Asian/American: Pop Culture Crosscurrents


Winter 2014 quarter

Taught by

American studies

“Japanese jazz now hip hop in home/At Seventh and Jackson, the microphone’s open.” —Blue Scholars, Seattle hip-hop duo (from “Evening Chai”)

From Bruce Lee to Harold & Kumar, henna to hip-hop, bulgogi to pho, manga to The Matrix , Asians and Asian Americans have left an indelible imprint on U.S. popular culture. As eloquently noted by Mimi Thi Nguyen and Thuy Linh Nguyen Tu, “[f]ew of us are immune to popular culture’s intimate address or to its pleasures and affirmations, frustrations and denials” ( Alien Encounters: Popular Culture in Asian America ). It is, indeed, that lack of immunity and a restless hunger to understand those “pleasures, affirmations, frustrations, and denials” that will sustain us on our 10-week journey. We will begin the quarter with two fundamental questions—“What is an Asian American?” and “What is popular culture?"—that will lead us to (1) an exploration of the major historical, cultural, social, and political contours of the Asian American experience, and (2) an immersion in critical theoretical perspectives on culture in general, and popular culture in particular. We will devote the remainder of the quarter to an examination of the complex, and frequently vexed, ways in which Asians and Asian Americans have been represented in U.S. popular culture and, more importantly, how members of those communities have become active producers of popular culture. Our approach, throughout the quarter, will be interdisciplinary, multilayered, and transgressive in its insistence on an intertextuality that moves beyond the commonly interrogated categories of race, gender, and class.

Students will read selected fiction, poetry, comics and graphic novels, scholarly articles, and other written texts. There will be weekly screenings and analysis of documentaries and a range of fiction films, such as martial arts films and anime. We will also explore Asian American popular culture in music, photography and other visual art, bodies, and cuisine. Students will participate in weekly seminars and workshops, submit short weekly writing assignments, and produce a final project that will help them refine both their expository and creative nonfiction writing skills. Field trips may include visits to Pacific Northwest locations with Asian/Pacific Islander historical and cultural connections, and to off-campus film, music, and other venues.  

Program Details

Fields of Study

Preparatory for studies or careers in

American studies, cultural studies, and education.

Academic Website

Location and Schedule

Campus location



Offered during: Day


Buy books for this program through Greener Bookstore.

Online Learning

Enhanced Online Learning: Access to web-based tools required, but use of these tools does not displace any face-to-face instruction.

Required Fees

$50 for museum entrance fees and movies.


Date Revision
August 2nd, 2013 New opportunity added.

Registration Information

Credits: 16 (Winter)

Class standing: Junior–Senior

Maximum enrollment: 25


Course Reference Numbers

Jr - Sr (16 credits): 20299
Jr - Sr (1-16 credits): 20507

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