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UBC Theses and Dissertations

By Grace of the Flesh : race, sex, representation and David Mura’s memoirs Chung, Steven


At its most general level, this thesis will engage with theoretical dialogues surrounding the complex intersectionality of race, sex and representation, especially in Asian American cultural production. On another level, I set up an interpretive tension between a Foucauldian genealogical approach and a kind of liberatory post-colonial approach engendered by a number of theorists, including Frantz Fanon. The specific field of representation that I will explore will be pornography—a medium/genre that raises, in a problematic but I think important fashion, the question of sexual discourses and the bodies, desires and pleasures which are their targets. It is a field that also crudely exposes the 'gendering of ethnicity' or the 'eroticization of race,' a signifying practice that has, as many critics have argued, historically formed the racialized subject. The specific texts upon which these issues will be negotiated come from disparate quadrants of ' Asian America.' These will include papers that in various ways formulate a pro-porn position as a hedonistic counter to the 'emasculation' of the Asian body that is produced by the 'white gaze.' The core of this study will be a reading of Japanese American writer David Mura ' s memoirs. In these works, Mura at once 'confesses' to a number of sexual 'transgressions' and 'disorders,' including an addiction to pornography, and further manufactures a concept of race and sexuality out of those experiences. I will argue that M u r a naturalizes or 'essentializes' the raced body along masculinist lines in order to evoke an ethos of psycho-somatic healing and community reconciliation. The thesis will conclude with an attempt to salvage this ethos from what might be called its 'implication in power strategies' by rearticulating it through the work of post-colonial theorist, psychiatrist and revolutionary, Frantz Fanon. His preoccupation with the erotic, colonizing gaze provides an illuminating counterpart to Mura's fixation with the pornographic, racializing gaze and points enigmatically to the possibility of a critical-emancipatory praxis of the body and its representation.

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