Immigrant Subjectivities in Asian American and Asian Diaspora Literatures

By Sheng-mei Ma

Subjects: Ethnicity
Paperback : 9780791438305, 188 pages, July 1998
Hardcover : 9780791438299, 188 pages, July 1998

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents


Introduction: Ideology and the Representation of Immigrant

Part 1. The Representation of the Asian Other

1. Native Informants and Ethnographic Feminism in Asian American Texts

2. Orientalism in Chinese American Discourse: Body and Pidgin

3. Immigrant Schizophrenic in Asian Diaspora Literature

Part 2. Immigrant Subjectivity through Eroticism

4. Interracial Eroticism in Asian American Literature: Male Subjectivity and White Bodies

5. Postcolonial Feminizing of America in Carlos Bulosan

Part 3. Immigrant Self-Representation

6. Immigrant Subjectivities and Desires in Overseas Student Literature: Chinese, Postcolonial, or Minority Text?

7. An Island of Immigrants: Nativist Critique of Taiwan's Compradorism

8. Ang Lee's Domestic Tragicomedy: Immigrant Nostalgia, Exotic/Ethnic Tour, Global Market


Works Cited


Offers a new way of reading Asian American and Asian Diaspora literatures, thereby addressing an overlapping lacuna in ethnic, postcolonial, and area studies: the construction of immigrant subjectivities.


This book opens with an interrogation of the representation of immigrants in Asian American and, to a lesser extent, Asian Diaspora literatures, including works by such writers as Maxine Hong Kingston, Frank Chin, Amy Tan, and Bharati Mukherjee. Immigrant subjectivities in these texts are frequently subsumed in the urgent need to self-fashion an Asian American identity, and take the peculiar form of "immigrant schizophrenic. " Ma also explores how the drive to "claim America" manifests itself as an eroticization of white bodies in male immigrant and minority writers. He then directs his attention to immigrant self-representation from the unique yet representative positionality of Taiwanese immigrants, as found in overseas student literature and in the recent films of Ang Lee. With a contrapuntal reading of the portrayal of immigrants in Asian American and Asian Diaspora literatures, this book maps out a terrain largely uncharted by scholars of various disciplines.

Sheng-mei Ma is Associate Professor in the Department of American Thought and Language at Michigan State University.


"This book opens up a whole new way of examining Asian American literature—the postcolonial approach to immigrant subjectivity—that will influence future scholarship in the field. Personally I gained a fresh new look at some of the works I'm familiar with. " — Ruth Yu Hsiao, Tufts University

"This is very useful in the way it brings us information and analyzes it. It's particularly good on what has happened in Taiwan, in its literature and in the movies of Ang Lee, which are very popular in America right now. The issues Ma raises are ones being currently discussed, but much of the time the discussion has amounted to throwing stones. Ma has presented information and steered us through the rapids because he is a good literary critic who reads the texts carefully, who has the frame of reference (in social, political, and economic terms) and who has passion for his subject, a passion that does not get in the way of clarity. " —Peter Nazareth, The University of Iowa

"The book strips immigrant as well as native readers of their illusions and false expectations, and will enable them to relate to one another on the ground zero of humanity. It provides new insights into 'immigrant subjectivities'—how immigrants cope and construct self-images of survival in their adopted land. It is fascinating reading. " —Paulino Lim, Jr. , California State University