Jack Tchen, Anne Kim and Dylan Yeats
Yoshio Kishi and Daniel Inouye
Jody, Mark and Parker Hanson, John Wong
Larry Hama; Michael Stoller, Marvin Taylor and Mike Kelly of Fales Library & Special Collections, NYU Library; and the A/P/A Studies staff
Imagine a person tall, lean and feline, high shouldered with a brow like
Shakespeare and a face like Satan....
Invest him with all the cruel cunning of an
Eastern race accumulated in one giant intellect....
Arthur Henry Ward's novels about Dr. Fu Manchu dominated European and American perceptions of Asians in the 20th century. Fu's nemesis? Sir Nayland Smith of Scotland Yard! Smith fought this monster, from book to pulps to radio to film, protecting Western civilization from ever-impending heathen hordes. For over thirty years, Asian American collector Yoshio Kishi has relentlessly tracked this imagined "yellow peril" in Anglo-American print media, fiction and non-fiction, pamphlets and newsprint. Made public for the first time, we gain a rare glimpse into an extraordinary archive of books, movie posters, and paper ephemera documenting stereotypic representations of Asian peoples.
Kishi, lifelong New Yorker, also collected the early images, poetry, and books of Asian and Asian American creative writers and intellectuals. These pioneering works struggled against claustrophobic stereotypes and created far more truthful stories. The pioneers set the stage for young activists of the civil rights movements who fought for and built many creative, educational, and community organizations-including Asian American and Pacific Islander studies. Over ten thousand items, A/P/A Studies at NYU is raising funds to bring this collection to NYU to become the core of a major research archive open to all.
In 1784, the “Empress of China" left New York harbor and became the first ship of the new nation to barter for the desired luxury goods of largely unknown "Indies." U.S. merchants and missionaries weaned on Western notions of a fabled "exotic" East, encountered cultural and political differences with a mix of fascination and disgust. American "orientalism” was born.
From the beginning, cycles of envy, anxiety, and fear have been manipulated and projected onto "oriental" others. The Chinese Exclusion Act (1882-1943) and its legacy forbade "heathen" Chinese workers but still allowed "good" merchants, scholars and students to enter the U.S. Once Chinese were excluded, Japanese workers were recruited then despised. Later Filipino workers became the "Brown Peril," and South Asians the “Hindoo Invasion." To this day, this foundational political culture has influenced civil rights, immigration policies, U.S. citizenship, and justified systemic violence, wars of mass destruction, and invidious media representations.
Asian and Asian American actors, writers, artists, scientists, and intellectuals have countered stereotypes from within and without. The commercial culture has driven decisions about who gets cast and published. Rarely achieving mainstream recognition, these unheralded pioneers have been documenting, creating, and making important breakthroughs at all times.
With the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s-60s, Asian Americans aggressively critiqued and challenged exclusion and marginalization. In New York, a box of graphics and poetry called "Yellow Pearl" (1972) sparked a movement of activists. Writers, artists, actors, and students started community-based organizations and created a renaissance of new work.
Yoshio Kishi, a film editor at this time, collected the flyers, images, sounds, and early publications of this movement. This new work challenged and opened what it means to be an American.
With Asian New Yorkers comprising over one tenth of the population, the explosion of community organizations, and an unprecedented mix of creative, smart talent, we are in the midst of an Asian American cultural renaissance.
The Yoshio Kishi & Irene Yah Ling Sun Collection is central to this work. A/P/A Studies is in the process of bringing this collection to NYU. This treasure trove will prove invaluable for countless books, documentary films, and other media projects. The Research Archives will be open to NYU students, faculty and staff as well as other scholars, researchers and the public at the Fales Library & Special Collections, the Tamiment Library, and the A/P/A Studies Institute at NYU. In addition, the A/P/A Studies Institute is currently developing an online archive that will make certain materials available on the web.
Individuals, organizations, institutions, and corporations are invited to contribute to the development of the premiere East Coast research archives of Asian Americana. Donations will support archive acquisition, preservation and documentation, which benefit multiple communities who for the first time will have access to this material. The Yoshio Kishi & Irene Yah Ling Sun Collection is a resource to help us understand where we've been. It is a reference point for how far we have to go. Help us build the collection! Help us build a renaissance!
CLICK HERE learn how you can support A/P/A Studies.