Past Event

The Exotic and Mysterious Other

This event is free and by invitation only.

Co-sponsored by the Chicago Cultural Center, Applied Research Center, the Asian American Leadership Council of the Chicago Foundation for Women, the Asian American Artists Collective, and the Center for Asian Arts and Media at Columbia College.

Please join us for an in-depth exploration of the complex, personal, and political topic of interracial dating. The event promises to be an engaging evening of intellectualstimulation mixed with delectable food, drink, and empowerment. Guest speakers will include Rinku Sen and Mae Ngai. There will also be a short performance by Rupal Soni and Vincent Pham and a short film by Kip Fulbeck.

Love may be blind, but can it be color-blind? The romantic vision of the Middle East and Asia held by the West has been defined by the activist and intellectual Edward Said as a mixture of racist assumptions, intertwined with and underpinned by colonialist desire to conquer the so-called “Other.” The exotification of the mysterious Asia was a preface to conquering and dominating Eastern civilizations by the West.

Today in the U.S., statistics show that the largest group of interracial couples consists of white men and Asian women. Do representations of the East in popular culture and in the contemporary consciousness shape western male desire and inform our ideas of romance? If so, how?

How are the historical and political reconciled within intimate relationships? How do we challenge exotification, ensure equity, and simultaneously demand legitimacy for interracial relationships?

More about our presenters…

Some Questions for 28 Kisses , a short film by Kip Fulbeck, force-feeds the viewer scores of all-too-familiar Asian female/Caucasian male pairings in Hollywood films, and combines them with contemporary excerpts from best-selling novels, magazines, and dating services. Some Questions For 28 Kisses delves into the causes and purposes of these created images and their relation to interracial dating, ethnic fetishes, race and gender wars, and identity.

Leads the viewer on a delightfully rip-roaring jaunt through the Asian Pacific American psyche.” –Gerard Lim, Asian Week

Rinku Sen is the President and Executive Director of the Applied Research Center (ARC) and Publisher of ColorLines magazine. She started her organizing career as a student activist at Brown University, fighting race, gender and class discrimination on campuses. She received a B.A. in Women’s Studies from Brown University in 1988 and an M.A. in Journalism at Columbia University. She has written extensively about immigration, community organizing and women’s lives for a wide variety of publications including Third Force, AlterNet,, Race, Poverty & the Environment, Amerasia Journal and Colorlines. She edited We are the Ones We Are Waiting For: Women of Color Organizing for Transformation published by the Urban Rural Missions of the World Council of Churches in 1995. She was the principal investigator on research projects for the Ford and Ms foundations. Her latest book, Stir It Up: Lessons in Community Organizing, was released in the fall of 2003.

From 1988-2000 she was on the staff of the Center for Third World Organizing (CTWO), a national network of organizations of color. As a staff member, then Co-Director of CTWO, she trained new organizers of color and crafted public policy campaigns around poverty, education, racial and gender equity, health care and immigration issues. She is a board member of the Center for Third World Organizing, the Schott Foundation for Public Education and the advisory board of the Philanthropic Initiative for Racial Equity. She is formerly a member of the board of Independent Press Association and the Tides Center. She was recognized by Ms. Magazine as one of 21 feminists to watch in the 21st century in 1996, the same year that she received the Ms. Foundation for Women’s Gloria Steinem Women of Vision award. She was a Gerbode Fellow in 1999 and was selected as a 2004 Charles H. Revson Fellow on the Future of the City of New York.

Mae Ngai is an Associate Professor of History at Columbia University, New York. Her research and teaching focus on twentieth century U.S. history, with emphasis on immigration and ethnicity (Asian American and comparative), politics and law, and labor. She is active in the University’s Center for Human Rights and the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture. Her book, Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America, won the 2005 Frederick Jackson Turner Prize from the Organization of American Historians, the 2004 Littleton-Griswold Prize from the American Historical Association, and the 2004 Theodore Salutous Book Prize from the Immigration and Ethnic History Society. Professor Ngai’s current project, tentatively titled Lost in Translation: A Chinese American Family of the Interpreter Class, 1870-1970, proposes to use the genre of biography to examine questions of social organization, civil rights and assimilated subjecthood, and the role of Chinese interpreters in the U.S. Immigration Service.

Rupal Soni and Vincent Pham write and perform sketch comedy to build awareness and inspire necessary discussion. They are a part of the Asian American Artists’ Collective and have performed for benefit shows for CAAELI (the Coalition of African, Asian, European, and Latino Immigrants), the Chinese Mutual Aid Association, the Foundation for Asian American Independent Media’s Film Festival, and for YAWP! (Young Asians with Power!).

More about our Co-Sponsors…

Applied Research Center (ARC) conducts research across the United States about racial equity in a variety of policy arenas, and works closely with grassroots organizations to implement policy recommendations. The Transnational Racial Justice Initiative was designed to support U.S. anti-racist activists in engaging with the World Conference Against Racism, and in raising awareness about U.S. racial justice issues in relation to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

The Center for Asian Arts and Media is a multidisciplinary arts center dedicated to supporting, promoting, and presenting arts and media programs by and about Asians and Asian Americans. The Center brings together accomplished artists, scholars, and community builders from Chicago, the United States, and abroad for lively and reflective artistic programs and events. As the first Asian arts center founded by a college or university in the Midwest, the Center for Asian Arts and Media places Columbia College Chicago at the forefront of the heightened awareness of Asian and Asian American culture.

Asian American Leadership Council of the Chicago Foundation for Women (CFW) provides a rich understanding of various Asian cultures, and is a leading partner for collaborations with businesses and organizations serving Asian Americans. Women of Asian American descent promote interests related to women and girls within their community through this Council and have established the Silk Fund in support of this goal. One of the largest women’s funds in the world, CFW believes that all women and girls in the Chicago metropolitan area have the opportunity to achieve their potential and to live in safe, just, and healthy communities.

Asian American Artists Collective (AAAC) was founded in 2001 by Asian Pacific Islander American (APIA) artists from the Chicagoland area. The AAAC, committed to creating intersections between art, audience, and activism, is a collaborative network of diverse Asian American voices dedicated to artistic development, support, and empowerment. Through the arts, AAAC works to confront, subvert, and disrupt stereotypes, discrimination, prejudice, and oppression from the outside and inside of our communities.

Free. By invitation only.

Dinner will be served.

For more information or to receive an invitation, call 312.422.5580.