Sarita Echavez See
The visual display of Filipinos in the United States temporally and ideologically coincides with the American military conquest of the Philippines at the end of the 19th century, a brutal and brutally forgotten war that some scholars have described as genocidal according to even the most conservative definitions of genocide. This intimacy between empire and vision in the Philippine case has shaped and sharpened the stakes of studying Filipino American visual culture and its history, aesthetics, and politics. As with other minoritized communities in the United States, Filipino American visual culture is a means and site of lively and often contentious debates about representation, which typically revolve around how to document absence and how to establish presence in America. However, because Filipino Americans historically have a doubled status as minoritized and colonized—Filipinos in the United States were legally categorized as “nationals” during the colonial period even as the Philippines was deemed “foreign in a domestic sense” by the US Supreme Court—the matter of legal and visual representation is particularly complex, distinct from that of other Asian Americans and comparable with that of Native Pacific Islanders and Native Americans. So, while the politics of Asian American representation generally can get mired in debates about the absence or presence of “voice” in literature and the stereotypical or authentic depiction of the “body” in visual culture, Filipino American studies scholars of visual culture have provided valuable, clarifying insights about the relationship between imperial spectacle and history. To wit, the hypervisible representation of the Filipino in American popular cultural forms in the early decades of the 20th century—from the newspaper cartoon to the photograph to the World’s Fair exhibition—ironically enabled the erasure of the extraordinarily violent historical circumstances surrounding the emergence of the Filipino’s visibility. This relationship between spectacle and history or, rather, between visual representation and historical erasure, continues to redound upon a wide range of Filipino American visual cultural forms in the 21st century, from the interior design of turo turo restaurants to multimedia art installations to community-based murals.
The continued growth of the Asian American population in the US South has redefined the region in terms of its economy, culture, and identity. While the literature associated with the region predominantly focuses on whites and African Americans, several narratives explore the experiences of Asian Americans. These texts span a variety of genres, including memoirs, young adult fiction, and historical analyses. From Chinese immigrant laborers who migrated to the Mississippi Delta during Reconstruction to second-generation Korean Americans growing up in the suburbs of northern Virginia, Asian Americans in the South engender more nuanced interpretations of concepts like race, region, and place-based identities. Writers of Asian descent like Monique Truong and Cynthia Kadohata as well as non-Asian writers like Cynthia Shearer and Robert Olen Butler illustrate the ways in which Asian immigration complicates long-standing notions of Southern culture and identity. Some of their works address the ambiguities of segregation-era racial politics as those defined as neither white nor African American struggle to navigate their place along the color line. These texts feature local-born southerners who perceive Asians as outsiders and in turn, establish both overt and subtler forms of exclusion and surveillance to maintain control. However, the growing visibility of Asians in the region also hints at the possibility of new multiracial and multiethnic coalitions and new communal identities centered on the shared struggle against economic, political, and social inequalities. Several narratives set in the post-Jim Crow South underscore the global networks that connect the South to the rest of the world. Writers have used and continue to employ the Asian American figure as a means to destabilize the white–black racial binary that has long characterized the Southern literary tradition and position the South in a broader, more global context. The emergence of Asian Americans in addition to Latinos and indigenous populations on the Southern literary landscape highlights the diverse cultures and histories that mark the South not as a monolith but rather as a region experiencing constant transformation.
Networks influence practically every subfield of literary studies. Unlike hierarchies and centralized structures, networks connote decentralization and distribution. The abstraction of this form makes it applicable to a wide variety of phenomena. For example, the metaphor and form of the network informs the way we think about communication systems in early American writing, social networks in Victorian novels, transnational circulation in postcolonial literature, and computer networks in late 20th-century cyberpunk fiction. Beyond traditional literary genres, network form is also accessible through comparative media analysis. Films, television serials, video games, and transmedia narratives may represent or evoke network structures through medium-specific techniques. The juxtaposition of different literary and artistic forms, across media, helps to defamiliarize network forms and make these complex structures available to thought. Across subfields of literary studies, critics may be drawn to networks because of their resonance with histories of the present and contemporary technoscience. Scholars may also recognize the sense of complexity and interconnection inherent in networks, which resonates with experiences of intertextuality and close reading itself. In addition to studying representations of networks, literary critics employ a variety of network-related methods. These approaches include historicist scholarship that uses network structures to think about social organization and communication in different eras, quantitative digital humanities tools that map networks of literary circulation, qualitative sociology of literature and reader-response theory that analyze networks of readers and publishers, and formalist work that compares network and aesthetic forms.