All in the family? Asian American designers and the boundaries of creative labor

Thuy Linh Nguyen Tu

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


    This article examines the ways Asian American designers imagine their relationship to Asian garment workers and considers the discursive and performative acts that have enabled them to transform obligatory encounters within the marketplace into voluntary relationships that exceed the realm of economic exchange. These include most prominently a performance of kinship that rewrites Asian sewers and contractors into "uncles" and "aunties" who "help out" Asian American designers because they are "their girls." I argue that these exchanges constitute a form of gift-giving that created social bonds and obligations whose functions, while utilitarian, were never purely rational or solely economic. I demonstrate how the performance of the family generated a sense of familiarity and intimacy - between differently located workers and between their different forms of labor - that allowed these constituencies to activate "ethnicity" and "community" across a range of differences.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)279-301
    Number of pages23
    JournalAmerican Quarterly
    Issue number2
    StatePublished - Jun 2010

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Cultural Studies
    • History


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