Embracing the East: White Women and American Orientalism

Paperback | November 15, 2002

byMari Yoshihara

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As exemplified by Madame Butterfly, East-West relations have often been expressed as the relations between the masculine, dominant West and the feminine, submissive East. Yet, this binary model does not account for the important role of white women in the construction of Orientalism. MariYoshihara's study examines a wide range of white women who were attracted to Japan and China in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century and shows how, through their engagement with Asia, these women found new forms of expression, power, and freedom that were often denied to them in otherrealms of their lives in America. She demonstrates how white women's attraction to Asia shaped and was shaped by a complex mix of exoticism for the foreign, admiration for the refined, desire for power and control, and love and compassion for the people of Asia. Through concrete historicalnarratives and careful textual analysis, she examines the ideological context for America's changing discourse about Asia and interrogates the power and appeal--as well as the problems and limitations--of American Orientalism for white women's explorations of their identities. Combining the analysisof race and gender in the United States and the study of U.S.-Asian relations, Yoshihara's work represents the transnational direction of scholarship in American Studies and U.S. history. In addition, this interdisciplinary work brings together diverse materials and approaches, including culturalhistory, material culture, visual arts, performance studies, and literary analysis.

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As exemplified by Madame Butterfly, East-West relations have often been expressed as the relations between the masculine, dominant West and the feminine, submissive East. Yet, this binary model does not account for the important role of white women in the construction of Orientalism. MariYoshihara's study examines a wide range of white...

Mari Yoshihara is at University of Hawaii, Manoa.

other books by Mari Yoshihara

Musicians from a Different Shore: Asians and Asian Americans in Classical Music
Musicians from a Different Shore: Asians and Asian Amer...

Kobo ebook|May 2 2008

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:256 pages, 6.1 × 9.21 × 0.91 inPublished:November 15, 2002Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195145348

ISBN - 13:9780195145342

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"This fine interdisciplinary study incorporates the history of the middle class, art, and literature as it historicizes the ways in which white famles participated in, produced, and benefited from Americans' ambivalent fascination with Japan and China and contributed to the feminization ofAmerican orientalism during the Gilded Age. Yoshihara's careful research and nuanced readings of multiple texts...is engaging and provocative, and her analysis of the intersections of gender and race is particularly insightful."--American Historical Review