Betrayal and Other Acts of Subversion: Feminism, Sexual Politics, Asian American Women's Literature

By Leslie Bow | Go to book overview

Afterword

Multiplying Loyalties

THE ACCUSATION OF BETRAYAL introduces a rupture into collective association; in doing so, it suggests the inadequacy of identity categories to represent subjects. The texts I have engaged here use sexuality to interrogate political alliance and expose the socially constructed and politically invested nature of affiliation. In proposing that identifications (and thus identities themselves) emerge through contestation, my inquiry inherently questions identity as a stable foundation for truth claims. This questioning is perhaps disappointing to those who, having noted the constituency my subtitle invokes, have turned to this book as a source of empirical data about Asian American women.

While writing this book, I was reminded of how this desire for hard facts underlies a traditional sense of liberal education, bringing to light the seemingly antithetical intentions of teaching and criticism. In a commentary column of the student paper, a freshman biology major in my class on Asian American literature urged fellow students to take humanities courses like mine as a corrective to what had been left out of their educations. Emphasizing the importance of knowing a repressed history, she wrote, “[This class] is about reading an eclectic collection of stories, plays, poems and essays and becoming a more informed and cultured person…. In my opinion, everyone should take at least one humanities class here at college. After all, it is the best deal you could get. Where else are you going to find an English, history, anthropology, sociology and psychology class in one?” (Parul Khator, “Humanities Classes Reveal Unknown History.” Miami Hurricane, 30 April 1999).

I was gratified by her validation; I want my students to be those informed and cultured persons that my teaching might help them to be. But I also want them to think critically about how history is represented, to be aware of what has been selectively disseminated for the record and how rhetorical arguments inform that record. Her comments invited me to think about my goals in teaching and writing about a literature with a clear investment in the material world.

The texts analyzed in this book have one thing in common beyond their various treatments of the shifting and at times treacherous nature of loyalty and allegiance; they all engage realist strategies for storytelling. This may not be surprising given that the marketplace for ethnic literature

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