Course Overview

Course Overview

Identities are fixed in some ways but fluid in others. As a result, identities can be ‘sampled’. This use of the word ‘sample’ emerged from hip hop. In this module, we let this use of a word guide study of identities that can be rebuked as a matter of a trend or fad – or, contrariwise, as disreputable fixity. Our focus is Asian-Pacific samplings that record receptions of global flows of images, stereotypes, senses of lack perhaps, fantasies often, and desires plausibly.

A good example of the sort of identity we investigate is that of Japan’s ganguro girls. This youth subculture came into international discussion as a component of a diverse, ever-changing motley. Our interest in ganguro girls has two parts: how these Asians ‘sampled’ identities, and how several U.S. writers discussed these young women’s decision to darken their skin, tease out their hair and dye it pink or blonde, exaggerate their lips and eyes with blaring make-up, and so on. For some onlookers, these decisions are hard to separate from mean-spirited caricatures of African Americans. We will ask if ‘sampling’ can mock to good effect. But we will also investigate fixities as corporeal, as it were, as medical and even DNA research.

From these remarks, you see how this module focuses on fixities such as phenotype with powerful ties to structural social inequality but also on fluidities such as transferrable components – ‘samples’ in a way – of individual (yet socialized) perception. Ideas that you can use to get started include Paul Gilroy’s attention to ‘routes’ in contrast to ‘roots’ and Howard Winant’s concept: ‘racial projects.’ We extend both to this part of the globe. To do so, of course, raises further ‘route’ issues.

This module is organized into two main parts: instructional weeks that alert you to cutting-edge claims and vantages, and a ‘stint’ period in which classmates take ownership of teaching each other.