Wednesday, March 31, 2004

This news of the [killings] in Fallujah are horrific. It's insane how people make that connection (a leap, in my mind) between nation and body, as if killing US citizens is akin to fighting the US government. And I'm not saying this as a naive criticism of violence, but as a genuine inability to understand how people see the violent dismemberment of US citizens (whether or not at the beck and call of the US military) as a direct attack on the US government and its policies. In some ways, I guess this is my confusion about patriotism in general -- how individuals imagine themselves as the US in fighting for the country or otherwise being patriotic. Would I ever want my body, my self, my being to stand in for the US as a national entity? How would I feel about that? What if I were to go abroad and become the target of anti-American violence? Would my anger at the Bush administration's policies and conduct be known? Would it matter?

      >> 1:46 PM

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

From [everythingbut], a little ditty 'bout [janelle]. Don't know why it cracks me up so much.

      >> 4:28 PM

As the general office assistant at work, I often get some really annoying, busywork projects that other people don't want to deal with. Today and probably for at least the rest of the week, I'm busy entering a date in a database field and then deleting the same date from another field. If only someone had done this right the first time....

[Teacher didn't violate policy in killing baby rabbits.] Rabbits. Plinkety plinky plink. This line ending the article is kind of strange:

"It's very important there be informed consent from students who will have to witness an animal being put down," Hart said.

Is informed consent going to be the answer to everything? Who is the one to be informed, really, and who is to have an understanding of what's at stake? It seems like there are at least two distinct issues in this rabbit slaying - one is whether the teacher was legally "right" in killing the babies and the other is whether or not the students should have been warned or subjected to the euthanasia act. For there not to be a policy prohibition against killing baby rabbits with a shovel might seem to imply that students shouldn't have a problem with it. But as the article suggests, maybe the teacher should be allowed to follow general veterinarian practice in whacking baby rabbits, but students should give their informed consent before witnessing it. Who knows.... How much of this really matters anyways? Are the students really going to be terribly traumatized by the whacking? I think seeing baby rabbits rejected, covered in ants or lying in a puddle of water is equally disturbing, but there's not much the teacher could've done about that.....

      >> 2:51 PM

Sunday, March 28, 2004

. . .

Confucius remarked, "He who can rule a country by real courtesy and good manners that are in him, will find no difficulty in doing it. But a ruler who has no real courtesy and good manners in him,--what can the mere rules of etiquette and formality avail him?"

What does a good Asian Americanist do when his mother sends him The Discourses and Sayings of Confucius?

      >> 2:26 PM

Friday, March 26, 2004

Hiding out from people at the conference during lunch break. These things always leave me feeling very awkward and anti-social. My attempts to talk to people always trail off into silences. I wish I were an interesting person.

      >> 11:44 AM

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

[Chinese names] transcribed in the Roman alphabet are really interesting because they reflect both dialect (and hence regional) difference as well as national difference (Chinese abroad). A variety of different spellings for the same name in Chinese indicates different pronunciations as well as suggests embedded histories of family migration.

      >> 3:02 PM

['Maternal Desire': Mothering and Its Cultural Discontents]:

In one sense what Ms. de Marneffe wants — like most everyone else — is validation. Simply deciding on your own to care for your children full time is not enough. How a mother interprets, say, losing her temper when her kid has a tantrum — whether it means she should "get a job," get over her "attachment to recognition in the world" or "somehow try to accept the inevitability of conflict" — is largely dependent on what society thinks. That is why Ms. de Marneffe wants the culture to recognize the value of mothering through laws, policies and, most important for her purposes, theories of psychological development.

The idea of validation seems plausible, but then why do these return-to-womanly-duties type people seem so intent also on arguing against things like career equity for women, the right to abortions, qualtiy childcare, and so on? I really hate this kind of argument that social movements like feminism are ideologically rigid, making women feel bad about being feminine or motherly or whatever. What do they think happens to women who don't want to be feminine, motherly, etc.? Are they validated in general? If these anti-feminist women are so intent on being validated and being fair, why do they insist on marshalling the forces of law, policies, and social mores against non-compliant women?

