The Dream versus the Realities of Immigration

The violence of cultural assimilation:

Upon immediate arrival, racialized immigrants must confront the conditions of inclusion into the American national narrative. Yen Le Espiritu uses the term differential inclusion to characterize the process by which racialized immigrants, in particular, experience the violence of assimilation. “I define differential inclusion as the process whereby a group of people is deemed integral to the nation’s economy, culture, identity, and power – but integral only or precisely because of their designated subordinate standing” (Espiritu 47). Inclusion has been possible only under the condition that the racialized other is to be subjected to exploitation, marginalization, and erasure of his/her self-constructed identity. Such constraints have affected the ways in which diasporic communities have been able to negotiate for their own processes of forming identities beyond the ones assigned to them by the prevailing American national system of racial codification. Khachig Tololyan argues, “In the past, diasporan communities confined in this way have remained self-protectively silent about their own view of themselves; their self-representations and assignments of meaning to their collective existence have been carefully policed” (Tololyan 6). So then how could members of racialized communities participate in public deliberations of the nation-state’s governance when they were given limited capacity to self-define their cultural identities?

This separate history of the violence strongly present in the processes of cultural assimilation is constituted by “gaps in history: the absence of information bespeaks a historical trauma that defines Asian Americans” (Feng 17). Peter Feng alludes to the dominant First World media industry (particularly the mainstream film industry, like Hollywood) as a major cultural force that disseminates narratives and mythologies to the masses situated within the United States. The images, representations, and stories presented by these commercial media industry contribute to the processes of mythologization necessary to maintain a particular kind of American nationalism, which represents the dominance of whiteness. For several centuries, narratives imagined by and chronicling the struggles of the colonized, racialized or ethnicized communities have often been excluded from modern myth making practices employed by Western nation-states.

Jacques Lacan, however, saw the potential of human beings as subjects (distinct from any other animal) capable of expressing their agency by subverting the representational processes that occur on the level of the screen. “Only the subject – the human subject… is not… entirely caught up in this imaginary capture. He maps himself in it. How? In so far as he isolates the function of the screen and plays with it. Man, in effect, knows how to play with the mask as that beyond which there is the gaze” (Lacan 107). Despite the overwhelming power of the screening apparatus, which encapsulates all of its subjects into the realm of the prevailing regime of representation, Lacan suggests that human beings may have the capacity to deconstruct and perhaps demystify the illusion-making machinery of the screen. Although reality may only be mediated through the imaginary terrain, there is the possibility that human subjects can mold or re-configure the terrain to mediate reality in many different ways.

And so, it was out of my aspirations to re-constitute the site of mediation and subvert the dominant regime of representation that I pursued a path of experimenting with audio-visual media forms.

(See entry: “Experimenting with Different Processes of Revealing History”)


Works Consulted:

Espiritu, Yen Le. Home Bound: Filipino American Lives across Cultures, Communities, and Countries. Berkeley: University of California, 2003.

Feng, Peter X. Identities in Motion: Asian American Film and Video. Durham [N.C.: Duke UP, 2002. Print.

Lacan, Jacques. The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis. New York: W.W. Norton, 1998. Print.

Tololyan, Khachig. “The Nation-State and Its Others: In Lieu of a Preface.” Diaspora 1.1 (1991): 3-7.

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