Postcolonialism and Asian American Studies

Authored by: Erin Suzuki

The Routledge Handbook of Asian American Studies

Print publication date:  December  2016
Online publication date:  December  2016

Print ISBN: 9780415738255
eBook ISBN: 9781315817514
Adobe ISBN: 9781317813927


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What does it mean to think of Asian America as a postcolonial formation? At first glance, the use of the term “postcolonial” appears to be at odds with the concept of “Asian America.” While the former describes the social and cultural dynamics of a group formerly subjected to direct colonization by another nation-state, the latter refers primarily to a group of ethnically diverse communities situated within the boundary of the United States. Upon closer examination, however, the distinctions between these two categories grow less clear-cut. For example, it would be difficult to discuss the experience of Filipino-Americans without addressing the role of U.S. colonial rule in the Philippines. Likewise, the experiences of several other Asian American communities—particularly those coming from Japan, Korea, and Vietnam—have also been shaped by their home countries’ engagement in the colonial (and postcolonial) wars that shifted the balance of power across the Asia-Pacific throughout the twentieth century. As a social and cultural assemblage that operates both inside and outside of the domestic sphere, Asian America has been just as powerfully shaped by postcolonial dynamics and global politics as it has been by the domestic policies that have policed Asian bodies and communities within the territorial boundaries of the United States.

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