Imagine Otherwise

On Asian Americanist Critique

Imagine Otherwise

Book Pages: 232 Illustrations: Published: April 2003

Author: Kandice Chuh

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

Imagine Otherwise is an incisive critique of the field of Asian American studies. Recognizing that the rubric "Asian American" elides crucial differences, Kandice Chuh argues for reframing Asian American studies as a study defined not by its subjects and objects, but by its critique. Toward that end, she urges the foregrounding of the constructedness of "Asian American" formations and shows how this understanding of the field provides the basis for continuing to use the term "Asian American" in light of—and in spite of—contemporary critiques about its limitations.

Drawing on the insights of poststructuralist theory, postcolonial studies, and investigations of transnationalism, Imagine Otherwise conceives of Asian American literature and U.S. legal discourse as theoretical texts to be examined for the normative claims about race, gender, and sexuality that they put forth. Reading government and legal documents, novels including Carlos Bulosan's America Is in the Heart, John Okada's No-No Boy, Chang-rae Lee's A Gesture Life, Ronyoung Kim's Clay Walls, and Lois Ann Yamanaka's Blu's Hanging, and the short stories "Immigration Blues" by Bienvenido Santos and "High-Heeled Shoes" by Hisaye Yamamoto, Chuh works through Filipino American and Korean American identity formation and Japanese American internment during World War II as she negotiates the complex and sometimes tense differences that constitute 'Asian America' and Asian American studies.


“Chuh’s award-winning strategy of concretizing this space of enquiry and solidifying it, diversifying it, enriching it, through a specifically and critically Americanist lens is to revisit various … narratives of Asian Americana, while drawing on theoretical perspectives from American-Continental philosophy, critical race theory, legal theory, and feminist jurisprudential scholarship.” — Kyoo Lee , Comparatist

“Kandice Chuh’s Imagine Otherwise: On Asian Americanist Critique offers the most explicit and sustained interrogation of disciplinarity and interdisciplinarity in Asian American studies. . . . The most original and provocative application of the transnational appears in Chuh’s consideration of Japanese American history and literary texts.” — Laura Hyun Yi Kang, Feminist Studies

"Imagine Otherwise compellingly reimagines the goals and paradigms of Asian American studies. . . . Chuh demonstrates her argument through rich, interdisciplinary readings of literary texts, historical and legal documents, and academic rubrics." — Yoonmee Chang , American Literature

"Kandice Chuh argues that in the current study of Asian Americans, the critique of social inequality must overcome the impossible insistence on a uniform ethnic subject. She performs a daring deconstruction of the recurrence to ideas of authenticity and identity, discusses the pitfalls of essentialized concepts of 'activism' and 'community,' and encourages us to put the case of Asian Americans towards a more general critique of racialized U.S. society. Her intervention challenges us to think differently, to ‘imagine otherwise.’"
  — Lisa Lowe, author of Immigrant Acts: On Asian American Cultural Politics

“Imagine Otherwise is a provocative work. It questions the terms in which Asian American studies have been understood and offers a set of exciting theoretical alternatives, each of which is substantiated by close readings of literary texts. Our understanding of Asian American subjectivity is significantly enhanced in the process.” — David Palumbo-Liu, author of Asian/American: Historical Crossings of a Racial Frontier


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Kandice Chuh is Professor of English, Graduate Center, City University of New York. She is coeditor of Orientations: Mapping Studies in the Asian Diaspora, published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Preface: Imagine Otherwise ix

Introduction: On Asian Americanist Critique 1

1. Against Uniform Subjectivity: Remembering "Filipino America” 31

2. Nikkei Internment: Determined Identities/Undecidable Meanings 58

3. "One Hundred Percent Korean”: On Space and Subjectivity 85

4. (Dis)Owning America 112

Conclusion: When Difference Meets Itself 147

Notes 153

Works Cited 187

Index 211
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Winner, 2003 Lora Romero First Book Prize, American Studies Association

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3140-7 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3104-9
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