BiographyAlexa Alice Joubin teaches in the English department, and co-founded the GW Digital Humanities Institute and directs the Dean's Scholars in Shakespeare (a signature program of GW’s Columbian College of Arts and Sciences) at George Washington University. At MIT, she is co-founder and co-director of the open access Global Shakespeares digital performance archive (http://globalshakespeares.org).
Her teaching and publications are unified by a commitment to understanding the mobility of early modern and postmodern cultures in their literary, performative, and digital forms of expression. Her research has been funded by the Fulbright, National Endowment for the Humanities, American Council of Learned Societies, Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation, International Shakespeare Association, Folger Institute, and other agencies.
Her latest books include Race (co-authored; Routledge New Critical Idiom series), Local and Global Myths in Shakespearean Performance (co-edited; Palgrave), and Shakespeare and the Ethics of Appropriation (co-edited; Palgrave). She is co-general editor of The Shakespearean International Yearbook, and has guest-edited special issues of the journals Shakespeare: Journal of the British Shakespeare Association, Asian Theatre Journal, and Borrowers and Lenders: The Journal of Shakespeare and Appropriation. She received the MLA’s Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize, an honorable mention of NYU’s Joe A. Callaway Prize for the Best Book on Drama or Theatre, and the International Convention of Asian Scholars (ICAS) Colleagues’ Choice Award.
She chaired the MLA committee on the New Variorum Edition of Shakespeare and edits the Palgrave-Macmillan book series on “Global Shakespeares”. She has taught at Lincoln College, Oxford, as an early modern studies faculty of the Middlebury College Bread Loaf School of English (a summer graduate program) and in South Korea as distinguished visiting professor at Seoul National University.
In her outreach work, Alexa has testified before congress in a congressional briefing on the humanities and globalization, and been interviewed by BBC 4 (TV), BBC Radio (in DC, London and Edinburgh), The Economist, Voice of America, Foreign Policy, Index on Censorship, Hay Festival, Edinburgh Festival, and various outlets and podcasts by Oxford University Press, Folger Shakespeare Library, and other journals, news media, and publishers in the U.S., China, Japan, Korea, and Brazil.
At Middlebury College Alexa holds the John M. Kirk, Jr. Chair in Medieval and Renaissance Literature at the Bread Loaf School of English.
Areas of Research / Professional Expertise
Shakespeare, digital humanities, film studies, race and gender, globalization, Asian-European cultural exchange, literary theory, early modern and postmodern literary and performance cultures, translation theories, intercultural theatre Sinphone and Chinese theatre and film
Traveling, cooking, yoga, taking care of her dog
"Screening Social Justice: Performing Reparative Shakespeare against Vocal Disability." Adaptation: The Journal of Literature on Screen Studies, October 2020: 1-19
Published: Oct 12, 2020 by Adaptation: The Journal of Literature on Screen Studies
Authors: Alexa Alice Joubin
Subjects: Literature, Film and Video, Theater
Many screen and stage adaptations of the classics are informed by a philosophical investment in literature's reparative merit, a preconceived notion that performing the canon can make one a better person. Inspirational narratives, in particular, have instrumentalized the canon to serve socially reparative purposes. Social recuperation of disabled figures loom large in adaptation, and many reparative adaptations tap into a curative quality of Shakespearean texts.
"Global Studies." The Arden Research Handbook of Contemporary Shakespeare Criticism, ed. Evelyn Gajowski (London: Bloomsbury, 2021), pp. 247-261
Published: Oct 01, 2020 by The Arden Research Handbook of Contemporary Shakespeare Criticism
Authors: Alexa Alice Joubin
Subjects: Literature, Gender & Sexuality, Film and Video
Global studies enable us to examine deceivingly harmonious images of Shakespeare. This chapter focuses on the modern period and introduces readers to a number of key concepts in Shakespeare and global studies, namely censorship and redaction, genre, gender, race, and politics of reception.
