A Post-Colonial Critique of the (Mis)Representation of Korean-Americans in Children's Picture Books
AuthorSung, Yoo Kyung
Committee ChairShort, Kathy G.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThis study explores how imagined communities based on U.S. mainstream values and social attitudes are embedded in multicultural children's literature through a critical content analysis of cultural representations in 24 Korean-American picture books. Korean-American culture is often defined through other Asian cultures in picture books and the collective interpretations of Asian culture perpetuate otherness and marginality of Korean-American culture. Otherness can be viewed through postcolonialism as a way to rethink and reconstruct the ways in which racial, ethnic, and cultural others have been repressed, misrepresented, omitted, and stereotyped by colonial mentality (Xie, 2000).The term "Asian American" was used after the Civil Rights movement by Asian Americans to claim a lawful right as representative citizens to reconstruct their own collective identities (Chae 2008). This collective identity of Asian American enhances misrepresentations of Korean culture as one of the Asian cultures. Korean-American culture in picture books is misrepresented through confusion with other Asian cultures, misunderstandings of Asian-Americans, and social mind-set of Korean-Americans. The study discusses the dominant social attitudes toward Korean-Americans as forever `new' foreigners because of the dominance of contemporary picture books which depict Korean-Americans only as recent immigrants. Ahmad (1996) states that postcolonial perspectives are often a polite way of saying "not-White" or Korean-Americans are "not-America-but-inside-America."A critical content analysis of 24 picture books published in the U.S. and 98 reviews of those books examines the representation and misrepresentation of Korean culture and Korean-American culture through the frame of critical discourse analysis and cultural studies. This study contributes to the previous studies of multicultural children's literature by differentiating from the collective approaches in which ethnic groups were grouped together in data collection and analysis.The findings of this study indicate that the "cultural diversity" celebbrated by U.S. multiculturalism has actually contributed to reinforcing the image of Korean-Americans as one of the Orientals by focusing too strongly on difference. The use of multicultural children's literature in classrooms needs to include a focus on difference as a tool used by readers to understand, not stereotype, a particular cultural group and should be combined with a focus on human connection and commonality.
Degree ProgramLanguage, Reading & Culture