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Searching for New Identity Politics and Cultural Fusions in David Henry Hwang’s Trying to Find Chinatown

  • Journal of Modern English Drama
  • Abbr : JMBARD
  • 2014, 27(1), pp.201-221
  • Publisher : 한국현대영미드라마학회
  • Research Area : Humanities > English Language and Literature > English Literature > Contemporary English Drama

Miseong Woo 1

1연세대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

Hwang’s best known play, M. Butterfly (1989) provided the Asian American theatre community with a dramatic turning point for an access to mainstream American culture. Despite Hwang’s continuous work since M. Butterfly, his attempts at playwriting have been largely viewed as failures because no other one has reached the level of commercial success that M. Butterfly did. Hwang’s shift of focus from the condemnation of Orientalism to the construction of diverse cultural fusions of genre and content results, not from Hwang drifting away from the Asian American community and its issues, but partly from him assimilating into mainstream American culture through the process of his collaborative works and, primarily, from the evolution of his views on identity politics. Trying to Find Chinatown (1996) marks a turning point in his identity politics, offering a new horizon of cultural fusions as his new theme and positioning him as a bridge between the second-wave and third-wave Asian American playwrights. Hwang makes it clear that racial demographics and cultural politics in the United States have come a long way, moving away from fundamentalist definitions of race or ethnicity toward a more individualized self-definition based on experience and culture. According to Anthony Giddens’ notion of self-identity, Hwang has moved away from “emancipatory politics”—a generic outlook concerned with liberating human beings from traditional constraints and pre-existing divisions between human beings—to “life politics,” a politics of life styles and life decisions, which endorses an individual’s transformative capacity. Hwang attempts to portray a new horizon of identity politics in American society, pointing both himself and the audience in the direction of more complicated, hybrid cultural fusions. Although Hwang defined himself as a second-wave playwright who found himself writing about identity, along with many of his generation of writers, he tries to move away from the old, rigid boundaries of that second-wave generation identity with this play, thus building a bridge for the next generation of Asian American writers.

Citation status

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