International Journal of Language & Linguistics

ISSN 2374-8850 (Print), 2374-8869 (Online) DOI: 10.30845/ijll

Identity Fetishism and Cultural Essentialism in Eric Liu’s the Accidental Asian
Triet, Nguyen Minh (Tony)

Eric Liu’s The Accidental Asian discreetly exposed a part of Asian American’s life and its associated issues in racial discrimination. Liu remarkably explored minorities’ identity construction in American society in terms of identity fetishism and cultural essentialism. In a multiracial country like the USA, identity often makes non-native Americans toss and turn when they struggle to be recognized by the mainstream whites. Since America is basically a capitalistic country, one of the main philosophic issues underlying the construction of identity is fetishism. For people, especially the minorities in American society, practicing identity fetishism thus becomes indispensable when one tries to attain a desirable social status with an identity. While multiethnic and multicultural traits are emphasized, Americans, out of cultural anxiety, inevitably turn to cultural essentialism when it comes to the definition of American identity. The domination of identity fetishism exists in almost every aspect of American life, including furniture, food, clothes, etc., which an assimilist has to take into consideration in his identity construction. If one does not follow the rule of identity fetishism subconsciously rooted in American psyche, he will suffer being alienated from the mainstream society. In that case a conflict springs up between the pursuit of white identity and the preservation of one's original cultural traditions. Sometimes, the conflict troubles the individual's decisions for integration and or assimilation. In this research, identity fetishism refers to the identification of the “right” social group or culture and its empowerment supposedly offers a guarantee of prosperity for all. Just as the fetishism of commodities creates an illusion of objectivity and commensurability of relations between things despite of their fundamentally social origin and character, identity fetishism assumes an identity of identities, conceived culture or race as the natural, essential properties of groups. In addition, in this study, cultural essentialism refers to a system of belief grounded in a conception of human beings as cultural subjects. Most people bear © In The Accidental Asian, Liu constantly places a stress on the Chineseness and his ancestral cultural background of his Chinese wholehearted grandma and self-disciplined father, while emphasizing his differences from them, especially the identity. This paper intends to discuss Liu's identity construction in terms of identity fetishism and cultural essentialism.

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