Compositional Subjects

Enfiguring Asian/American Women

Compositional Subjects

Book Pages: 368 Illustrations: Published: June 2002

American Studies, Asian American Studies, Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies

In Compositional Subjects Laura Hyun Yi Kang explores the ways that Asian/American women have been figured by mutually imbricated modes of identity formation, representation, and knowledge production. Kang’s project is simultaneously interdisciplinary scholarship at its best and a critique of the very disciplinary formations she draws upon.
The book opens by tracking the jagged emergence of “Asian American women” as a distinct social identity over the past three decades. Kang then directs critical attention to how the attempts to compose them as discrete subjects of consciousness, visibility, and action demonstrate a broader, ongoing tension between socially particularized subjects and disciplinary knowledges. In addition to the shifting meanings and alignments of “Asian,” “American,” and “women,”  the book examines the discourses, political and economic conditions, and institutional formations that have produced Asian/American women as generic authors, as visibly desirable and desiring bodies, as excludable aliens and admissible citizens of the United States, and as the proper labor for transnational capitalism. In analyzing how these enfigurations are constructed and apprehended through a range of modes including autobiography, cinematography, historiography, photography, and ethnography, Kang directs comparative attention to the very terms of their emergence as Asian/American women in specific disciplines.
Finally, Kang concludes with a detailed examination of selected literary and visual works by Korean women artists located in the United States and Canada, works that creatively and critically contend with the problematics of identification and representation that are explored throughout the book. By underscoring the forceful and contentious struggles that animate all of these compositional gestures, Kang proffers Asian/American women as a vexing and productive figure for cultural, political and epistemological critique.


“This provocative, well-written and researched volume is a necessary reference for anyone interested in Asian America studies, women’s studies, and cultural studies.” — Teresa A. Mok , Comparative Literature Studies

"[A] comprehensive critique such as Compositional Subjects serves to refine current perception and spark further critical reflection. Although written primarily with scholars and academics in mind, the book also provides the reader with a solid background against which to ponder being an Asian American woman in America today." — Y. Kim Choi, Korean Quarterly

"[A]n ambitious monograph that urges readers to think more critically about the usefulness of identity as a theoretical framework and the methodological limitations of disciplinarity." — Jane Dusselier and Seung-Kyung Kim , Journal of Asian American Studies

"[A]n impressive work. . . . Kang's own impressive study provides yet another model of interdisciplinarity and critique that will no doubt challenge and intrigue scholars working in a wide range of disciplinary and interdisciplinary fields." — Grace Wang , American Quarterly

"[A]n intense, innovative and enlightening book; a much needed study on 'Asian American women'. . . . [M]ost readers will find that Compositional Subjects offers a flexible conceptual and methodological framework which will prove to be useful, if not transforming, inspiring, and thought-provoking." — Esperanza Miyake , Feminist Theory

"[Kang] provides telling insights into repeated patterns and problems in the creation of Asian American women." — Cindy Wong , American Anthropologist

"[S]ophisticated and wide-ranging. . . . [A] work that challenges us all to confront how disciplinary protocols as well as race, nation, gender, and ethnicity determine our forms of evidence and the shape of our narratives." — Sally A. Hastings , Journal of American History

"[T]his volume is recommended for those pursuing sociological, historical, literary, ethnic, or women’s studies. . . ."

— E. C. Ramirez , Choice

“Laura Hyun Yi Kang’s poised and tactful critique will greatly advance our understanding of the important social crises figured in the representation of ‘Asian’ women within the discourses of literary studies, cinema, history and historiography, and social science throughout the last century. Compositional Subjects is both a critique of the ideological and epistemological stakes of disciplinary formations and a bold exemplary work of interdisciplinarity itself.” — Lisa Lowe, author of Immigrant Acts: On Asian American Cultural Politics


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Price: $28.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Laura Hyun Yi Kang is Associate Professor of Women’s Studies and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Irvine.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments ix

Introduction 1

1. Generic Fixations: Reading the Writing Self 29

2. Cinematic Projections: Marking the Desirous Body 71

3. Historical Reconfigurations: Delineating Asian Women as/not American Citizens 114

4. Disciplined Embodiments: Si(gh)ting Asian/American Women as Transnational Labor 164

5. Compositional Struggles: Re-membering Korean/American Women 215

Notes 271

Bibliography 323

Index 349
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Winner, 2003 Association for Asian American Studies Book Award in Cultural Studies

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2898-8 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2883-4
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