Asian/American: Pop Culture Crosscurrents

Fall 2017 quarter

Taught by

creative writing, historical fiction, ethnic american literature

“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 ph , 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 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, graphic novels, scholarly articles, and other written texts. There will be weekly screenings and analysis of documentaries as well as fictional films, including martial arts and anime. We will also explore Asian American popular culture in music, photography, and other visual art; bodies (e.g., tattoos); 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

american studies cultural studies writing

Preparatory For

American studies, Asian American studies, cultural studies, humanities, and education


Fall Open

Location and Schedule

Campus Location


Time Offered


Advertised Schedule

First class meeting: Tuesday, September 26 at 10am (Sem II D2105)

Online Learning

Enhanced Online Learning


$50 for museum entrance fees, concert admission, and/or movies