ASIAN STUDIES CONFERENCE JAPAN

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     Seventh Asian Studies Conference Japan
    Saturday, June 21-Sunday 22, 2003
    Ichigaya Campus of Sophia University

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Contact the organizers: Asian Studies Conference (ASCJ) c/o Institute of Asian Cultural Studies, International Christian University 3-10-2 Osawa, Mitaka-shi, Tokyo 181

Session 26
"Home"-bound: Three Tales of the Diasporic Subject in East Asian Literature
Organizer: Yoshiko Matsuura, Purdue University

In contrast to the paradigm of resistance to domination prevalent in post-colonial discourses, this panel will scrutinize the various ways diasporic subjects from (semi)colonized nations negotiate for symbolic capital through the appropriation of discourses from both the colonized and colonizer. The three panelists will expose the subtle workings of gender and nationalist politics in the subjects' apparent assimilation into the "host" cultures by probing the complex and violent cultural conflicts generated in their quests for self-definition and/or national modernization.

The panel crosses national, disciplinary, and generic boundaries. Feng examines the autobiography of Yung Wing, the first Chinese graduate of a U.S. institute of higher education, in order to examine his fabrication of a genealogy of American-style science and Chinese patriotism for the purpose of self-representation. Ryu's project investigates the dilemma faced by a Korean-Japanese woman who struggles to come to terms with the cultural residue of Korea's colonial past in the novel Yuhi. Ryu argues that the author Yi Yang Ji, herself a Korean-Japanese woman, utilizes various narrative strategies to unveil the "originary" cultural identity as a discursive construct that impedes the self-definition of the post-colonial subject. Matsuura analyzes the novella Tsurugigasaki (Cliff's Edge), in which the Korean-Japanese author Tachihara Masaaki deconstructs the myth of a "cohesive self" through his elaborate portrayal of ethnically diverse characters. Matsuura argues that the author, by contrasting the protagonist with the other characters, elucidates the dissonance stemming from the multi-layered complexity of ethnic identity, be it Korean, Korean-Japanese, or Japanese.

1) Jin Feng, Grinnell College. "The Great (Surrogate) Mother of the West: The Genealogy of Science and Patriotism in Yung Wing's My Life in China and America"

One of the earliest Asian American autobiographies, Yung Wing's (1828-1912) My Life in China and America (1909) provides a valuable tool not only for the examination of the construction of Asian American identity but also for the connection of Chinese and Asian American Studies. Although most Chinese scholars validate this book as the record of a pioneering patriot in the promotion of Western education for Chinese modernization, Chinese-Americans have most often derided it as a "fake" success story devoid of racial consciousness. Rather than condemning Yung's failure to produce a monolithic Chinese-American identity, I will instead scrutinize the personal and cultural significance of his adoption of a 19th-century New England middle-class masculinity to negotiate for political and moral capital from his marginalized position. Yung created for himself a genealogy that progressed from his "naïve, weak, and passive" natural mother to his "scientific, independent, and progressive" surrogate American parents. However, even as American-style scientific education was central to Yung's scheme for modernizing China, his uncritical approbation of science and adoption of stereotyped American version of masculinity led to his identification with the mechanisms of colonization. Ultimately, My Life reveals the consequences of assimilation for the autobiographer as both a cultural agent and an individual. Not only did Yung fail to reach the upper rungs of social hierarchy in either culture, but also, despite his ingenious transplantation of gender stereotypes, his educational mission came to naught through its failure to address either gender or nationalistic politics.

2) Catherine Ryu, Michigan State University. "The Re-Marking of Language, Culture, and Identity in Yi Yang Ji's Yuhi"

Yi Yang Ji's (1955-92) novel Yuhi (1989) has been read mainly as this second-generation Korean-Japanese author's literary affirmation of her hybrid identity as zainichi kankokujin (resident Korean in Japan). For example, critics have noted Yi's, as well as the protagonist's, conscious linguistic alliance with Japanese rather than Korean as her "mother tongue" in order to support this contention. However, Yi's complex narrative strategies resist the facile conclusion that the post-colonial, zainichi kankokujin subject's cultural identity is simply a matter of "choosing"- linguistically and otherwise-between the place of one's origin (Korea) and that of one's new home (Japan). This paper explicates, in particular, the subversive ideological implications of the author's deployment of an unnamed Korean woman, with no knowledge of Japanese, as the first-person narrator, while the novel itself is written entirely in Japanese with some highlighted Korean expressions. In the native Korean narrator's reminiscences of the Korean-Japanese anti-heroine Yuhi, the boundaries between the two national languages become unstable, as do all the constitutive categories for these two characters' national / cultural / narratological identities. Moreover, the novel as a whole foregrounds the narrator's deconstruction of Yuhi's "failed" attempt to embrace her "homeland" and to master her original "mother tongue." As such, this novel, I argue, is the author's subtle critique of the so-called "pursuit of an authentic cultural identity" as an ultimately oppressive ideological imperative that imposes undue claims on the post-colonial, zainichi kankokujin subject.

3) Yoshiko Matsuura, Purdue University. "Dissonance in the Hybrid Self: A Postcolonial Reading of Tachihara Masaaki's Tsurugigasaki"

This paper focuses on Tachihara Masaaki's (1926-80) novella Tsurugigasaki (Cliff's Edge, 1964) as an inscription of the author's complex stance towards issues pertaining to ethnicity and identity politics. The story foregrounds two relationships: one between the protagonist and his brother and the other between the protagonist's father and his uncle. Tachihara strategically employs these two relationships to highlight such issues as ethnicity, hybridity, and nationalism-issues that he himself struggled with throughout his life. The protagonist's ultimate identity as a hybrid Korean-Japanese may be viewed merely as an absorption into Japanese society as a result of a facile dissolution of the binary oppositions between the oppressor (Japanese) and oppressed (Korean). I, however, argue that the novella as a whole successfully criticizes any binary search for the unitary self, such as assimilation vs. alienation; this binary search was the hegemonic framework for constructing identity during the period in which Tachihara produced literary works (1956-80). I further elucidate Tachihara's notion of hybridity by examining his unique writing style, in particular his manipulation of the third-person narrator as well as his adherence to the ta-form, which marks the perfect aspect of an action and an event. I interpret these techniques as the author's conscious literary strategy to maintain his distance from the complex socio-political issues of ethnicity and identity, even as they simultaneously expose his suppressed emotion towards those issues.

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