Studies of the Face(less): Picture Brides and Facial Recognition in Julie Otsuka’s The Buddha in the Attic


This paper investigates the ways in which Julie Otsuka’s The Buddha in the Attic (2011) resists racializing surveillance through making use of what we call unidentifiable characterization. This technique, we assert, contributes to a complex portrayal of the internment of Japanese Americans, as it privileges the collective without oversimplifying or romanticizing that collective and not only avoids but also opposes overemphasizing the role of the individual, a role that requires intense visualization (that is, surveillance). As a result, we argue that The Buddha constitutes an anti-surveillance Asian American narrative that exposes the contradictory (to use Lisa Lowe’s term) realities of the U.S. In analyzing such a narrative, we develop the term “faceless narrative,” a text that resists surveillance and rejects visual identification of characters.


Hala Alma’aqbeh, Mahmoud Zidan


Asian-American fiction, contradictory narrative, Japanese Americans, racializing surveillance