It's Women's Week here at UNC. I volunteered for the Carolina Women's Center as a web designer a year or two ago. I left because the CWC wasn't particularly supportive of feminism or non-traditional ideals of womanhood. I know, very weird. The director basically wants to support women in a very superficial way without considering the Center as an alternative space that is necessary because the outside world actually discriminates against women. She has championed, for example, sorority girls and their woes (of dating life, etc.) as an important constituency without questioning how sorority life reinforces certain restrictive ideals of womanness. Anyways, it's women's week here. Some cool people are also putting on an alternative Radical Feminist Women's Week event series here concurrently, outside the auspices of the CWC. And then there are the feminist reactionaries, too. There are hundreds of flyers posted for a talk by some woman who is part of Feminists for Life of America, an insidious group that is appropriating feminism. Her talk is called "Refuse to Choose: Reclaiming Feminism," as if the idea of choice -- giving women the right to have an abortion -- means they must have abortions. This kind of logic makes no sense to me. It's like the claim the author of 'Maternal Desire' wants to make about how feminism has made being a mother undesirable when what it's done is made it possible for women not to want to be a mother (not that they must). I love this quote from the reviewer about this kind of twisted logic:

Most odd is her claim that the failure to have a good, affordable system of child care is in part because of mothers' ambivalence about having others care for their children. Really? So I guess that means part of the reason more than 43 million Americans lack health insurance is because they are ambivalent about having coverage.

Anyways, I'm really disturbed by anti-feminisms, especially this recent turn to reclaiming feminism as a mobilizing concept for decidedly anti-feminist goals (the taking away of abortion rights, the insistence that women attend to their instinctual urge to be good, stay-home moms, etc.).

      >> 10:33 AM

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

[Opening Citizenship: Civil Society and Queer Networks in Sri Lanka]:

By shifting citizenship away from the state towards civil society spaces, Companions On a Journey and the Women's Support Group are performing a radical form of democratic citizenship, while at the same time challenging the relations between men and women in Sri Lanka. Theorists have implicated new social movements and grass roots organisations as important catalysts in civil society and harbingers for social change, and have acknowledged these movements as gateways for citizenship. The political activism of COJ and the WSG although firmly located within civil society has also peripherally influenced the state.
The concept of citizenship has changing implications as new social movements contest various theoretical formulations of citizenship. From a broad perspective, citizenship can be understood as relations between political obligation, rights, and inclusion in the political community. Citizenship can be thought of as a political identity of entitlements and responsibilities that is equally shared in a liberal democratic society. For this essay, I have used citizenship to mean a product of an individual's entire social existence, beginning with the civil, political and social rights, including forms of cultural access, representation and belonging that go beyond rights . This expanded understanding of citizenship can be a powerful force to challenge structures within societies that are inimical to marginal groups.

I'm trying to figure out how to discuss citizenship in my dissertation project. I think it's of incredible importance to why Asian American Studies is a necessary field for interrogating traditional "unmarked" disciplines. In my own discipline of English Studies (and more specifically of American literature), for example, the constitution of an American literary studies field is of course all about marking out that boundary of what is American and what is not. This has traditionally been done through the canonical nineteenth century authors' anxieties about creating a culture distinct from English origins in the wilderness of America. But of course Americans and American authors have not only been concerned with differentiating themselves from the English or with defining themselves against the assumption of a wild, non-culture of America (and Native Americans). It is in these only recently discussed locations that I want to situate my work, the rethinking of Americanness and all the discourses that sustain it -- democracy, freedom, equality.

      >> 4:50 PM

It's rather dangerous that I feel like it's the weekend already.... No more teaching this week!

[Nikki S. Lee] is an artist we wil be studying in the Asian American Studies class I'm teaching in the fall. I think she's remarkably interesting because of the way her photographs, like Cindy Sherman's, work with the idea of self-portrait-as-drag. That is, they are photographs of herself not as herself but as other people. In more interesting ways, though, she is also a performance artist whose real work isn't necessarily the product that can be displayed (the photographs) but the process of becoming the subject for the lens.

This article on Nikki S. Lee's [The Yuppie Project] points out how her work is also remarkably provocative in how it deals with our categories of identity. I think this is one way to talk about the question of racial assimilation. The hot topic in Asian American Studies now seems to be around this question of the difficult-to-characterize loss that comes with cultural assimilation into a racist society. It is difficult because overt racism is supposedly discouraged and frowned upon, but in fact unspoken discriminatory attitudes and social/institutional traces of race prejudice still linger. This is the idea of the unspeakable, unknown grief. But what about seeing this kind of assimilation or "blending in" as something that is also an important kind of survival strategy? What if we think less of the kind of loss that might be ascribed to an Asian American losing her cultural connections to Asian traditions and more of the kind of cultural play (or dare I say "hybridity"?) enabled by playing the part?

      >> 2:16 PM

Well. I got about three of the ten things done from my to-do list yesterday. Not quite prepared to be teaching class today as I should, but c'est la vie. (Gosh, I really need to learn French.) It's really not the way to go, but sometimes leading a student-centered classroom can mean not having to be prepared. A good student-centered classroom, though, is actually highly structured and prepared for....

