Dr. Esther Kim Lee Discusses "Yellowface" at Fall Colloquium

Drs. Lee & Duara

On September 13th, at the first installment of the Fall 2023 History Colloquium series, theater historian Dr. Esther Kim Lee discussed her book, Made-Up Asians: Yellowface During the Exclusion Era, the first comprehensive look at yellowface, or white actors portraying Asian characters, in American cinema. Dr. Lee presented a brief introductory slideshow, showing archival images she'd encountered, followed by a discussion of the work. Topics ranged from the globalized nature of racial performance, why there are no A-list Asian-American actors, the history of eyelid surgeries and cosmetics, and more.

Made-Up Asians: Yellowface During the Exclusion Era (University of Michigan Press, 2022) received the John W. Frick Book Award from the American Theatre and Drama Society.

Dr. Esther Kim Lee is Frances Hill Fox Professor of Theater StudiesInternational Comparative Studies, and History and the Director of Asian American & Diaspora Studies at Duke University, where she teaches and writes about theatre history, Asian American theatre, Korean diaspora theatre, and globalization and theatre. She has authored two other monographs: A History of Asian American Theatre (2006), which received the Outstanding Book Award from the Association for Theatre in Higher Education; and The Theatre of David Henry Hwang (2015). She edited Seven Contemporary Plays from the Korean Diaspora in the Americas (2012) and the four-volume collection, Modern and Contemporary World Drama: Critical and Primary Sources (2022), which challenges the prevailing Eurocentric reading of modern drama. More at estherkimlee.com.