American Studies | Colloquium in AMST-Intro to Asian American Studies
G620 | 33086 | Cruz


Fall 2011 (4118)


Meets with Eng-L635

1:00p – 2:15p MW

In the recent Emmy-nominated AMC miniseries Broken Trail (2006), two
cowboys, played by actors Robert Duvall and Thomas Haden Church, find
themselves the guardians of five young Chinese women who have been
sold into prostitution. The marketing for the miniseries
claimed that Broken Trail reinvigorated the Western, in part because
the film supposedly portrayed a more realistic picture of race in the
1890s West. But the plot of Broken Trail, which posits the American
cowboy as the savior of vulnerable Chinese women, rewrites key
aspects of the Asian American relations: the exclusion of Chinese
immigrants in the 1880s, and the recurring fascination with and fear
of dangerous Asian bodies.

As a readings seminar in Asian American Literature and
interdisciplinary and transnational Asian American Studies, this
course will focus on recurring cycles of love and fear in
Asian/American relations from the late nineteenth to the twenty-first
centuries. To set up these dynamics, we will first turn to what
became known as “yellow peril,” one effect of exclusion laws that
monitored the entrance of Asians into the United States (Chinese,
Japanese, and Filipino) from the 1880s to 1965, and its corresponding
phenomenon, Japonisme, the interest in the cultures and peoples of
Japan. The second half of the course will focus on alternate forms of
managing Asian/American bodies, histories, and interactions—ranging
from the forgetting of Japanese internment and the occupation of the
Philippines; to the development of the model
minority mythology during the cold war; to the exclusion of Koreans
and Korean Americans during the events following the Rodney King
trial in 1992, to the romanticized narratives of American heroes in
films like Gran Torino. We will also consider the notion of exclusion
as it pertains to the discipline of Asian/American literature itself.

By the end of the semester, you should have a strong understanding of
key aspects of Asian American relations and representations during
our period of study. Primary texts include work by Onoto Watanna,
David Henry Hwang, Bienvenido N. Santos, Anna Deveare Smith, John
Okada, and Hisaye Yamamomoto, and the films The Cheat, Gran Torino,
Flower Drum Song, and Sa-i-gu. Although the majority of our work will
focus on literature and film, other required texts
will include samplings from history, cultural studies, ethnography,
gender and sexuality studies, and Asian and Asian/American studies.
Thus, in addition to being a readings course in race and ethnicity
studies, this course also examines what it means to practice
interdisciplinary studies. How do novelists, journalists,filmmakers,
as well as scholars in history, literature, anthropology, sociology,
and interdisciplinary studies approach the same topic and period
differently?

In addition to regular class participation, requirements include one
presentation, one conference abstract and paper (which may be based
on your presentation), and postings to the course blog.