ECAASU 2013 Summary!

Back from ECAASU 2013!

ECAASU 2013 - Powerpoint

View from the podium!

What a blast! My workshop, a moderated discussion titled “Kawaii Iconography: the racial dynamics of cuteness”, was completely full! I was so honored to meet such active and engaging participants. I even got to bring out my Rilakkuma plushie for everyone to see hahaha.

We covered a ton of great topics, but here were a few awesome points:

  • An overarching analysis of the kawaii character market: origins, meanings, and current manifestations. I got to introduce a lot of kawaii characters, highlighting my favorites, Rilakkuma and Sumikko Gurashi!
  • Compared kawaii characters to each other, with intersectional race/gender analysis. Basically: Rilakkuma versus Hello Kitty – how do they differ in representations of gender? For example, how does Rilakkuma represent masculinity (or does he?) versus how Hello Kitty represents femininity?
  • Contrasting these kawaii characters to characters originating from the US: Hello Kitty versus Barbie!
  • Investigating the toy market: whats the target demographic of kawaii merchandise? How does it compared to American cultural attitudes?

I was so inspired by the discussion, and I hope to be able to present again at ECAASU 2014!

Whew! So after a 2 week hiatus, I was welcomed back with a flurry of Rilakkuma news! Lots of great new collabs that I’ll post about soon!

Presenting at ECAASU 2013!

This is a pretty huge departure from the usual content of this blog, but whatever, it’s still Rilakkuma-related: I’m so excited to announce that I will be presenting a workshop for the ECAASU 2013 conference to be held next month at Columbia!

ECAASU 2013 - Rilakkuma

Rilakkuma with last year’s ECAASU conference materials.

ECAASU (East Coast Asian American Student Union) is a national, nonprofit intercollegiate Asian-Pacific American advocacy organization and is the largest and oldest conference in the country for Asian American students. The ECAASU conference invites college students from across the country to engage in debate and understanding about current, past, and future issues pertinent to Asian Americans.

At this year’s conference, I will actually be leading a Rilakkuma-related discussion! I’m holding a workshop titled Kawaii Iconography: the racial dynamics of cuteness.

For the workshop, I’ll be discussing the cute character market (San-X, Sanrio, etc.) as it relates to Asian-American identity and culture, as well as gender performance and masculinity/femininity. As someone who absolutely LOVES Rilakkuma, this subject is so important to me because I want to understand and discuss how popular icons (like Rilakkuma) reflect cultural attitudes and social dynamics.

The conference will be held at Columbia University in NYC from February 22-24. Registration is now open, and I highly encourage any university students interested in APIA activism to attend! For those who cannot attend, I will be doing a write-up anyway, so you won’t miss out on anything.

Yay, can’t wait!