Consuming and Contesting Asian America Panel: AAAS 2011 - 10/29

full name / name of organization: 
Amy Tang/Joshua Chambers-Letson

We are seeking a third paper for our proposed panel "Do Not Swallow: Consuming and Contesting Asian America" for the 2011 Association for Asian American Studies (AAAS) Conference in New Orleans (May 18-21).

In a 1990 address, legal theorist Mari Matsuda warned an Asian American law association against the dangers and pitfalls of Asian Americans becoming the new "racial bourgeoisie," which she described as an identity that becomes transformed into a politically disengaged, consumptive class. Despite the range of practices that fall under the title Asian America, the commodification of Asian American as an identity has regularly reified dominant narratives about what it is to be part of Asian America. This panel offers supplementary models of how we might conceive of Asian America beyond the rote forms that it becomes all too easy to consume. Drawing on a range of literary, dramatic, and political sites, the papers on this panel ask how we can conceive of Asian America less as a consumptive practice and more as a form of active political engagement? In what ways do alternative histories of and models for doing, rather than being, Asian American open up political possibilities not yet exhausted? How, in other words, can the subordination and stereotypical production of Asian America be reshaped, repurposed, and performed to open up our understanding of Asian American less as an identity to be consumed than as a political practice to be performed?

One paper addresses the ways in which Maxine Hong Kingston's The Fifth Book of Peace contests dominant narratives of the 1960s as an era of self-indulgent individualism or naively utopian revolutionary aspiration. The other paper considers Asian America as a set of political practices rather than an identity to be consumed through the case studies of NFL linebacker Scott Fujita and the National Asian American Theater Company's production of Karen Hartman's Leah's Train.

Papers connected to either of these topics (e.g. Asian Americans and the sixties, performance, or political radicalism) or to the theme of contesting dominant narratives of Asian America in other ways, are welcome.

Please send a 300 word abstract and CV to Amy Tang, Wesleyan University ( and Joshua Chambers-Letson, University of Cincinnati ( by October 29.