A Haunting Controversy: Yamanaka's Fictionalized Melodramatic Ghost Figures [chapter]

Janna Odabas
2021 Narratives of Border Crossings  
The ghost is not simply a dead or a missing person, but a social figure, and investigating it can lead to that dense site where history and subjectivity make social life.' (Gordon 2004, p. 8) In her seminal Ghostly Matters, Avery Gordon manages to address many concerns relating to ghost figures: their relation to psychology and identity formation, their fictional and narratorial appeal, their relation to history, society, and culture, but also the ways in which the ghosts inherently trouble the
more » ... neat conceptualizations we try to put them into. In Cultural Haunting, Kathleen Brogan establishes the genre of 'stories of cultural haunting' as a pan-ethnic tradition. In her words, the ghosts in these stories "are agents of both cultural memory and cultural renewal: the shape-shifting ghost who transmits erased or threatened group memory represents the creative, on-going process of ethnic redefinition" (Brogan 1998, p. 12). In this conception, the ghost figures serve as connection points to a(n) (ethnic) past that is then re-worked into new conceptions for the future. Following Gordon and Brogan, thus, means to emphasize the importance of recognizing these figures for what they hint at. In Asian American Studies, the ghost figures have mostly been read as ethnic markers, similar to the way Brogan conceives of them. But these figures also challenge such neat classifications in their unruly comings and goings as they occupy the liminal spaces in-between. They serve as references to what is troublesome. This article, therefore, focuses on the ghost figures in Louis-Ann Yamanaka's Behold the Many (2006), allowing them to become haunting presences way beyond this one novel. While some fields belonging to Ethnic Studies have begun the urgently needed discussion about their complicity in essentializing categorizations and their political approach, the field of Asian American Studies seems to me to remain in a general resistance narrative to what is conceived as white America. Even though post-structuralist Asian American Studies scholars like Kandice Chuh are fairly popular at the moment, proposing an anti-essentialist 'subjectless discourse ' (2003, p. 9), foregrounding the discursive constructedness of subjectivity and thus allowing for diversity and
doi:10.5771/9783748924005-169 fatcat:3mcx5xz4znehlnal24akpuwgju