Review: Leilani Nishime’s Undercover Asian: Multiracial Asian Americans in Visual Culture

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Book/Video Reviews, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive, United States on 2014-11-09 23:22Z by Steven

Review: Leilani Nishime’s Undercover Asian: Multiracial Asian Americans in Visual Culture


Clayton Dillard, Staff Critic

In 2003, The New York Times published an article entitled “Generation E.A.” which discussed the emergent role of multiracial people in advertising campaigns and concluded by suggesting that they’re an emerging racial category and a stepping-stone key to a race-free future. According to Leilani Nishime, such a notion has become dominant among popular media outlets, which awaits an “inevitable end to race.” For Nishime, these inclinations aren’t only misguided, but a constituent for racial oppression, since “color blindness is not the opposite of racial hierarchies; it is its enabling fiction.” These concerns form the bulk of Nishime’s focus in Undercover Asian: Multiracial Asian Americans in Visual Culture, an exciting new addition to the canon of critical race studies, which marks the first book-length examination of media images of multiracial Asian Americans.

Nishime’s scope extends across cinema, reality TV, episodic TV drama, advertising campaigns, sports figures, and art installations to offer a comprehensive sense of the representational landscape. Thus, she devotes two chapters to Keanu Reeves, both as a celebrity persona in the 1990s and for his role as Neo in The Matrix trilogy. Within media discussions of both Reeves’s ethnicity and sexuality, Nishime finds that “writers often revert to the queer rhetoric of closeting instead of summoning the racially inflected language of passing to describe Reeves racially.”…

Read the entire review here.

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Undercover Asian: Multiracial Asian Americans in Visual Culture

Posted in Anthropology, Asian Diaspora, Books, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive, Monographs, United States on 2014-06-15 23:29Z by Steven

Undercover Asian: Multiracial Asian Americans in Visual Culture

University of Illinois Press
January 2014
264 pages
6 x 9 in.
15 black & white photographs
Cloth ISBN: 978-0-252-03807-5
Paper ISBN: 978-0-252-07956-6

Leilani Nishime, Assistant Professor of Communication
University of Washington, Seattle

Representations of mixed race Asian Americans in popular culture

In this first book-length study of media images of multiracial Asian Americans, Leilani Nishime traces the codes that alternatively enable and prevent audiences from recognizing the multiracial status of Asian Americans. Nishime’s perceptive readings of popular media–movies, television shows, magazine articles, and artwork–indicate how and why the viewing public often fails to identify multiracial Asian Americans. Using actor Keanu Reeves, golfer Tiger Woods, and the television show Battlestar Galactica as examples, Nishime suggests that this failure is tied to gender, sexuality, and post-racial politics. In contrast to these representations, Nishime provides a set of alternative moments when audiences can view multiracial Asians as multiracial. Through a consideration of the Matrix trilogy, reality TV star Kimora Lee Simmons, and the artwork of Kip Fulbeck, these examples highlight both the perils and benefits of racial visibility, uncovering our society’s ways of constructing racial categories. Throughout this incisive study, Nishime offers nuanced interpretations that open the door to a new and productive understanding of race in America.

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