Trying to grasp the notion of identity strongly resembles leafing through photographs of a person taken by different photographers, with different equipment, in different settings, at different times of the day possibly, the viewer will not even guess that they are all photos of one and the same individual. All the authors in the reader zoom in on one or several of the many interrelated aspects of identity. Moreover, they are looking at them through varying lenses of popular culture. Thus, every one of the accounts under consideration is an eligible and fully competent investigation into the way personal identity is constructed and mediated in the public space. Yet, one of them, The End of White America? by Dr. Hua Hsu, seems to provide the most logically sound argument as it treats identity as a complex multi-faceted phenomenon and, consequently, offers a comprehensive approach, which involves both chronological and intermedial aspects.
One of the most advantageous features of Hsus approach is that it essentially relies on historical perspective and is highly attentive to the factual detail. Hsu takes the reader on a journey that starts as early as 1920 with the publication of Lothrop Stoddards treatise The Rising Tide of Color Against White World-Supremacy, which Hsu sees a symbol of the race anxiety, bypasses Eastern European immigration hysteria and Harlem Renaissance and finishes well into the middle of the XXI century or even farther. This cunning time-traveling technique allows the author to reveal the dynamics of Stoddards polemic that today remains oddly engrossing (Hsu 97) and is not at all likely to lose its topicality with the arrival of the first post-white generation (Hsu 98).
Another aspect of the narrative that helps the author build a persuasive and logically sound argument is reliance on different types of cultural material which are intermedial in their nature. With superior dexterity, Hsu juggles statistical data, historical facts, literary archetypes, music icons, etc. Hsu shows how the Great Gatsby iconic image is being rethought and re-actualized by Sean Combs, who used his white parties to subvert the notion of whiteness as a definitive social category and to legitimize his outsider-insider status being someone who appropriates elements of the culture he seeks to join without attempting to assimilate outright (Hsu 100). This inclusive, systematic approach allows the author to outline and define the general cultural trends connected with the disappearance of the centrifugal core (Hsu 99) that would otherwise be hard to follow.
While building huge historical panorama, Hsu never forgets about the postmodern mistrust of the big narratives and pays close attention to the much smaller narratives of real people like American-Indian veteran Bhagat Singh Thind (Hsu 97), Bill Imada, head of the IW Group (Hsu 98), or Sean Combs, a hip-hop mogul (Hsu 100), seeing them as essential threads that compose the bigger canvas.
This comprehensive method of investigation is the efficient instrument that enables Hsu to examine rather large-scale notions, such as the whiteness, beiging of America, multiculturalism, post-racialism, new cultural mainstream, the ethic of multicultural inclusion, etc. And yet, notwithstanding Hsus ambitious, pervasive approach in dealing with these grand subjects, the author never tries to impose any ready-made answers upon the reader preferring to offer ample factual material as well as patterns that he has observed and ask questions that are not too easy to answer. This quality of Hsus writing certainly defines it as a fine specimen of critical thought possessing strong internal logic and persuasiveness of a well-researched paper.
Hsu, Hua. The End of White America? Thinking Critically, pp. 96103.
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