When the Emperor Was Divine

Asian American Identity and "When the Emperor Was Divine" College

Many scholars have scrutinized the idea of going “beyond Black and White” in relation to the construction of the Asian American identity. Many arguments have been put forward to explain the possible factors that eventually lead to the perpetuation of the “model minority myth” and the “perpetual foreigner syndrome,” as Frank Wu puts it. This essay, therefore, aims to provide a detailed analysis of some pertinent factors that lead to the construction of the Asian American identity based on Claire Jean Kim’s notion of “racial triangulation.” Also, the works of Frank Wu, Kandice Chuh, and Stephen Hong Song will be used in conjunction with this idea to relate their arguments to the representation and treatment of Japanese Americans in Otsuka’s novel When the Emperor was Divine.

In The Racial Triangulation of Asian Americans, Kim argues that racial positions are defined by two axes namely “superior/inferior” and “insider/foreigner.” This argument is further developed in her article when she puts forward the processes that lead to racial triangulation of Asian Americans vis-à-vis Blacks and Whites. These processes include “relative valorization” and “civic ostracism” (Kim, 1999). By analyzing these two processes, she provides a...

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