Hiroshima / Vietnam / Tule Lake: Asian American Poetry and Diaspora
April 9, 2018 3:30 PM
212 University Club Building
Asian American Studies
The concept of diaspora has become increasingly prominent in scholarly discussions of race, ethnicity, and migration. Its impact has been especially pronounced in Asian American studies, in which diasporic frameworks have been used to reject older models of Asian American identity politics—usually derided as “cultural nationalism”—in favor of a conception of Asian American studies as a “subjectless discourse,” not defined by US racial politics. Yet such deconstructions of Asian American identity have often struggled to maintain the political commitments that have historically been central to ethnic studies. I suggest that an examination of Asian American writing of the 1970s—particularly poetry—reveals a conception of Asian America that is both politically radical and transnational, grounding Asian American identity in “Third World” solidarity. The work of poet and activist Janice Mirikitani, a prominent writer of the 1970s whose poems give aesthetic form to cross-racial and transnational coalitions against racism and colonialism, provides a powerful model for contemporary Asian American authors and critics.
Timothy Yu is professor of English and Asian American studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is the author of Race and the Avant-Garde: Experimental and Asian American Poetry since 1965 (Stanford UP, 2009), which won the Book Award in Literary Studies from the Association for Asian American Studies, and the editor of Nests and Strangers: On Asian American Women Poets (Kelsey Street, 2015). He is also the author of a collection of poetry, 100 Chinese Silences (Les Figues Press, 2016). His writing has recently appeared in the New York Times Magazine, The New Republic, and Poetry. He has served as director of the Asian American Studies Program at UW-Madison and as editor for Contemporary Literature.
Image: Dust storm at Manzanar War Relocation Authority Center. Image Credit: Dorothea Lange/National Archives.