Published: Jan 27, 2020 by The Routledge Handbook of Shakespeare and Global Appropriation
Authors: Alexa Alice Joubin
Subjects: Literature, Gender & Sexuality
Bringing the concept of performance as citation and the ethics of citation together, this chapter argues that acts of appropriation carry with them strong ethical implications.
Published: Jan 01, 2020 by A Companion to the Biopic, ed. Deborah Cartmell and Ashley D. Polasek (Wiley-Blackwell, 2020), 269-282
Authors: Alexa Alice Joubin
Subjects: Literature, Film and Video, Social Psychology
The adaptations of King George VI's and Stephen Hawking's life stories show their uneasy relationship to the "troubled-white-male-genius" genre and to the vocal embodiment of their subjects who lose and gain a voice through therapy, technology, and their will to live a full life.
Published: Mar 11, 2017 by The Shakespearean World, ed. Jill L. Levenson and Robert Ormsby
Authors: Alexa Alice Joubin
Subjects: Literature, Film and Video, Gender & Intersectionality Studies
Shakespearean tragedies and comedies have been adapted to the silver screen in India, Malaysia, Tibet, Hong Kong, Singapore, China, and Japan. How are pre-linguistic structures of spectacle and music appropriated along with dramatic narratives in Shakespeare and the new screenplay? This chapter introduces readers to the rich contexts and visual texts of Asian film adaptations of Shakespeare through a thematic account and case studies of select films.
By: Alexa Alice Joubin
Subjects: Applied Arts & Music, Asian Studies, Film and Video, Literature, Theater, Theatre & Performance Studies
How did Kurosawa influence George Lucas' Star Wars? Why do critics repeatedly use the adjective Shakespearean to describe Bong Joon-ho's Parasite (2019)? How do East Asian cinema and theatre portray vocal disability and transgender figures?
The George Washington University Elliott School of International Affairs Book Launch Series, National Resource Center, Institute for Korean Studies and Sigur Center for Asian Studies are proud to present a lecture by Dr. Alexa Alice Joubin on her latest book, Shakespeare and East Asia (Oxford University Press).
Shakespeare and East Asia identifies four themes that distinguish post-1950s East Asian cinemas and theatres from works in other parts of the world: Japanese formalistic innovations in sound and spectacle; reparative adaptations from China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong; the politics of gender and reception of films and touring productions in South Korea and the UK; and multilingual, diaspora works in Singapore and the UK. These adaptations are reshaping debates about the relationship between East Asia and Europe, and this book reveals deep connections among Asian and Anglophone performances.
By: Alexa Alice Joubin
Subjects: Applied Arts & Music, Film and Video, Gender & Intersectionality Studies, Gender & Sexuality, Literature, Other, Psychology, Sociology & Social Policy, Sociology, Criminology and Criminal Justice, Sports and Leisure
Alexa Alice Joubin’s new book offers a global and historic understanding of the term race.
Race is not just skin color but is actually a collection of other elements, such as language, access to resources and life experiences, that come together to form what people think of as race, said Alexa Alice Joubin, a professor of English and women’s, gender and sexuality studies at the George Washington University.
“Race is a red herring—a signifier that accumulates meaning by a chain of deferral to other categories of difference such as gender and class,” said Dr. Joubin, who is also a professor of East Asian languages and literature and international affairs.
“Race, like many identity markers, is social shorthand for talking about differences.” She said while discussions about race often overlook discussions about other types of differences, race remains interconnected with these other categories of difference, especially gender.
“Racial difference is often imagined as an inversion of what are perceived to be gender norms,” she said. She said racialized myths about Asian women provide a partial explanation of the “baffling phenomenon of white supremacists in the United States exclusively dating Asian women.” Despite the country’s codified attempts to discriminate against East Asian immigrants in the 20th century, she noted that contemporary “self-proclaimed white supremacists” such as Richard B. Spencer, Mike Cernovich, John Derbyshire and Kyle Chapman all have a partner of Asian descent. “The exceptionalism that white nationalists have granted to Asian-Americans falls neatly along a gendered fault line,” Dr. Joubin said. “Racially inflected misogyny informs the alt-right’s imagination of Asian women as subservient and hypersexual individuals who are naturally inclined to serve men.”
