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Hybridize the Dragon: Bruce Lee and the Reconstruction of Asia
[Brown Bag Series] This talk will be presented by Daryl Joji Maeda, Associate Professor, Department of Ethnic Studies.
Bruce Lee is best known as a Chinese martial artist who vaulted across the Pacific to become a global superstar in the 1970s. However, this perspective reinstantiates problematically rigid notions of East and West and valorizes cultural purity. In contrast, this paper examines Lee as a transnational figure thoroughly enmeshed in trans-Pacific flows of people and culture dating back to the nineteenth century and accelerating in the twentieth century. It reconsiders Lee’s martial arts in terms of hybridity and travel, especially in the context of the Cold War. Furthermore, it explores how Lee’s personal life, including his interracial marriage and children, reconfigured popular notions of the Orient even before the repeal of anti-miscegenation laws in the U.S. and Nixon’s visit to China. For four decades, Bruce Lee has offered one of the most popular glimpses of Asia to American audiences and it is time for scholars to properly narrate his story as one of hybridity, intermixture, and crossings.
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