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date: 18 October 2019

Summary and Keywords

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).

Keywords: intimacy, war, militarism, family, spatial, comfort women

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