“Immigrant Acts” by Lisa Lowe
Immigrant Act by Lisa Lowe can be considered as an exemplary book in contesting the idea of assimilation through understanding the existence of alternative culture, memory, and history as well as to let the world hear the passionate voice emerge from the Asian American society. By carefully examining the historical, political, cultural and aesthetic image of Asian American immigrants in the relation of Asian American, Lowe helps the reader why Asian American culture is at a “distance” from American national culture. As she discusses the contradictions whereby Asian have been included in the menial labor market and high-risk work of the U.S. nation-state, but are from the law, citizenship, have been push away from the terrain of the national mainstream culture. She argues that the U.S. memory through the terrain of national culture haunts the conception of Asian American makes the Asian American seen as a “foreigner-within” and “model minority” which marginalized Asian American return to an alien origin. Exhilaratingly, in Lowe’s Immigrant Act that shows the resist of Asian American society, rather than attesting to the absorption of cultural differences into universality, instead they “at odds with the cultural, racial and linguistic forms of the nation” (6). With Immigrant Act in mind, the detailed analysis of the extent to We Should Never Meet, Dogeater and Saving Face illustrate how the oppression and distance toward Asian community preserve them to become alternative sites which reinvented loss of Asian American memories, remembrance of histories and allow the public to discover the facts which were remain invisible in the U.S. national culture.
In Immigrant Act, Lowe reveals the exclusive nature of American culture sphere and anti-Asian backlash constitutes a distance with the Asian American. The terrain of the U.S. national culture can be considered as a utopian fantasy for which it dreamed “in a common language, a defended in battle by the independence…the triumph over weakness, the promise of salvation, prosperity and progress,” but any subject that could contradict the abstract form of American culture through grasped the difference, the fragment, and flashes of disjunction will be split off. The “oneness” of American culture or authority has disarticulated the Asian immigrants both as population and as voice away from the national political sphere. Firstly, the displace and racialized Asian immigrants as alien, barbaric and threatening “yellow peril” and the law against naturalization of Asian defined them as culturally and racially foreigner-within, always seen as “alien” create a gap between Asian American culture and the national culture. Then, the U.S. national culture seeks to erase the disputes of the brutal imperialism memory aftermath of war and colonialism have traumatically wounded and distanced the Asian immigrants who came from a country which was deeply disrupted by U.S. colonialism war and still retain the memory of imperialism. The struggles of Asian American’s living circumstances promote the indispensability and significance for the Asian American community to reinvent the lost memory and to attesting the alternative sites of the cultural, racial and linguistic form of the state-nation(6).
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Aimme Phan’s We Should Never Meet uses the Vietnamese orphans’ voices to reanimate the lost memory of Asian orphan’s adoption experience in the U.S. which reveals the exclusive nature of national culture. After World War II, under the influence of “secular salvation theology” or a rescue fantasy for the western countries to “rescue” children from the Asian war-torn countries increase the adoption rate in the United States. These children of the crisis were adopted in the language of rescue and compassionate impulses. However, people fail to realize this benevolence can be a short-term interest. The publicity of the mainstream media mainly emphasis on humanitarian of the U.S. families to save Asian children, while the real circumstances of those adopted children living in an unacquainted country remain invisible to the public. In this way, their adopt experiences become a lost memory of the nation. It is essential to notice this is a militarized humanitarian— the use of orphan adoption and other medical support to alleviate suffering and disaster caused by the U.S. military.
This humanitarian adoption is an unresolved contradiction because those children would not become war orphans and lost their homeland if the U.S. military did not invade Vietnam in the first place. Is this not an irony for the U.S. to use the term “rescue the children” while they are destroying more orphans’ family and homeland simultaneously? In the book, Vietnam orphans reveal the lost memory of the adoption and bring up question about the “promise of salvation” in American culture. As Hoa states “they don’t know what they are getting, maybe they think it is fashionable to purchase a souvenir of the war, but after the [excitement] is over, they will tire of the child.” Then, [many of them refuse] to raise a baby who is not their own, especially if it is not even their own race” (103). The orphans are abandoned by the families who promise to give them forever homes. Thus, they are forced to rely on people in the Vietnamese community to support each other. The unwelcome attitude of the adopters estranges the distance between the adopted children and the American national culture which makes them feel as “a visitor who overstayed his [or her] welcome” (76). The Vietnamese characters disclose the lost memory of international adoption. A memory that is forgotten by the mainstream media and current society.