Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


American Studies


Susan V Donaldson


Asians have been part of the American South's physical, cultural, and economic landscape since Reconstruction when plantation owners introduced Chinese immigrants to replace newly freed African Americans as their primary labor source. Nearly a century later, sweeping immigration reform led to the influx of thousands of Asian immigrants who transformed the region's social, economic, and physical landscapes. Southern Orientation: Reimagining Asian American Identity and Place in the Global South utilizes twentieth- and twenty-first-century literature, film, and oral histories to investigate how the socio-spatial practices of Asians produce new iterations of place-bound identities that unsettle traditional notions of southern community. Drawing from spatial theory, cultural trauma, and ecocriticism, this dissertation argues that the appearance of the Asian engenders new anxieties and reawakens past anxieties about racial and ethnic integration in the post-Jim Crow South. However, the growing visibility of Asians in the region also hints at the possibility of new multiracial and multiethnic coalitions and new place-bound communal identities centered on the shared struggle against material, social, and spatial inequalities.;With the exception of a few studies, there is a noticeable lack of scholarship on Asian Americans in southern literature and film. But the increased focus on the South in a global context and the growing number of narratives depicting Asians living in the region are compelling reasons to further explore the ways in which Asians influence and are influenced by southern cultural practices. These recent texts highlight the global movements of peoples, cultures, and economies that mark the region as both a transformed and transformative place. Works including Monique Truong's short story "Kelly" (1991) and Cynthia Kadohata's children's novel Kira-Kira (2004) illustrate how the internationalization of southern locales can reintroduce segregationist practices as a means of safeguarding long-held communal boundaries based on racial, ethnic, and class differences. Other narratives such as Mira Nair's film Mississippi Masala (1991) and Cynthia Shearer's novel The Celestial Jukebox (2004) reveal how Asians are part of a larger narrative of exploitation, exclusion, and survival that interweaves the history of multiple "Souths.".;For Asians migrating to the American South, defining home often involves the complex interplay between stasis and movement, acceptance and opposition, remembering and forgetting. This study foregrounds the critical intersections between Southern studies and Asian American cultural politics in order to better understand how global processes influence the ways in which an increasingly multiracial and multiethnic population define, inhabit, and transform communities in the American South.



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