This essay deals with representations of a global, mobile Asian capitalist class as a particularly twenty-first-century incarnation of Model Minority discourse to ask what historical and epistemological erasures are required for this particular version of Model Minority discourse to exist. It does so through what may seem to be an unusual set of objects: the Crazy Rich Asians trilogy of books. The popular, middle-brow appeal of Crazy Rich Asians (2013) and its successor volumes China Rich Girlfriend (2015) and Rich People Problems (2017) acts as register of the many contradictions inherent in the emerging transnational class of elite Asians whose wealth and cosmopolitanism allow them to disregard the usual limitations of national boundaries and local mores. These novels demonstrate that representations of this social stratum, even when they are depicted as defined by the massive wealth generated through speculative capital and the ridiculous levels of consumption that attend such wealth, cannot but reference colonial and racialized pasts. In addition, if the narrative structure of the Model Minority cannot fully elide the past, neither can the developmental and progressive form of the novel, the structure of heteronormative romance, and the security of inheritance and lineage withstand the ideological and epistemological demands of this post–World War II shift into multiple forms of value.
Speculative Surplus: Asian American Racialization and the Neoliberal Shift
Grace Kyungwon Hong is professor in the Department of Asian American Studies and the Department of Gender Studies at UCLA, where she teaches courses on women of color feminism, feminist knowledge production, and Asian American culture. She is the author of Death beyond Disavowal: The Impossible Politics of Difference (2015) and The Ruptures of American Capital: Women of Color Feminism and the Culture of Immigrant Labor (2006) and the coeditor (with Roderick A. Ferguson) of Strange Affinities: The Gender and Sexual Politics of Comparative Racialization (2011).