Feeling Ancestral: The Emotions of Mixed Race and Memory in Asian American Cultural Productions

Feeling Ancestral: The Emotions of Mixed Race and Memory in Asian American Cultural Productions

positions: east asia cultures critique
Volume 16, Number 2, Fall 2008
pages 457-482

Jeffrey Santa Ana, Assistant Professor English Department
Stony Brook University

The current era of war, militarism, and neocolonialism in the Pacific is a time in which capitalist expansion simultaneously generates and conceals the negative human consequences of globalization — for example, the tremendous upheaval and migration of Asian people. Diaspora, dislocation, exile, and immigration born of economic necessity are the depressing contradictions to a capitalist paradise that has been optimistically envisaged as the end of history.   Critics of globalization have theorized the ways in which the commercialization of human feeling conceals the anxieties, fears, and other negative affects that express the harsh underside of transnational capitalism.  Nowhere is this commercialization of emotion more obvious than in the marketing of multiculturalism and racial difference in global commerce. The commercial use of racial mixture is especially provocative in the way it signals, conditions, and manages distressing experiences, while assimilating them symmetrically and seamlessly into the transnational stage of capitalism. Clearly, racial mixture is a hot commodity in today’s global market. Particularly in North America, the fascination with and consumption of multiraciality is evident in the notable increase in scholarship about multiraciality in the academy and the profusion of mixed-race productions in the culture industry, both of which reflect the commercialization of racial mixture in a globalized world.

In the last ten years, there has been an explosion of cultural productions about mixed-race people, and particularly of multiracial Asian Americans. Ruth Ozeki’s My Year of Meats and Halving the Bones, Kip Fulbeck’s Paper Bullets and Part Asian, 100 Percent Hapa, Paisley.

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