Imagine Otherwise: On Asian Americanist Critique
Imagine Otherwise is an incisive critique of the field of Asian American studies. Recognizing that the rubric "Asian American" elides crucial differences, Kandice Chuh argues for reframing Asian American studies as a study defined not by its subjects and objects, but by its critique. Toward that end, she urges the foregrounding of the constructedness of "Asian American" formations and shows how this understanding of the field provides the basis for continuing to use the term "Asian American" in light of—and in spite of—contemporary critiques about its limitations.
Drawing on the insights of poststructuralist theory, postcolonial studies, and investigations of transnationalism, Imagine Otherwise conceives of Asian American literature and U.S. legal discourse as theoretical texts to be examined for the normative claims about race, gender, and sexuality that they put forth. Reading government and legal documents, novels including Carlos Bulosan's America Is in the Heart, John Okada's No-No Boy, Chang-rae Lee's A Gesture Life, Ronyoung Kim's Clay Walls, and Lois Ann Yamanaka's Blu's Hanging, and the short stories "Immigration Blues" by Bienvenido Santos and "High-Heeled Shoes" by Hisaye Yamamoto, Chuh works through Filipino American and Korean American identity formation and Japanese American internment during World War II as she negotiates the complex and sometimes tense differences that constitute 'Asian America' and Asian American studies.