Part of the reason why I enjoy blogging for yomyomf.com is because you – the readers are not shy to express an opinion or share an insight. And, from the various comments that you have generously shared since our birth one of the terms that seems to pop up every so often is ‘Chinkology’.
Is this some new interdisciplinary major at UCLA? Maybe I’ve been living under rock this whole time or as a Gen-Xer exist now in a universe too distant from the millennial generation to find use for this term. So I Googled it and according to Urbandictionary.com – the Black’s Law of slang, the definition of chinkology is “a pseudo science based in ‘a study from somewhere’ or any other non-specific urban legend source used by ‘expert’ non-asians to explain the behavior of asian/asian americans with any stereotyped custom or habit they can imagine.” It seems that this definition of ‘Chinkology’ assumes two things – 1. that ‘Chinkology’ has little or no bearing on the truth and 2. that these myths and false presumptions about Asians are being used by non-Asians to support certain theories about the race/culture as a whole.
So, chinkology seems to be an “Asian American Studies for Dummies” riff on ‘Orientalism’ – a term invoking western interpretations of the East canonized by the Palestinian American scholar, Edward Said in his seminal book and postcolonial studies bible “Orientalism”. However, my curiosity with the term “Chinkology” isn’t about deciphering its etymological roots or debating the “authoritative” definition that should preside. As urban slang, these terms inevitably evolve and absorb new meanings and interpretations to serve different colloquial contexts and applications.
So what does ‘Chinkology’ mean to you? Is it really a new version of ‘Orientalism’ – i.e. bad, untrue things that non-Asians or (possibly self-denying Asians) pass on about Asians to degrade, disempower, etc.? Or can ‘Chinkology’ be used in a broader way? Could it be that it describes the concepts, ideas, myths, stereotypes and/or realities of “Asian-ness” disseminated and created by anyone – Asian or non-Asian”? Does it have to be a pejorative term or can it simply establish the idea that there are unifying qualities in the Asian experience and also, interpretations of that experience that can vary in degrees of truth depending on any number of contributing social, political, cultural, or personal factors.
Whether you’re talking about racial stereotyping or orientalism be it – the Far East or the Middle East, Islam or Buddhism or, debating authentic vs. non authentic examples of Asian American-ness – Frank Chin vs. Maxine Hong Kingston, Yang Can Cook on PBS vs. David Chang of Momofuku, Wayne Wang vs. John Woo, Tom Vu vs. Jerry Yang, ABC’s vs. FOB’s, Amy Chua vs. an Old School Chinese Mom, Disgrasians vs. Amazians etc. how would you define ‘Chinkology’?