chapter  1
28 Pages

The Asian as other

ByLEONG YEW

Reforming the other In the last few decades, the dominant Western imagination of Asia has taken on increasing complexity towards the way the people, places, society and culture in that part of the world have been represented. On the one hand, this imagination appears to display greater cultural forbearance, displacing earlier depictions that might have portrayed Asians as hostile, cunning, barbaric, menacing but also naive, primitive, exotic and even alluring. In the contemporary setting, overtures of greater celebration of difference, respect and tolerance abound. For instance, in mainstream cinema and television, Asians are taking on more central and heroic roles; there is a greater consumption of Asian cuisines by non-Asians; increased interest in Asian subjects and languages in colleges and universities; and also elevated profiles of Asians making inroads into the literary and cultural scene, such as the Booker Prize shortlists. On the other hand, there are also moments in which these representations of Asia/Asians could be seen as superficial or when expressions of cultural sensitivity lapse.