Sunday, March 7, 2010

Fashion as "Western" and it's parallels with Asian American identity Stephen Dimal Blog 10

This March 4th on the UC Davis campus, many students protested the fee increases, budget cuts, and recent hate crimes across the UC campuses. Among all of the other things that I noticed at the rallies and protests, there were a lot of politically charged t-shirts. I know from personal experience how important these shirts can be to improve the morale of those protesting. Although fashion is now used for many different reasons, it is still very historically "westernized." This same concept can be applied to the definition of Asian Americans. So both Asian Americans and fashion have constantly been defined through a "westernized" lens and according to Sandra Niessen in her afterword in Re-orienting Fashion Theory "fasion [and Asian Americans have] been defined a priori as a western phenomenon, and that, in this way, fashion has been a function of 'enormously systematic discipline by which European culture was able to manage and even produce the Orient..." (Niessen p. 245). In this light shirts like the ones which were at the protests were small steps towards changing the definition of fashion for Asian Americans. In a book by Lisa Lowe called "Immigrant Acts: on Asian American cultural politics" the relationship between the western Definition of Asian American "is fundamental to understanding the racialized foundations of both the emergence of the United States as a nation and the development of American capitalism" (Lowe p. ix). The definition of fashion and Asian American identity has been westernized throughout history because these definitions are often created through binaries. Western ideals often shape fashion by defining what is "new" and what is the past, and often defines Asian American in opposition to "American" and constantly defines Asian American by what it is not. Niessen says that "the fashion process is about the creation of oppositions through time: that which is (conceived as) current and that which is (conceived as) past (Niessen p. 244).

In order for Fashion and Asian American identity to truly be redefined, we must learn to define them for ourselves. We also must learn how to undo the western influence which has been present in our lives from the beginning. I want people to begin questioning things they learn and things they hear, because that will cause people to think critically about their identity and the use of their fashion.

Here is the picture of one of the shirts I saw at the protests.

When we began in this class, I did not know exactly how fashion tied into Asian American Identity besides just wearing traditional clothing or clothing that represents our culture. However with the readings of this class and the books we read I have learned how fashion must also be re-learned and how fashion is reflective of the overall asian american experience.

In terms of the compact challenge, I have made it through the quarter without purchasing any clothes. I have come very close with all of the sales that I saw, however I resisted. The fee increases didn't help, because my money situation became very tight, however I still resisted the urge to splurge. This challenge has made me more aware of how much money I have spent on clothes in the past.

Works Cited:
Class Article: Niessen, Sandra. "Re-Orienting Fashion" Oxford. New York.
Article: Lowe, Lisa. Immigrant Acts: On Asian American cultural politics. Duke university Press, 1999. Print.

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