Dr. Joubin shared her ideas at a discussion of her latest book, “Race,” at the Elliott School of International Affairs on Tuesday. The discussion was part of the Elliott School Book Launch Series, which highlights publications of Elliott School faculty, as well GW’s MLK Jr. Week celebration.
The book, which she co-authored with post-colonial theorist Martin Orkin, addresses a variety of topics related to race such as the intersections of race and gender; race and social theory; identity, ethnicity and migration; the concept of whiteness; the legislative markings of difference; blackness in a global context; race in the history of science; and critical race theory. It is part of the publisher’s “New Critical Idiom” series, which emphasizes clarity, lively debate and original and distinctive studies of important topics by leading scholars.
In the book Dr. Joubin and Dr. Orkin argued that the concept of race is entangled with empirical knowledge, misinformation and ideology that seek to justify and sustain particular beliefs and is often articulated in the form of stereotypes that condense perceived behavioral patterns with biological features. Race becomes notable when groups have come into contact with other groups. This makes racialized thinking an unavoidable part of the human experience, Dr. Joubin said. “We cannot avoid categorizing things because that is how knowledge forms,” she said. “Humans come to know the world through various categories that organize their experience into knowable fragments. When confronted with the unknown, many societies tend to transfer observations of unfamiliar phenomena onto their mental map of things they already know. As a result, we tend to privilege our own cultural locations.”
The book offers global examples of how the term race gains meaning and is shaped in communities around the world that range from the differences in racial data collection practices in the United States as opposed to France to the behaviors of soccer fans in England. “We study race historically not only to find roots of modern racism, but also to discover other views that may have been obscured by more dominant ideologies such as colonialism,” Dr. Joubin said. “Reading histories of race may be a passive act, but if it leads to recognition of one’s self in others, then our job is done.”
By: Alexa Alice Joubin
Subjects: Applied Arts & Music, Film and Video, Gender & Intersectionality Studies, Literature, Theater, Theatre & Performance Studies
Alexa Alice Joubin has published a new book, Race, with postcolonial theorist Martin Orkin. The book is part of Routledge’s New Critical Idiom series. The series emphasizes clarity, lively debate, and original and distinctive studies of important topics by leading scholars.
Raceoffers a compelling study of ideas related to race throughout history. Its breadth of coverage, both geographically and temporally, provides readers with an expansive, global understanding of the term from the classical period onwards:
- Intersections of Race and Gender
- Race and Social Theory Identity
- Ethnicity, and Immigration
- Legislative and Judicial Markings of Difference
- Race in South Africa, Israel, East Asia, Asian America
- Blackness in a Global Context
- Race in the History of Science
- Critical Race Theory
When confronted with the unknown, many societies tend to transfer observations of unfamiliar phenomena onto their mental map of what is already known. Race as a category is entangled with empirical knowledge, misinformation, and ideology, all of which seek to justify and sustain particular beliefs. Knowledge about otherness is socially constructed. Knowledge of race results from taxonomical observations made for colonial, medical, bureaucratic, or other purposes such as political movements.This knowledge is often articulated in the form of inaccurate stereotypes deriving from perceived behavioral patterns, political shorthand that condenses biological features such as skin color and other bodily characteristics, racialized cultural artifacts such as hip-hop or chopsticks that are associated with particular groups or cultures, and check boxes on government forms that require information that encode racial characteristics.
As is often the case, without contact with or the threat from other groups, there is generally no perceived need for self-definition. Is one born black, or does one become black? European observers associated red with American Indians’ skin color because of their war paint and because of the sun-screening substance they used to anoint themselves. American Indians became red when the need for distinction between the European settlers and the natives arose. In pre-modern China, peoples of many ethnicities and cultural origins “became” black in the Chinese consciousness. Increased cross-cultural contacts seemed to have only broadened the idea of blackness. Numerous peoples were given the label “black.” Initially the Nam-Viet peoples and Malayans, China’s Southeast Asian neighbors, were designated black in the Tang dynasty, but with China’s increased encounters with slaves from Africa (modern-day Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania) from the seventh to the seventeenth centuries, the “blacks” in Chinese consciousness expanded to include peoples from various parts of the world, including Bengali peoples of the Indian subcontinent, who were deemed different from the local population.
