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Constructing the Other: A Critical Reading of The Joy Luck Club

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Abstract:

This article is a critical reading of the movie The Joy Luck Club . Grounded on Stuart Hall's theory of articulation, the author explored how the movie text constructed Chinese culture as the sexist, oppressive, mysterious, inscrutable, exotic, and savage cultural/racial Other. The representation of the negative Other in turn sustains the myth of the White middle-class American culture as the positive Self. This construction reflects the new Orientalist/Assimilationist paradigm, which poses a double bind on minority groups. On the one hand, it insists that members of minority groups need to cast off their cultural identities and to obey and follow the rules of the dominant group. However, on the other hand, it insists on the exotic otherness of minority group members. A close examination of the movie text is part of a political project that treats popular culture as resources for public pedagogy. That is, engaging in popular culture should be more than a process of deconstruction. It should also strive to provide the possibility for alternative narratives to counter negative media representations.

Keywords: Chinese Americans; Chinese culture; Orientalist/Assimilationist paradigm; Other; articulation; culture; public pedagogy

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10646170500207899

Affiliations: Department of Communication Studies, Clemson University, Clemson, South Carolina, USA

Publication date: July 1, 2005

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