National Abjection: The Asian American Body Onstage

Front Cover
Duke University Press, Dec 5, 2002 - Drama - 192 pages
0 Reviews
National Abjection explores the vexed relationship between "Asian Americanness" and "Americanness” through a focus on drama and performance art. Karen Shimakawa argues that the forms of Asian Americanness that appear in U.S. culture are a function of national abjection—a process that demands that Americanness be defined by the exclusion of Asian Americans, who are either cast as symbolic foreigners incapable of integration or Americanization or distorted into an “honorary” whiteness. She examines how Asian Americans become culturally visible on and off stage, revealing the ways Asian American theater companies and artists respond to the cultural implications of this abjection.

Shimakawa looks at the origins of Asian American theater, particularly through the memories of some of its pioneers. Her examination of the emergence of Asian American theater companies illuminates their strategies for countering the stereotypes of Asian Americans and the lack of visibility of Asian American performers within the theater world. She shows how some plays—Wakako Yamauchi’s 12-1-A, Frank Chin’s Chickencoop Chinaman, and The Year of the Dragon—have both directly and indirectly addressed the displacement of Asian Americans. She analyzes works attempting to negate the process of abjection—such as the 1988 Broadway production of M. Butterfly as well as Miss Saigon, a mainstream production that enacted the process of cultural displacement both onstage and off. Finally, Shimakawa considers Asian Americanness in the context of globalization by meditating on the work of Ping Chong, particularly his East-West Quartet.


What people are saying - Write a review

We haven't found any reviews in the usual places.


I should beAmericanAbjection and the Asian American Body
The dance thats happening Performance Politics and Asian American Theatre Companies
Wecome a Chinatowng Folks Resisting Abjection
Ill be here right where you left me Mimetic AbjectionAbject Mimicry
Whose history is this anyway? Changing Geographies in Ping Chongs EastWest Quartet
Then well have drama

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

Popular passages

Page 15 - AN IMPORTANT FEATURE of colonial discourse is its dependence on the concept of 'fixity' in the ideological construction of otherness.
Page 4 - The abject designates here precisely those "unlivable" and "uninhabitable" zones of social life which are nevertheless densely populated by those who do not enjoy the status of the subject, but whose living under the sign of the "unlivable" is required to circumscribe the domain of the subject.
Page 8 - If dung signifies the other side of the border, the place where I am not and which permits me to be, the corpse, the most sickening of wastes, is a border that has encroached upon everything.
Page 8 - No, as in true theater, without makeup or masks, refuse and corpses show me what I permanently thrust aside in order to live. These body fluids, this defilement, this shit are what life withstands, hardly and with difficulty, on the part of death. There, I am at the border of my condition as a living being. My body extricates itself, as being alive, from that border.
Page 6 - States which were accorded to citizens or subjects of the most favored nation, they remained strangers in the land, residing apart by themselves, and adhering to the customs and usages of their own country. It seemed impossible for them to assimilate with our people or to make any change in their habits or modes of living.
Page 15 - Likewise the stereotype, which is its major discursive strategy, is a form of knowledge and identification that vacillates between what is always 'in place...
Page 10 - A deviser of territories, languages, works, the deject never stops demarcating his universe whose fluid confines — for they are constituted of a non-object, the abject — constantly question his solidity and impel him to start afresh.
Page 16 - The black is both savage (cannibal) and yet the most obedient and dignified of servants (the bearer of food); he is the embodiment of rampant sexuality and yet innocent as a child; he is mystical, primitive, simple-minded and yet the most worldly and accomplished liar, and manipulator of social forces

References to this book

All Book Search results »

About the author (2002)

Karen Shimakawa is Assistant Professor in the Department of English and the Asian American Studies Program at the University of California, Davis. She is coeditor of Orientations: Mapping Studies in the Asian Diaspora, published by Duke University Press.

Bibliographic information