Fearing the Unfamiliar: A History of Asian Demonization


Racism is as essential to Anglo America as a hair shirt to a would-be penitent: an ugly goad to proscribing the alien other while simultaneously prescribing equal rights and assimilation. Who isn’t familiar with the noxious vocabulary that ceaselessly describes the threat of color to the virtues of an upright (if not uptight) god-fearing majority? “Archivist of the Yellow Peril” provides compelling artifacts of the ways in which Asians have been demonized and that easily link up to today’s derogation of the Muslim and the Arab. Culled from the 8,000-plus collection of Yoshio Kishi, a noted film editor, “Yellow Peril,” with its focus on East Asians in the U.S., reveals how Orient and Occident meet up in countless ways. From Charlie Chan comics to Fu Manchu pulp novels; World War II anti-Japanese posters to first editions of Asian American literary works; Anna May Wong movie posters to ’60s activist songs and magazines, here is an unrivaled boon to not just Asian Americans but anyone interested in the interaction of popular culture and individual memory and the resulting residue of history. The exhibition opens on Thursday, and on February 17 from 6 to 8 p.m. there will be a gallery talk between Kishi and A/P/A director John Kuo Wei Tchen. RSVP required, 212.992.9653.