Epistemologies of race signify relationally, which means a group that suffers from discrimination can themselves discriminate against other groups based on any combination of the factors of race, class, gender, religion, and politics. Along similar lines, there is the phenomenon of what is sometimes called internal racism, or intra-group hatred, where a community has internalized its former colonizer’s outlook. In politically post-colonial but culturally colonial societies such as Singapore, where the state apparatus openly uses race as a category in its promotion of institutionalized multiculturalism, whites are typically placed above the local race in the social hierarchy while darker-skinned migrant workers are placed below.
As fundamentally personal forms of self-expression, arts and literature are a fertile area to explore the expressions of racialized experience.
Race and gender are interconnected categories. Similar to other categories of identity, racial difference is often imagined as an inversion of what are perceived to be gender norms. Ania Loomba points out that “patriarchal domination … provided a model for establishing racial hierarchies and colonial domination,” as evidenced in a number of once prevalent beliefs, such as the ideas that Jewish men menstruate, Egyptian women urinate standing up, and Muslim men engage in sodomy. In terms of the “yellow peril,” which we discussed earlier, the concept has intersected, in twentieth century United States with gender stereotypes: yellow fever. For example, punning on the disease of the same name, David Henry Hwang uses yellow fever in his play M. Butterfly(1988) to describe white men with a sexual fetish for East Asian women who are imagined to be subservient, dainty, and more feminine than their Western counterparts. In contemporary American media and popular discourse on dating, the term is used to identify and sometimes to critique the social phenomenon of white men exclusively preferring East Asian women.
The intersectionality of race, gender, and nation is articulated in the context of colonial India by E.M. Forster in his novel A Passage to India. Drawing on the author’s own trips to colonial India in 1912 and 1921, the novel offers both a critique and inadvertent affirmation of racial stereotypes of both Indians and the British colonizers. Even as Forster attempts to unravel the stereotypes of the “Orientals,” his novel is marked by broad generalizations about British and Indian sexuality and by its implicit acceptance of an Anglo-European epistemology of race.
The examples above demonstrate a long history of institutionalized racialization of strangers, strangers considered necessary as political and cultural supports, or those who seek shelter or hospitality. The relationship between race and hospitality has been taken up by French philosopher Jacques Derrida in the following question: “Isn’t the question of the foreigner [l’étranger] a foreigner’s question?” he asks. It is a question that is a challenge from “the foreigner, from abroad [l’étranger].” In their book Of Hospitality, Derrida’s co-writer, Anne Douformantelle argues that “the question of the foreigner is a question asked [about] the foreigner, the one who brings [my] identity into question.” For Derrida, the mere presence of the other puts into question our own identity, and since genuine hospitality operates as a gift whose very nature is that it is only possible on condition of the impossibility of reciprocity. The idea of hospitality and accommodation in the context of race theory refers to a sense of belonging, a mode of belonging that enables “cultural, linguistic, or historical participation” in a community, as Derrida writes in Monolingualism of the Other.
While one’s native language, like one’s skin color, has often been assumed to be one’s inborn features and even birth right, Derrida demonstrates that linguistic purity, and by extension racial purity, is a fiction, for “every culture institutes itself through the unilateral imposition of some politics of language.” We master our native language, or any language and culture, “through the power of naming, of imposing and legitimating appellations.” Here Derrida registers the challenge of the intersection of the discourses of race, prescriptive markings, and the concept of hospitality. Drawing on his own experience as a Maghreb-Algerian and a naturalized citizen of France, Derrida reminisces that “never was I able to call French ‘my mother tongue.’” While French is supposed to be his “maternal” language, its “source, norms, rules and law were situated elsewhere.”
