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Southern Kitsch?: Reading Kawaii Asian Things
April 7, 2022 at 5:30 pm
This talk looks at the history of a demeaning racial form at the intersection of Southern and Asian American Studies: the personified household object. We acknowledge the harm embodied by any number of items depicting African Americans during the Jim Crow era. Yet these anthropomorphic objects have found new iterations in the 21st-century: the circulation of the Asian figure as salt shaker, kitchen timer, or home decor. How does the southern historical context impact the racial legibility of these Asianized commodities and how do they evade similar contextualization as racist kitsch?
Looking at the rise of the Japanese style known as kawaii or cute style since the 1970s, the talk explores the affective responses to an aesthetic that bears specific consequence for Asian racialization. Cute things expose the emotional work of the stereotype, highlighting the ambivalence that surrounds Asians in the U.S. in a time of impending global shift. The audience will be invited to participate in an exercise based on the interpretation of images of these new iterations of a controversial southern form.
Dr. Leslie Bow Bio
Leslie Bow is Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor of English and Asian American Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is the author of the award-winning, ‘Partly Colored’: Asian Americans and Racial Anomaly in the Segregated South; Betrayal and Other Acts of Subversion: Feminism, Sexual Politics, Asian American Women’s Literature; and the editor of Asian American Feminisms. Her new book, Racist Love: Asian Americans and the Pleasures of Fantasy, has just come out with Duke University Press.
Parking available at Bell Tower Deck