Identities in Motion

Asian American Film and Video

Identities in Motion

Book Pages: 304 Illustrations: 44 illus. Published: August 2002

Author: Peter X Feng

Asian American Studies, Media Studies > Film, Theory and Philosophy > Race and Indigeneity

This innovative book shows how Asian American filmmakers and videomakers frame and are framed by history—how they define and are defined by cinematic projections of Asian American identity. Combining close readings of films and videos, sophisticated cultural analyses, and detailed production histories that reveal the complex forces at play in the making and distributing of these movies, Identities in Motion offers an illuminating interpretative framework for assessing the extraordinary range of Asian American films produced in North America.
Peter X Feng considers a wide range of works—from genres such as detective films to romantic comedies to ethnographic films, documentaries, avant-garde videos, newsreels, travelogues, and even home movies. Feng begins by examining movies about three crucial moments that defined the American nation and the roles of Asian Americans within it: the arrival of Chinese and Japanese women in the American West and Hawai’i; the incorporation of the Philippines into the U.S. empire; and the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. In subsequent chapters Feng discusses cinematic depictions of ideological conflicts among Asian Americans and of the complex forces that compel migration, extending his nuanced analysis of the intersections of sexuality, ethnicity, and nationalist movements.
Identities in Motion illuminates the fluidity of Asian American identities, expressing the diversity and complexity of Asian Americans—including Filipinos, Indonesians, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Laotians, Indians, and Koreans—from the nineteenth to the twenty-first century.


“If you read nothing else about film, read this introduction. Feng’s questions about identity -- who defines it, how it’s defined, whether it can even be defined -- will make you watch films in a whole new way.” — Terry Hong , Asian Week

"Feng provides a valuable investigation of the ‘complex relationship of identity to the cinematic apparatus’ through Asian American representation."
— E. C. Ramirez , Choice

“Because it grapples with the difficult issues of race, ethnicity, and identity, this book is an important contribution to literature on the history and formation of the Asian American community.” — Gina Marchetti, author of Romance and the "Yellow Peril": Race, Sex, and Discursive Strategies in Hollywood Fiction

“Identities, Peter X Feng reminds us in this perceptive work, elude capture. They are always in motion. Moreover, even as cinema in the U.S. defines the American subject, spectators ultimately determine their identities. Not content with a reading of text and context in Asian American cinema, although he offers that in great detail, Feng seeks out the creative imagination that rubs against cinematic conventions and inspires both the maker and spectator.” — Gary Y. Okihiro, author of The Columbia Guide to Asian American History


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Peter X Feng is Associate Professor of English and Women’s Studies at the University of Delaware. He is the editor of Screening Asian Americans.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments ix

Introduction: Locating Asian American Cinema in Discontinuity 1

I. Myths of Origin

Ethnography, Romance, Home Movies

1. The Camera as Microscope: Cinema and Ethnographic Discourse 23

2. Pioneering Romance: Immigration, Americanization, and Asian Women 38

3. Articulating Silence: Sansei and Memories of the Camps 68

II. Travelogues

4. Decentering the Middle Kingdom: ABCs and the PRC 103

5. Lost in the Media Jungle: Tiana Thi Thanh Nga's Hollywood Mimicry 128

III. Performing Transformation

6. Becoming Asian American: Chan Is Missing 151

7. We're Queer! We're Where? Locating Transgressive Films 170

8. Paying Lip Service: Narrators in Surname Viet Given Name Nam and The Joy Luck Club 191

Afterword: The Asian American Muse 209

Notes 215

Bibliography 259

Index 287
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2996-1 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2983-1
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