Monday, September 11, 2006

Better to Reference Margaret Cho on this one...

So recently I got an email message from the Asian Community Online Network Chicago listserv. Looks like the Illinois Humanities Council is hosting a panel discussion on interracial dating – good for them. Seems as if they got a nice program set up; Mae Ngai, one of my old professors, will speak, and they’re showing a Kip Fulbeck film, which of course makes for fun times. I’m a little bummed I can’t be there to check it out.

I’m also a little bummed they had to drop this business into their press release:

“The romantic vision of the Middle East and Asia held by the West has been defined by the activist & intellectual Edward Said as a mixture of racist assumptions, intertwined with and underpinned by colonialist desire to conquer the so-called ‘Other.’ The exotification of the mysterious Asia was a preface to conquering and dominating Eastern civilizations by the West.”

I know I’m going to sound like a jerk here, but can we stop trying to force Said into every conversation we have about race relations? Don’t get me wrong, Orientalism was of course a very interesting and highly influential book; props to Eddie and may he rest in peace. But you don’t need to go back to his deconstruction of how European imperialism tried to represent the Middle East through misguided scholarship in order to talk about why Joe Whiteboy wants to join your taiko group (it’s not the drum he wants to bang).

For starters, while it’s worth paying homage to the thinkers and the activists who got us here, do it because of some correlation with what you’re trying to address, not because you like throwing their ideas around to prove you took an ethnic studies class. But what’s really at issue here I think is that if you want to actually get Joe to stop seeing your friend Mariko as a hot piece of geisha ass, then you better start talking about something a little more close at hand than what some 18th century philologist had to say about Egypt. Cuz while your friends will pat you on the back for playing connect the dots with all that theory (which they already know since they took that class with you), maybe you could teach that horny idiot a real lesson instead.

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Blogger Mix76 said...

For real man! You got to speak to your audience... and if your audience is Joe Whiteboy all that Said talk is just going to be noise in his ear. I know this from first hand experience! I tried to drop some Orientalism knowledge on a bunch of poindexters in Japan once and those haole boys had no f$%&ing clue what I was talking about. Its all about KISS - Keep It Simple Stupid!

12:34 AM  
Blogger MosSteph said...

sometimes i feel like talking about Orientalism to an asian female audience or to a bunch of people who are "inthe know" is like preaching to the choir. it's good that a simple message be broadcasted all over "orientalism is bad" three words. not that hard to understand just don't serve pabst at the reception!

1:22 PM  
Blogger OG said...

the idea of preaching to the choir is something i struggle with all the time, and you're getting at the heart of what i'm saying. i think it's vital to give these ideas play and to recognize the folks who bring them to us, and then hopefully develop them in coversation with people who 'get it'. however, such development often does not occur, and you just get this circle jerk of people who like to quote theorists and sound smart. better to try and preach for the purpose of conversion.

on the other hand, though, it's a little counterproductive for me to be negative about these conversations where nobody's saying anything knew; i should probably just lighten up. and preaching for conversion is a pretty difficult thing to do.

but i have to disagree that you shouldn't serve pabst at the reception (although high life would certainly be a better choice).

10:12 AM  

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