Transpacific Exoticisms: Performing Asia Across the U.S. Southern Border
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Sia, R. (2023). Transpacific Exoticisms: Performing Asia Across the U.S. Southern Border . American Studies, 61(3). Retrieved from


This paper explores how traveling entertainers of Asian descent open up a lens into the transpacific linkages that connected the U.S. South with the circum-Caribbean in the post-war era. Drawing on archival and oral history research, I explore how entertainers navigated the multiple racial and gendered imaginaries of the transpacific at a time of U.S. expansion across the Pacific and Americas.  I argue that performers of Asian descent occupied culturally and racially ambiguous positions that allowed them to embody multiple transpacific fantasies in nightclub performances that experimented with cultural mixing. This included incorporating new genres global in scope, such as zarzuela, rumba, modern dance, and Mexican revista, developed through cross-cultural encounters during the entertainers’ travels. In doing so, they disturbed the Black and White binary in the US South as well as the erasure of the long-standing Asian presence within Latin America and the Caribbean; in some cases, they also facilitated the expurgation of African-European racial mixture from certain constructions of national identity.

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