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Thinking the Asian Way: Down Where the Sun Rises Essay (Critical Writing)

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Updated: Mar 28th, 2019

One of the world’s most mysterious cultures, the Asian one makes the great wisdom and the noblest refinement come together in a perfect harmony. With the specific Asian philosophy that helps to work on a peculiar approach to the cultural values and the aspect of being a citizen of a country, one can reconsider his/her vision of the world.

Incorporating the specific features of the image of an Asian who is bound to accept the culture of the foreign country and relate it to his/her own, one can understand how hard it is to keep the national identity in a foreign land for the Asians.

Although this is rather challenging situation for the nation that has been worshipping their identity since the times immemorial, the Asian Americans nevertheless manage to create the shelter where they can keep their culture flourishing. However, this attempt to preserve the national identity does have its cost, like the other things.

What is it like to feel a citizen of one’s own country in a foreign land? Elaine Kim, Kip Fulbek and Jose Watanabe share different viewpoints on the problem, yet each of them presents the arguments that mark their national identity.

In spite of the fact that each of the writers has his/her specific approach to the problem, there is a certain interconnection between the three ideas. Trying to preserve their own culture, yet displaying keen respect to the one of the American citizens, the three authors are trying to find the golden mean between the two worlds. However, at certain point their visions come to a conflict.

Speaking of the way in which the idea of national identity was implemented in the works of the abovementioned writers, one must emphasize that each of them considered the idea of the national culture.

The stem that the entire nation roots from, the one and only pillar that the world of millions of people stands on, the national identity is something that must be kept as long as people remain a part of the great nation.

Thus, it is quite remarkable that Kim Elaine takes the approach that can be labeled as rather revolutionary one. In contrast to the rest of the writers, she creates the atmosphere of rebellion in her books, making it clear that the culture of her country is something that binds the women immigrated to the USA and still keeps the old prejudice alive, despite the democratic surroundings in which the immigrants have appeared.

It is quite peculiar that the author expresses the ideas of the national identity in the context of feminism and feminity in her works. Like a woman warrior, she ruins stereotypes, unlike the rest of the writers, to build the new ideas on the ruins of the old prejudice. As the writer marked herself,

Korean American women are continually called upon by the Korean nation-state to “be Korean,” embraced and rejected in turns. The visiting Korean American is harshly berated by a South Korean taxi driver for not being fluent enough in Korean because he imagines her as solely and exclusively “Korean” and views her broken Korean language as a betrayal of the nation-state (Kim 311)

Can Kim be considered a traitor who rejects the postulates of her own culture? Of course, not. What she is attempting to do is to intertwine the cultural values of her own country with the ones of the West, carefully introducing the ideas of feminism into the former.

In contrast to her, Kip Fulbeck offers the approach that presupposes certain philosophical ideas intertwined with the aspect of the national identity. It is quite peculiar that the author questions the reader, what the identity is, and leaves this remark without an answer.

Stressing the necessity to keep the national identity, to hold fast to it, he still admits that people often mistake this phenomenon for the complicated ideas suggested by political and cultural scientists; as the writer marks himself,

Pop-psychology soundbites, like assimilation and projection and aggressor identification displacement, only get you so far. It’s too easy to claim some Asian American Studies course or The Joy Luck Club as your wake-up call to identity. It’s not that simple. I mean, where were you before your awakening? (Fulbeck 64)

It is quite remarkable that, in contrast to Kim, Fulbeck considers the aspect of the national identity, the “citizenship” that is being talked about, as the very sense of belonging, the sensation of living in the right place and in the right environment.

It is clear that, unlike Kim, who considers that the national culture has a long way to go before establishing the norm of citizenship and belonging, Fulbeck appeals to the heart of the nation’s hearts, calling for the inborn striving for the homeland.

Trying to reconcile the entire humankind, he emphasizes that Africa is the cradle of the world, the starting point from where the human race started its journey to the future: “Or to put it in another way, when you go back far enough, we all came from one giant continent anyway” (Fulbeck 208).

Another idea of where the idea of citizenship and the sense of belonging that is strikingly different to the ones described above and at the same time so painfully similar is the one raised by Jose Watanabe.

In each line of his poetry, one can hear the distant memories ringing in the ear. Relating the sense of belonging with the childhood, the most enchanting and at the same time mysterious part of each person’s life, the author offers another riddle to his audience: is the sense of belonging something that comes with drinking mother’s milk?

However, the reminiscences of the past are rather painful, Watanabe admits that. “Constant migrations city to city,” (126) recalls he with the mixed feeling of sadness and anguish.

Same devil that created the Chinese language as St. Guthlac heard in the crowland fens Island’s original inhabitants erased Atayal genocide Native story (126) – these lines are shot through with despair. In contrast to Kim and Fulbeck, Watanabe does not call the nation for anything but quiet meditations. There has been enough grief done to the humankind, and the further changes might hurt even more, the author warns.

Although the ways in which the three authors interpret the problem of cultural belonging are completely different, varying from inaction to the most decisive means, it is obvious that each of the writers understands the necessity to consider the cultural issues.

Once emerging, the problem of the national and cultural belonging will be brewing until it is solved, which each of the writers understands. As the inner stem that keeps the nation strong from within, culture is not to be forsaken.

Works Cited

Fulbeck, Kip. Paper Bullets: A Fictional Autobiography. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press, 2001. Print.

Fulbeck, Kip. “Fishing for Identity”. Asian American Review (2011): 208-212. Print.

Kim, Elaine H. “Teumsae-eso: Korean American Women Between Feminism and Nationalism”. Violence and the body: Race, Gender, and the State. Ed. Arturo J. Aldama. Bloomington, IA: Indiana University Press, 2003. Print.

Watanabe, Jose. “Children’s Echo”. Asian American Literary Review (2011): 111 131. Print.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "Thinking the Asian Way: Down Where the Sun Rises." March 28, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/thinking-the-asian-way-down-where-the-sun-rises/.


IvyPanda. (2019) 'Thinking the Asian Way: Down Where the Sun Rises'. 28 March.

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