I still have to get out the paper I'm giving at the conference Friday. "Love as Resistance? The Politics of Sex in Lawrence Chua's Gold by the Inch." I'm not super worried about it, even though I haven't looked at it in over a year, because at least I have a paper. For the past few conferences I've attended, I've sort of talked from notes. (Bad me.) It'll be a sucky presentation because I'm not making any sort of interesting argument about love. It's like a close reading of a novel.

. . .

An article about Asian-American actresses: [From Anna May Wong to Lucy Liu]. Not particularly interesting, but does give a nice overview of Anna May Wong's career. I can't say I've actually seen any of her films. Time to go visit the film library, I guess. The example of Lucy Liu is really interesting, too. So many people do claim her as an Asian American actress who is giving greater visibility to Asian Americans while suggesting that she is incredibly limited in her options and therefore reinforcing stereotypes. This is the remarkable thing about cultural stereotypes, of course -- that they are in fact mobilizable to contain the cultural legibility of a group of people no matter what their characteristics. Therefore, we always have dichotomous stereotypes. The dragon lady versus the lotus blossom. The nerdy Asian man versus the kick-ass martial arts master. What is more interesting than the actual types presented is the field of legibility provided by the stereotypes. Asian women are either dominant or submissive, but either way they cater to men. Asian men are cerebral or hyper-masculine, but always in a non-sexual, detached way. Fighting stereotypes, then, should be less about getting away from negative representations or even fixed types in general, but in re-reading those representations and types such that the usual meanings are changed or queered. This is why literary studies have been indispensible to a certain kind of cultural studies project that attempts to revalue or redefine cultural meanings.

      >> 7:55 AM

Monday, March 22, 2004

Ooooo.... [Pretty....]:

. . .

Freaky. [Save Angel Campaign]:

Theresa Fortier, one of the instigators of the http://www.SavingAngel.org Web site, said the group has raised some $22,000 from several hundred donors in just a few weeks. The truck will cruise around for at least another week, and more print ads are likely to be placed.

Some people have too much time and money on their hands.

      >> 1:48 PM

I am such the typical overachiever, wavering between delusions of accomplishment and the paralysis of despair. This past week, I've been especially depressed, immobilized by the crush of work I have to do for classes and other things. As a result, I've done none of the work I've had to do (reading, grading, etc.), thereby contributing to the sense that I will never get anything done in time. I also become extremely cranky, and poor Rob has had to deal with the brunt of my irritable self.

But today, today is a different story. I've flipped the coin and am now sure I can do everything. I have no fear. Today, I can get through a hundred pages of Rhacel Parreñas's [Servants of Globalization] that I'm discussing in class tomorrow. I can grade a set of twenty response papers. I can grade at least two of the six sets of composition papers I have piling up in my office. I can go to the talk by [J.K. Gibson-Graham] tonight. I can do laundry, buy groceries, iron clothes, and spend my [Borders] gift certificates on a book-buying spree. I can read and comment on five model drafts for class tomorrow.

And all this because I leave town Wednesday night for a few days, mostly to catch the [AAAS conference] in Boston, but also to train down to NYC for less than a day Friday to give a paper at a graduate student conference on love at the [CUNY Graduate Center].

      >> 11:11 AM

Sunday, March 21, 2004

[Frank S. Matsura] was a photographer in the early twentieth century in the Pacific Northwest. I have to do more research on this guy. I already checked out the one book the library has of his photographs. I heard a talk by [Rayna Green] Friday at the [New Directions in American Indian Research conference] in which she mentioned the photographs Matsura took of some American Indian women. A quick search on Matsura shows that he became a mainstay in Okanogan, the town he photographed until his death.

I'm interested in exploring his life and work because I'm trying to find out about more Asians in America who didn't live in segregated areas (like Chinatowns) in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. I'm trying to find artists, particularly, who might have documented their lives outside the ghettoes. In some ways, this is my attempt to address the question of assimilation differently, to think about Asian American Studies that isn't solely focused on the healing power of Asian American communities (yes, I'm being snarky with that phrase), as important as I understand such community power to be.