In the context of asking for hospitality and for accommodation from their newly found local communities, diasporic and intercultural subjects face a dilemma, because they are caught between pursuing authenticity and “selling out.” A recent example of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s (RSC) English-language productions of two plays, one Chinese and the other Shakespearean, have reignited debates about cultural authenticity. The first is Gregory Doran’s adaptation of Orphan of Zhao with an almost exclusively white cast of 17. British actors of East Asian heritage have spoken out against the practice of what Doran calls “non-culturally specific casting,” or colorblind casting. The politics of recognition can be a double-edged sword. One the one hand, intercultural theatre is an important testing ground for ethnic equality and raises equal employment opportunity questions in the UK. On the other hand, we might pose the following question: can an all-white cast not do justice to the Orphan of Zhao just as a performance of Richard III by an all-Chinese cast performed at the London Globe and in Beijing cannot? We may go on to ask: why would an English adaptation of a Chinese play have to be performed by authentic-looking East Asian actors?
Another production that poses relevant questions is Iqbal Khan’s Much Ado About Nothing that was set in contemporary Delhi and staged at the Courtyard Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon in August, 2012. In her essay in the RSC program, Jyotsna Singh reminds the audience that “the romantic, sexual and emotional configurations underpinning the centrality of marriage in Shakespeare’s romantic comedies” are elements that “richly resonate within the Indian social and cultural milieu.”71Clare Brennan, writing for the Guardian, believed that the transposition of Messina to contemporary Delhi worked well, because it “plays to possible audience preconceptions about the communality and hierarchical structuring of life in India that map effectively onto similar structuring in Elizabethan England.” Performed by a cast of second generation British Indian actors to Bollywood-inspired music as part of the World Shakespeare Festival (WSF), the “postcolonial” production (in Gitanjali Shabani’s words) was quickly compared by the press and reviewers to the two more ethnically authentic productions at the Globe from the Indian Subcontinent (Arpana Company’s All’s Well That Ends Well directed by Sunil Shanbag in Gujarati, and Company Theatre’s Twelfth Night directed by Atul Kumar in Hindi). Cultural, linguistic, and ethnic pedigrees are part of the picture, but some critics questioned the RSC’s type of internationalism. Birmingham-born director Khan’s treatment of Indian culture was regarded as too simplistic in that it occluded historical differences, and modern cultural complexities of hybrid Anglo-Indian identity.
It should be pointed out that Khan resisted the perception that his production offered “any kind of Best Exotic MarigoldIndian Shakespeare experience.” RSC artistic director Michael Boyd suggested to Khan that one possible concept for the production might be an adaptation in “an Indian setting” since it was to be part of the WSF. It was clear, however, that the possible direction of adaptation was never to be a “condition of employment” of Khan who wrote that “all my experiences of Shakespeare as a practitioner before Much Ado had little to do with being Asian.” There was, nonetheless, clearly a gap between the production’s intention and its reception by the general public and media.
Who produces knowledge about race? In what context? The material we covered might be summarized by the concept of hybridity, which is one of the terms that have been widely employed in postcolonial studies. As a practice in horticulture, hybridity is a cross-breeding process in which two species are grafted or cross-pollinated to form a new species. Frequently associated with the work of Homi K. Bhabha, the idea of hybridity refers to the interdependence of the colonizer and the colonized. In Bhabha’s framework, all cultural identities exist in the ambivalent “third space of enunciation” and cultural purity is untenable. Examples of hybridity, as we mentioned in this chapter, include pidgin and creole languages.
Published: Dec 10, 2019
In the centuries since William Shakespeare’s death, numerous stage, film and television adaptations of his work have emerged to inspire, comfort, and provoke audiences in far-flung corners of the globe. This presentation was a TED x Fulbright Talk as a part of the 2019 Fulbright Association Annual Conference in Washington, DC
Published: Mar 11, 2019
Orientalism in Kenneth Branagh's As You Like It (2006)