80+ Years of "the Orient": Re-Mapping the Trajectory of American Orientalism in the Wake of COVID-19
Sehnal, Tyler M
Months after the unofficial “start” of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, the spread of hashtags like #StopAsianHate and #StopAsianViolence perpetuated the ludicrous notion that a subsequent uptick in anti-Asian violence and sentimentality in the United States was wholly unprecedented or unforeseeable. However, white Americans’ fury and violent reactions to the pandemic, levied at their Asian American counterparts, merely marked another instance in the United States’ lengthy history of anti-Asian prejudice and subjugation in response to crises able to be construed as a possible threat to the white supremacy inherent in the American enterprise. To continually maintain an image of a nation deeply secured within the stranglehold of white social, economic, and political supremacy, white America has consistently moved to reaffirm its oppressive dominance. In the wake of major cultural crises like the Vietnam War, Imperial Japan’s assault on Pearl Harbor, 9/11, and now, the COVID-19 pandemic, white Americans have exercised their ability—an extension of their historical preeminence—to enforce and encourage the comprehensive ostracism of the Asian and Asian American populations supposedly responsible for manufacturing such crises for the sake of jeopardizing American white supremacy. A close reading of novels by Asian and Asian American authors like Bâo Ninh, Yoshiko Uchida, and Khaled Hosseini, however, especially in the wake of white America’s newest re-adaptation of the “Oriental” as a carrier of disease and harbinger of death, is crucial to the development of a more accurate picture of Asian and Asian American experiences. In this thesis, I will highlight the longevity of imperialist Orientalism in the United States to demonstrate that Asian and Asian American subjugation in the wake of COVID-19 is not at all unprecedented. Additionally, I will advocate for literature’s role in developing a more inclusive and accurate worldview: one that departs and often conflicts with historically white-authored Orientalist narratives meant to demonize nonwhite, Asian, and Asian American populations and preserve images of an unfettered and unchallenged American white supremacy.
Sehnal, Tyler M. (December 2021). 80+ Years of "the Orient": Re-Mapping the Trajectory of American Orientalism in the Wake of COVID-19 (Master's Thesis, East Carolina University). Retrieved from the Scholarship. (http://hdl.handle.net/10342/9707.)
Sehnal, Tyler M. 80+ Years of "the Orient": Re-Mapping the Trajectory of American Orientalism in the Wake of COVID-19. Master's Thesis. East Carolina University, December 2021. The Scholarship. http://hdl.handle.net/10342/9707. February 08, 2023.
Sehnal, Tyler M, “80+ Years of "the Orient": Re-Mapping the Trajectory of American Orientalism in the Wake of COVID-19” (Master's Thesis., East Carolina University, December 2021).
Sehnal, Tyler M. 80+ Years of "the Orient": Re-Mapping the Trajectory of American Orientalism in the Wake of COVID-19 [Master's Thesis]. Greenville, NC: East Carolina University; December 2021.
East Carolina University