      >> 6:58 PM


Watching A&E this morning, I saw a segment of some show on the artist iona rozeal brown. I'm very interested in seeing some more of her work though what she said in the interview did rub me the wrong way often. She has a current exhibit at [Spelman College] and elsewhere of these Japanese wood block inspired prints and silk screens. The work is interesting because she's exploring this idea of blackface as taken on not by white people but by the Japanese. It is also particularly interesting because in traditional Japanese wood block prints, the figures of courtesans and geisha are shown with white make-up, the whiteness being an important signifier of beauty (and class status). She also had this critique of how Japanese youth have taken up hip hop culture, clothing, aggressive attitude, music, and style as an appropriation that didn't do justice to the realities of African American ghetto life and its historical contexts. While I agree that the rise of hip hop as a mainstream popular culture form has its problems, I did find her analysis also remarkably un-self-critical of the position of African Americanist critique. That is, in her work and interview, she shows little understanding of how her use of traditional Japanese wood block style might fall short in acknowledging various questions of modernity and Orientalism.

Though it's not her project, I also find her work aggravatingly silent on the position of Japanese Americans. This seems to be a common way that hip hop artists have picked up on Japanese and Asian culture -- that is, to place it in the form of tradition, the past, an exotic culture, without understanding how Asian Americanist thought has critiqued this kind of understanding of the East.

      >> 6:50 PM

Thursday, March 18, 2004

[Girl Scout cookie sellers are robbed of cash earmarked for Caribbean cruise]:

"It's sad, really," said Ashley Stillwater, 17, a Berkeley High School junior and troop member. "I think it's sad that people would steal at all, but to steal from Girl Scouts. We're only trying to make the world a better place for our girls."

Is it wrong that this article made me laugh?

      >> 3:10 PM

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

[Virulent Strain Of Soy Flu Traced To Single Tofurkey
SAN FRANCISCO—A virulent strain of soy flu has been traced to a single tofurkey at a Bay Area food-processing factory. "An investigation of Green Earth Foods has located the bird-shaped loaf of firm bean curd from which the infection originated," said Dr. Julie L. Gerberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "To prevent further spreading of the disease, all tofurkeys in Northern California are being quarantined and destroyed." Gerberding said it appears that the soy virus was not transmitted to the factory's Spaghetti & Wheatballs Microwaveable Entree division.]

      >> 2:44 PM

[Wild About William Hung]:

Kids at Sequoia Middle School consider him a star, but 11-year-old Patricia Quinto doesn't see what all the fuss is about. After her friends had left Monday, she scrunched up her nose and whispered, 'Why do people like William Hung?'

Not quite sure what to make of this whole thing. Part of me wants to react like some others to say that this is what racist love is about -- the humiliation of William Hung as awkward, accented (perpetually foreign!), untalented pop culture icon, the new Asian American star. But a part of me also wonders to what extent he really does stand in for people's continual reliance on narratives of hard work and triumph. His oft-quoted response to mean Simon's criticism, after all, is about how he has tried his "best" and that is good enough. Well, is it really? Why do people still think that trying their "best" is all that living is about, that there is something transcendent about trying?

Trying one's best is of course a common lesson in children's literature and in inspirational stories. Not giving up despite the hardships in life is no doubt something to be nurtured. (Heck, I love all of Mariah Carey's inspirational ballads like "Hero" and "Through the Rain," despite their sappiness.) But in some ways, doesn't this kind of personal narrative preclude an examination of the social field? What about those hardships? Why are they there? What is their cause? Are we simply to achieve despite these hardships or can we also imagine transforming the causes of those hardships?

American Idol as a show is fascinating to watch, especially as it becomes painfully obvious how much the pop music industry shapes our understandings of what is beautiful, musical, talented, etc. I would love to see someone show up on the program and really challenge all the assumptions underlying the show and how people read pop music stars as talented and beautiful.

      >> 2:06 PM

Monday, March 08, 2004

[Kerry is Grilled on Gay Marriage....]:

"My point is homosexuality is an idea," she said. "You have never heard a doctor say, `Mr. and Mrs. John Doe, you have a bouncing baby homosexual.' It's an idea."

I'm not even sure what this quote means.... Homosexuality is an idea. I guess in contrast race is a brute fact of life?

      >> 3:41 PM

Sunday, March 07, 2004

Kiss me sleep, a few weeks ago.

Inside the bar last night.

Mohawk for a day.


      >> 3:00 PM

Monday, March 01, 2004

Name that tune (the authors):

Our anthology is exclusively Asian American. That means Filipino, Chinese, and Japanese Americans, American born and raised, who got their China and Japan from the radio, off the silver screen, from television, out of comic books, from the pushers of white American culture that pictured the yellow man as something that when wounded, sad, or angry, or swearing, or wondering whined, shouted, or screamed "aiiieeeee!" Asian America, so long ignored and forcibly excluded from creative participation in American culture, is wounded, sad, angry, swearing, and wondering, and this is his AIIIEEEEE!!! It is more than a whine, shout, or scream. It is fifty years of our whole voice.

      >> 11:08 AM