Narratives of intimacy in Asian American literature reveal a number of hidden histories and probe complex issues that challenge a US-centered identity or label Asian American. Asian American literature grapples with these by representing the spaces where interracial sexual, romantic, and familial relationships form, many of them the direct result of US-led war and militarism in Asia and the Pacific over the 20th century, and especially since World War II. Using intimacy as a mode of analysis demonstrates that reading literature and the intimacies of private relationships are both imaginative world-building processes. That is, personal relations cannot be disentangled from the physical spaces where they happen and the geopolitical contexts that frame them. From some of those spaces, “monstrous” Asian American families emerge. Defying the normative tropes of immigration and assimilation that have been familiar in post-1965 Asian American literature, late-20th- and 21st-century narratives contemplate how militarized intimacies are central to Asian American family formation. Though experiences of militarized intimacy are prevalent, they have not been prominent in defining Asian American identity. Literature offers a mode for sustained engagement with these discomforting histories of personal and political intimacy and prompts audiences to question what they “know” about the constructions Asia(n), America(n), and Asian America(n).
After watching his family struggle financially as a boy, the adult Sherwood Anderson threw himself into making money and, unlike his father, he supported his family well. But he also wrote fiction in order to discover and face the truth. On November 28, 1912, the tension between Anderson’s life and the dispositions he uncovered through his writing became so strong that he walked out of his office and vanished for four days. He had no clear memory of where he had been, but he realized this event signaled that he needed a life that coordinated more successfully with his values. He sold his business and moved to Chicago, where he began writing the short story collection generally considered his masterpiece: Winesburg, Ohio. Anderson subsequently moved through marriages to Tennessee Mitchell and Elizabeth Prall while writing a series of novels about men struggling to establish good relationships with women: Poor White (1920), Many Marriages (1923), and Dark Laughter (1925). In 1925, Anderson retreated with Prall to the Virginia countryside, where he bought two newspapers and wrote whatever the newspapers needed, sometimes in the folksy voice of a character named Buck Fever. After that marriage ended, Anderson met and married Eleanor Copenhaver, a social activist who helped educate Anderson about the lives of working people. These experiences informed his next novel, Beyond Desire, a pessimistic work about relationships that holds out one element of hope: a socially aware woman named Louise whom the narrator suggests would make a great wife if she met a courageous man. And, indeed, Anderson’s marriage to Eleanor lasted the rest of his life. Perhaps because he had resolved his marital issues, in his last novel Anderson moved outside his own experiences; Kit Brandon focuses on a female protagonist who muses about the difficulties of marriage in modern life. Anderson realized that one’s culture inevitably shapes one, and so throughout his career his novels contain asides that worry about industrialism’s negative impact on his contemporaries’ ability to connect with one another. Toward the end of his career, Anderson produced nonfiction books that address his concerns directly. In A Story Teller’s Story (1924) and The Modern Writer (1925), he suggests that authors must resist the forces corrupting society. In Perhaps Women (1931), he argues that in cooperating with the machine, men have become impotent, so all hope of redeeming society rests with women. In No Swank (1934), when he writes of authors he admires, he praises their generosity, not their craft. And, indeed, literary achievement mattered far less to Anderson than did writing the truth in a way that could help his contemporaries imagine ways to redeem their lives.
Queer South Asian Diasporas can refer to the individuals and communities of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people who trace their ancestry to the South Asian subcontinent, but have lived beyond its borders. These communities and individuals generate vibrant forms of cultural production: writing, activism, filmmaking, performance art, and creative manipulations of everyday practice. Additionally, queer diaspora can refer to a particular way of analyzing South Asian public cultures and discourse through a transnational lens with an eye toward the ways that normative genders and sexualities are managed and manipulated to secure and undo nationalist projects. Given the dislocation rendered by pushes and pulls from multiple nations and communities, a common theme in the theorization of queer diaspora and the representation of LGBTQ South Asian life is the struggle over and production of “home” as physical space, affective landscape, and shared embodiment. Theories of queer diaspora help scholars understand how some practices that are not particularly associated with mainstream queer identities can be interpreted as queer, especially when read in the context of South Asian histories. The homosociality of South Asian domestic life, filmic conventions, and ritual practices lend themselves to queer interpretations. While these intimacies do not read as queer to everyone, LGBTQ South Asians precisely apprehend these queer possibilities as alternatives to white and Western gay habitus. Also, queer diaspora explains that migrant, postcolonial subjects are often perceived as having non-normative genders and sexualities given the ways that imperial projects have managed those aspects of human life. This framework is reflected in the narratives of LGBTQ South Asians who name how their (un)desirability is based on race, including the hair on their body, their ethnic heritage, and the stereotypes they are associated with.
Podcasts are a new kind of digital text that demands new analytical approaches rooted in an understanding of the medium’s history, affordances, and politics. Emerging at the intersection of RSS (Really Simple Syndication) and digital audio technology, podcasts were originally framed as an accessible medium for amateur creators, an audio version of the blog. Although the early technological challenges of both making and downloading podcasts biased the medium toward the same demographic as tech culture (white men), the constant expansion of affordable recording technology and the lack of industry restrictions have led to podcasting’s rapid growth, with Apple announcing that it had reached 2 million podcasts in 2021. While only a small percentage of those podcasts are capable of drawing large-scale audiences, producers have found success catering to microcommunities through highly niche content. The ability to engage communities is enhanced by some of the defining characteristics of podcast aesthetics, namely their parasocial intimacy—that is, the tendency for listeners to think of their favorite podcast hosts as “friends in their ears.” Compared with radio, podcasts are less likely to adhere to professional production standards, and podcasters tend to be less formal and more “chatty” than radio hosts are. While podcasting has amateur and DIY roots, however, the success of true crime podcast Serial has contributed to the formalization of the industry around podcasting networks and a shared set of entrepreneurial practices, largely focused on attracting advertisers or otherwise monetizing shows. Although the most financially successful shows are still disproportionately produced in the United States and hosted by white men, the medium has also continued to diversify. The creation of podcasts that speak directly with and from the perspective of communities drives listenership within those communities, which in turn drives further podcast creation; this pattern can be observed in the expansion of African American podcast production between 2010 and 2020, and similar patterns are evident in Indigenous podcasting, queer and trans podcasting, and both international and non-English-language podcasting. The tendency for podcast listeners to become podcast producers can also be seen in the emergence of new podcasting genres. Serial, for example, has inspired a new genre of audio crime fiction, while WTF with Marc Maron has led to a slew of comedian-hosted interview podcasts characterized by an intimate, confessional tone. The huge range of podcast genres, alongside the broad spectrum of production quality, means that podcasts remain a multifaceted medium—and the scholarship about them is similarly multifaceted. Media studies scholars are interested in questions of what defines podcasting and whether a move away from RSS technology to platform-exclusive shows is signaling the end of the medium’s golden age, whereas those looking at podcast genres are more interested in exploring how podcasting has generated a space for new forms of sound-based storytelling. While the most robust field of podcast scholarship focuses on the use of podcasts for pedagogy, scholars have also begun to theorize podcasting through the act of producing podcasts themselves. The incorporation of podcasting into the landscape of scholarly communication points to how the study of podcasting has the potential to transform not just what scholars study but also how scholars do their work.