Alien Encounters showcases innovative directions in Asian American cultural studies. In essays exploring topics ranging from pulp fiction to multimedia art to import-car subcultures, contributors analyze Asian Americans’ interactions with popular culture as both creators and consumers. Written by a new generation of cultural critics, these essays reflect post-1965 Asian America; the contributors pay nuanced attention to issues of gender, sexuality, transnationality, and citizenship, and they unabashedly take pleasure in pop culture.
This interdisciplinary collection brings together contributors working in Asian American studies, English, anthropology, sociology, and art history. They consider issues of cultural authenticity raised by Asian American participation in hip hop and jazz, the emergence of an orientalist “Indo-chic” in U.S. youth culture, and the circulation of Vietnamese music variety shows. They examine the relationship between Chinese restaurants and American culture, issues of sexuality and race brought to the fore in the video performance art of a Bruce Lee–channeling drag king, and immigrant television viewers’ dismayed reactions to a Chinese American chef who is “not Chinese enough.” The essays in Alien Encounters demonstrate the importance of scholarly engagement with popular culture. Taking popular culture seriously reveals how people imagine and express their affective relationships to history, identity, and belonging.
Contributors. Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, Kevin Fellezs, Vernadette Vicuña Gonzalez, Joan Kee, Nhi T. Lieu, Sunaina Maira, Martin F. Manalansan IV, Mimi Thi Nguyen, Robyn Magalit Rodriguez, Sukhdev Sandhu, Christopher A. Shinn, Indigo Som, Thuy Linh Nguyen Tu, Oliver Wang
Birds of Fire brings overdue critical attention to fusion, a musical idiom that emerged as young musicians blended elements of jazz, rock, and funk in the late 1960s and 1970s. At the time, fusion was disparaged by jazz writers and ignored by rock critics. In the years since, it has come to be seen as a commercially driven jazz substyle. Fusion never did coalesce into a genre. In Birds of Fire, Kevin Fellezs contends that hybridity was its reason for being. By mixing different musical and cultural traditions, fusion artists sought to disrupt generic boundaries, cultural hierarchies, and critical assumptions. Interpreting the work of four distinctive fusion artists—Tony Williams, John McLaughlin, Joni Mitchell, and Herbie Hancock—Fellezs highlights the ways that they challenged convention in the 1960s and 1970s. He also considers the extent to which a musician can be taken seriously as an artist across divergent musical traditions. Birds of Fire concludes with a look at the current activities of McLaughlin, Mitchell, and Hancock; Williams’s final recordings; and the legacy of the fusion music made by these four pioneering artists.
Performed on an acoustic steel-string guitar with open tunings and a finger-picking technique, Hawaiian slack key guitar music emerged in the mid-nineteenth century. Though performed on a non-Hawaiian instrument, it is widely considered to be an authentic Hawaiian tradition grounded in Hawaiian aesthetics and cultural values. In Listen But Don’t Ask Question Kevin Fellezs listens to Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian) and non-Hawaiian slack key guitarists in Hawai‘i, California, and Japan, attentive to the ways in which notions of Kanaka Maoli belonging and authenticity are negotiated and articulated in all three locations. In Hawai‘i, slack key guitar functions as a sign of Kanaka Maoli cultural renewal, resilience, and resistance in the face of appropriation and occupation, while in Japan it nurtures a merged Japanese-Hawaiian artistic and cultural sensibility. For diasporic Hawaiians in California, it provides a way to claim Hawaiian identity. By demonstrating how slack key guitar is a site for the articulation of Hawaiian values, Fellezs illuminates how slack key guitarists are reconfiguring notions of Hawaiian belonging, aesthetics, and politics throughout the transPacific.