Friday, April 28, 2006

Asiaphila and White Privilege

Jen has an amazing post over at her blog reappropriate that speaks of the common co-opting of Asian culture. An excerpt:

The Asiaphile doesn't understand the politics or consequences of his fetish. He knows all about the Meiji Restoration and has memorized the Art of War by heart, but actually defends Hiroshima and Nagasaki (200,000+ killed in a brutal act of terrorism, but to the Asiaphile, it was a necessary act to defend the people who really matter). He knows nothing about the Asian American movement even though he organizes endless anime, sushi and karaoke nights at his college campus. He doesn't even see his interest as a fetish, he sees it as his God-given right to take and take and reappropriate my culture because he feels denied somehow that his mixed-up part-Greek, part-English, all-European-American, totally of the Caucasian Persuasion ass doesn't have a native tongue that's quite as "different" or an American culture that involves bladed weaponry.

Please go read it now.

Her post touches on a lot of things I've been trying to think about, but my own white privilege really makes it tough.

I've since I was a little girl I've enjoyed watching anime. I like to think that I watch anime or read manga because it gives me strong female protagonists that are difficult to find in American culture--but is there an underlying draw because it's "exotic."

My stepmother is Chinese and I love her death and she takes the time to teach me and talk to me about China and her life, and buys or gives me Chinese clothing, and in order to gain more understanding I've taken Asian history and literature classes--am I just co-opting her into my life for my own benefits and interests? By revealing this am I trying to escape criticism by giving "credentials?"

I have to ask these questions of myself. To partake in an active interest of other cultures is to walk a fine line of ethnocentricity, co-option, and privilege.

Its entirely aggravating to hear people who in my classes talk with such authority and superiority in regards to Asian culture (specifically Japanese culture) that I wonder why they even watch anime or play video games if all they're intent on doing is trying to prove how great America is (and thus themselves for being American.)

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