Danielle Wong

Assistant Professor

Research Interests

Asian American studies
Asian migration studies
Historical and contemporary relationships between race, Empire, and new technologies
Asian North American new media productions and performances

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Graduate Student Supervision

Master's Student Supervision (2010 - 2021)
Visualizing self and surface: identifying Filipina and queer Filipinx self-formation in superhero komiks (2021)

The definition of and discourses surrounding Filipinx identity have been historically circumscribed by gendered and racial expectations. Such expectations have been essentialized through colonial and state narratives, as well as the more unintentional means of socially-driven standards that stem from the Philippines’ eras of occupation. Filipinas and queer Filipinxs have been particularly subject to stereotyping by colonial powers and the Philippine elite, which results in their continued relegation to certain stigmatized or limited roles. I look to Filipinx komiks to demonstrate that accounting for the construction of appearance, both in terms of self-representation and the representation of others, destabilizes the hegemonic notion of essential identities. Indeed, the interconnection of surface and self is purposefully overwritten in the colonial and hegemonic advancement of singularizing images of the Filipina and the queer Filipinx. This thesis aims to challenge the naturalization of identities that are assigned to Filipinas and queer Filipinxs by emphasizing modes and cultures of self-formation as they are represented in Mango Comics’ "Mars Ravelo’s Darna" and Carlo Vergara’s "Zsazsa Zaturnnah." The komiks’ superheroes, Darna and Zaturnnah, emphasize self-formation by visualizing the different configurations of gender, race, sexuality, and class that Filipinas and queer Filipinxs construct as surface appearances in order to navigate social hierarchies that seek to other them. I discuss how komiks can afford the unique representation of Filipina and queer Filipinx self-formations by examining sequentiality and the interplay of visual and narrative components—characteristics that distinguish komiks from other mediums, particularly in their ability to emphasize marginalized perspectives. I also discuss specific instances in which Darna and Zaturnnah represent self-formation. At the same time that they signal the historical and on-going systems that seek to delegitimize Filipina and queer Filipinx subjectivities, Darna and Zaturnnah push femme and queer transformations to the forefront and demonstrate the power and joy of performance. "Mars Ravelo’s Darna" and "Zsazsa Zaturnnah" at once name systems of social degradation and resist circumscription within them, through complex interconnections of form and representations of self-formation.

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