Body politics of the Asian American woman: From Orientalist stereotype to the hybrid body of Yong Soon Min
Whang, Jung Heum
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In this master's thesis, my analysis focuses on the representations of Asian and Asian American women as revealed through American visual texts, historical documents, and artwork. In the first part of the thesis, I examine how the bodies of Asian and Asian American women have been framed as the gender and racial Other through the American masculine and colonial gaze. And, then, I suggest the concept of hybrid identity, which, insists the notable postcolonial scholar, Homi Bhabha, introduces the possibility of the Asian American woman's political resistance against the American male-dominant discourse. Utilizing Bhabha's concept of hybridity, I investigate thoroughly the works of art made by Korean American female artist, Yong Soon Min, as the counterpart representations of the stereotypical images of Asian American women. In the first chapter, which is based on Edward Said's Orientalism and Feminist theory, I explain that the figure of the Asian woman has not been her own, but rather a product of man's imagination and wrongful prejudice, as developed through the American masculine and colonial white male's politics of representation. In the second part, employing Bhabha's concepts of third space and hybridity, I suggest the possible ways in which Asian American women construct their own identity, negotiating several conceptualizations of self-representation within the categories of Asian, American, and woman. In the final chapter, I examine the artwork of Asian American artist, Yong Soon Min, thoroughly as a prime example of my theoretical framework and as a counterpart to the stereotype of the Asian American woman. With her hybrid body defined neither as completely racial Other nor purely American, the Korean American woman and her artistic production refuses to be included neatly in American male-made imaginary stereotypes. Rather, through her artwork, her female body becomes the place of contest from which to fight her rigid frame and to make her own identity within the complex geopolitical history and hybrid culture that exist in-between Korea and the U.S.