Passing Recognition Obasan and the Borders of Asian American and Canadian Literary Criticism

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Comparative American Studies An International Journal

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This article situates the reception of Joy Kogawa's Obasan within a comparative North American context, tracing the divergence and convergence of US and Canadian racial discourses in the canonization of Obasan in Asian American and Canadian literary studies. Through a consideration of how the novel both affirms the oppositional politics of Asian American literary studies and the fragmented nationalism of Canadian literary studies, this article argues that the politics of reception, appropriation and recognition that underwrite the text's cross-border canonization are prefigured by the text's own engagement with passing and recognition. While Obasan's blurring of Japanese Canadian and First Nations experiences can be read as a critique of Canadian racialization and the presumed universalization of US racial formations, such representational strategies are not immune to the colonizing gestures that inform the text's inclusion in Asian American and Canadian literary studies.


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