it.
Li offers Frank Chin, the hyper-masculinist militant nationalist, as his premier example of the most successful attempt to dramatically destabilize this bind, although Chin reinforced it for gay and/or feminist writers. He viciously attacked the likes of David Henry Hwand, author of M. Butterfly, Maxine Hong Kingston, and Amy Tan for their cultural heresy in daring to tinker with traditional Asian myths written by and for men and hitherto unchanged for thousands of years, as well as for consciously allowing themselves to be manipulated by racist white feminists and publishers into reinforcing white American racist "cultural consent" that "Othered," feminized, and emasculated Asian American males.
Li justly valorizes Chin's greatest contribution, his undeniably brilliant critique of American "cultural consent" in relation to how Asian-American men are "imagined." Unfortunately, he chooses to use the weakest link in Chin's thinking to second Chin in trivializing the contributions of Kingston et al. …