when difference meets itself
In taking as my point of entry into this book’s consideration of Asian
American studies the tensions between ‘‘Filipino American’’ and ‘‘Asian
American,’’ I have tried to work with the ways that from that di√erence
arises the imperative to rethink the political. Those kinds of antagonisms
lead us to recognize anew the intractable diversities that ‘‘Asian American’’
attempts to render intelligible. From those di√erences, the necessity of
reinventing our grounds for unification comes into sharp relief. As I have
attempted to suggest through this book’s arguments, the political may be
seen to be animated by di√erence, not identity. Dissent, as di≈cult as it may
be to confront, facilitates critical unification. Thinking in these terms al-
lows us to take as motivating grounds for collaborative e√orts to detoxify
the relations of power that install di√erence as division, precisely our at-
tempts to understand the investments and e√ects of di√erentiation. We can
reinhabit and rearticulate di√erence not as the otherness constructed by
certain practices of power, including certain paradigms of knowledge, but
instead as the basis for unification. ‘‘Express solidarity, but as di√erence,’’
Gayatri Spivak has enjoined (1996, 25); indeed, how we might go about
doing so, and how the insights of literary texts and of poststructural the-
orizing might help us to do so, have served as driving forces for this book.
Thinking deconstructively, we can understand that identity is contingent
upon di√erence, that di√erence precedes and constitutes identity. By invert-
ing the identity/di√erence hierarchy, we can, I think, conduct the de-
stabilizing move of underscoring the fragile discursive stability of U.S.
national identity and remain critically attentive to the di√erence that is
‘‘Asian American.’’ To address, account for, and accommodate di√erence,
we must remember that there is no common subject of Asian American
studies; there are only infinite di√erences that we discursively cohere into
epistemological objects.
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