Picturing the Mix: Visual and Linguistic Representations in Kip Fulbeck’s Part Asian, 100% Hapa

Picturing the Mix: Visual and Linguistic Representations in Kip Fulbeck’s Part Asian, 100% Hapa

Critical Studies in Media Communication
Volume 29, Issue 5 (2012)
pages 387-402
DOI: 10.1080/15295036.2012.691610

Nicole Miyoshi Rabin
University of Hawaii, Manoa

In response to perceived invisibility within a black/white racial paradigm governed by hypodescent, various multiracial people have begun to speak out against a lack of recognition of their multiplicitous identities. Along with state recognition (i.e., the 2000 census), many of these multiracial identity activists desire a sense of community built around racial multiplicity. In an attempt to develop a community, various methods have been employed, and this article focuses on one such implementation of community building. Using a semiotic approach combined with the literary method of close reading, this article will explore and analyze the photographic book project, Part Asian, 100% Hapa, by Kip Fulbeck. The article will examine how an “imagined community” of Hapas is created through the project and photographs themselves, but also how the photos work to homogenize the very multiplicity they seek to represent. I will look at the use of photographs as a means of subverting the common usage of the body as a racial signifier and thereby show the limitations of racial language. Finally, I will explore the linguistic elements of representation: how do the Hapa subjects’ self-descriptions work against or with the photograph and the project as a whole? Thinking about how those photographed in the book respond to the book’s central focus of a stabilized Hapa identity is a critical approach that has the benefit of disrupting the limitations of our racial language, our need for stabilized racial identities, and any homogenization that occurs through the aesthetic project itself. I hope to question the photographic project so that multiracial people can avoid becoming complicit in a new form of racial domination and/or racialization, while also respecting the work that this project has done for Hapas’ visibility.

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