Authentic Selves

For our third Markers of Authenticity seminar for 2019, we’re going to consider the ways in which the self is projected, constructed, and created,  from internet culture to literature. Join us on Friday 30th August, 4–6pm, for an interdisciplinary seminar sponsored by the Centre for Ancient Cultural Heritage and the Environment in the Australian Hearing Hub, Level 3, Rm 202 (the ‘Recreation room’: note change from usual venue).

SelfDraft

Influencers and Cultures of Authenticity-making

Dr Crystal Abidin, Senior Research Fellow & ARC DECRA Fellow in Internet Studies, Curtin University / Affiliate Researcher with the Media Management and Transformation Centre, Jönköping University.

In the earliest days of Influencer commerce, the allure was premised on the diary-like reportage of people’s everyday lives, in the rhetoric of confessional documentaries. The regularity and frequency of their updates mirrored the daily rhythms of a teenager’s social life and attracted followers: Their blogs became a means for other girls to learn how to be social through consumption, within their modest spending power. Today, these pioneers are among the most seasoned veterans in influencer culture, innovating with new disclosure strategies to sustain followers over their decade-long careers. Drawing from research on regional Influencer cultures since 2008, in this seminar I will provide a brief overview of the concepts ‘Perceived interconnectedness’, ‘Relatability’, ‘Calibrated amateurism’, and ‘Porous authenticity’ for discussion in relation to cultures of authenticity-making.

Cultural Authenticity, the Family, and East Asian Romance Novels

Associate Professor Hsu-Ming Teo, Department of English, Macquarie University.

In 2018 the film Crazy Rich Asians was released to much fanfare and publicity, earning nominations at the Golden Globes and other awards, and grossing $174,532,921 in the United States and $238,532,921 worldwide. Although criticized within Asian markets, especially in Singapore, for its erasure of non-ethnically Chinese characters from the romantic comedy, Crazy Rich Asians was lauded in the US for its all-Asian cast – something seldom seen in Hollywood. Romance stories featuring Asian protagonists are still few and far between, leading writers, readers, and bloggers with an Asian background to establish websites that compile lists of Asian-themed romances, as well as frustrated blogs that ask “Are Asian Men Not Sexy?” and “Where the Hell Are All the Asians?”.

The demand by bloggers and readers on such websites for “sexy Asians” raises an intriguing question: what exactly is it about a romance novel that makes it “Asian”? Protagonists who are from the dizzying diversity of “Asian” backgrounds? Is “Asianness” a term from race or the process of racialization? Or ethnic variations within a racialized category? Or do national origins – Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, the People’s Republic of China, Thailand, South Korea, India, the Philippines, and so on – contribute more to particular types of Asianness? And what about Asian-American romances – the most substantial contemporary genre in which protagonists of Asian backgrounds are currently found. Are fully assimilated American romantic protagonists of Asian background, who wear their cultural difference lightly and whose Asianness is virtually invisible, sufficient to make a romance Asian? Or must Asian difference be emphasized no matter how many generations the Asian-American protagonist’s family has been in the United States?

This paper considers how Asianness is created as an example of Gayatri Spivak’s “strategic essentialism”, and through strategies of what Stanley Fish calls “strong” and “weak” multiculturalism. It looks at how history, culture, and, above all, a certain notion of the oppressive Asian family are used to create a sense of authentic Asianness in the contemporary romance genre.

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