Disrupting Nostalgic Scenes of Whiteness: Asian Immigrant Bridal Shops and Racial Visibility in the Ethnoburb

By Nhi Lieu.

Published by Spaces and Flows: An International Journal of Urban and ExtraUrban Studies

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

In 1994, upon his bid for a seat on the City Council, Joe Walker distributed flyers calling the citizens of Temple City to: “Stop Bridal Shops. Investigate these businesses that are plaguing our city.” The bridal shops to which Walker referred belonged to Asian immigrants who informally set up businesses in a suburban area east of Los Angeles to provide products and services to ethnic and diasporic (East and Southeast) Asian brides from all over Southern California. Created to meet the needs of couples wishing to incorporate “culture” in their weddings, the shops that line Temple City’s main street offer services ranging from photography, bridal attire rentals, and hair and make-up style transformations. The transnational bridal industry that emerged in the early 1990s when exchange between Asia and the U.S. intensified with the booming “tiger” economies contributed to regional global restructuring, but also fomented tensions in local spaces whereby the burgeoning Asian population was perceived to be threatening the landscape. This paper deconstructs the meanings of gender and class behind the circuits of representations as well as the racial discourses surrounding the re-ordering of social, economic, and political arrangements initiated by migration from Asia.

Keywords: Racial and Ethnic Separation and Integration, Migration and Cultural Flows, Transnational and Diasporic U.S.-Asia Relations, Global/Local Restructuring, Circuits of Visual Representation

Spaces and Flows: An International Journal of Urban and ExtraUrban Studies, Volume 3, Issue 2, pp.1-13. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 649.085KB).

Dr. Nhi Lieu

Assistant Professor, American Studies,, Asian American Studies, Women's and Gender Studies, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas, USA

Nhi T. Lieu is assistant professor of American Studies, Asian American Studies, and Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. She is author of The American Dream in Vietnamese (University of Minnesota Press, 2011). Her other published works have appeared in Frontiers: Journal of Women Studies and Alien Encounters: Popular Culture in Asian America. Her new book project tentatively titled, Beautiful Citizenship: Transnational Asian/American Embodied Practices in the Age of Neoliberal Capitalism, explores how the strategies of consumption in private and personal choices in fashion and beauty reconstitutes cultural and racial identities while transforming meanings of citizenship through embodied practices.