Tag Archives: colonialism

Response to The Scent of Green Papaya

Anh Hung Tran’s film, The Scent of Green Papaya, is full of slow continuous shots which move easily between indoor and outdoor settings. These shots serve to conflate the two settings, and reflect Mui’s ambivalent standing within the family. Mui is held both within the family and without, as the mother views her in her daughter’s place and the two sons strive to keep her out of the inner family. Although the movie is set at the end of French colonial power in Vietnam, and before full American involvement, very little mention is paid to these two outside powers, except that Mui’s place in the family may be read as a metaphor for the experience of a colonized people. In other words, just as Mui occupies an ill-defined, liminal space within the family, a colonized country occupies an ill-defined, liminal space in relation to itself. Such a country lay well outside the central power of the colonizers, and yet is unable to self-determine in such a way as to be a successful society. It is not until Mui escapes from the family she serves that she begins to occupy a self-determined space in the world, and even that space takes time for her to create.

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Response to Comfort Woman

Beyond the reading of colonial oppression (or subjugation) parallelism between Akiko’s marriage and the Japanese occupation of Korea in Nora Okja Keller’s Comfort Woman, resides the important parallel results of the same. The effects of the Japanese occupation from 1910 to 1945 (Mukherjee, 197) are mirrored in the experiences both Akiko and Beccah have in the United States. Keller’s representation of Akiko’s life in the “public restrooms” (108) (or comfort camps) helps to pull the stitches tight between these two images by presenting the reader with one character who experiences the results of both occupation and immigration. Keller reinforces the immigrant experience parallel through Akiko’s daughter, Beccah, who observes her mother’s unraveling. In addition to witnessing her mother’s “craziness,” Beccah manages to experience much of the immigrant condition despite living in Hawaii. If the reader were to understand Akiko and the other women and girls of the comfort camp as embodying the Korean nation, Beccah quite literally combines Korea and the U.S., resulting in a young woman who cannot quite locate her place of belonging. Although not as savagely abused as her mother, Beccah also experiences a dislocation, ironically only discovering place after Akiko dies.

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