Asian American Cultural Events, Authentic?

Asian American culture events are prominent on colleges and universities throughout the United States. May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and many universities celebrate by hosting a plethora of Asian American events. For example, the University of California schools host the largest Pilipino Cultural nights in the nation. The University of Maryland also holds many events including Lunar New Year banquets and TASA Night markets, which are organized by student organizations and groups. While these events attempt to maintain tradition, they question the authenticity of the culture they are trying to represent.

These APAHC events allow students to experience a spiritual return to their native country, allowing them to rediscover their culture. For example, the Pilipino Cultural nights incorporate many aspects of Pilipino culture including folklore dancing, singing, and cultural performances. The UMCP TASA Night Market also showcases many aspects of Taiwanese culture through food, games, and performances. These events allow for an intersectionality of culture and identity with a clash of old and new traditions. The attendees of the Night Market experience pleasure and beauty through food and performances. There was a great variety of food at the event, ranging from Taiwanese chicken to red bean soup and bubble tea. There were also varying performances such as Tian Yi dance, Guzheng, wushu, and other dance performances. While the Night Market attempts to be authentic and maintain old tradition, this can be seen as questionable.

The Night Market can be seen as intersecting identities and cultures. While the TASA (Taiwanese American Student Association) is geared toward those that are interested in Taiwanese culture, it is not strictly for only those of Taiwanese descent. As a result, there is a mesh of all kinds of ethnicities and cultures, questioning the authenticity of the event. Some of the people who were performing were not necessarily Asian, which shows the association’s acceptance of non-Taiwanese individuals. While this intersection of multiple cultures and identities can be seen in a positive light, it brings up the idea that these student association events are not necessarily authentic. The night market can also be seen a merging of multiple interests and activities that are reflective of both Taiwan and the United States. For example, the event had traditional Taiwanese dances and performances but also more modernized and Americanized dances. There were displays of martial arts but also performances of modern dance and b-boying. The Night market also offered more traditional foods but also had more modernized and non-traditional options as well. The Night Market is also a hybridity of heritage where it is not necessarily identical to a night market one would find in Taiwan. While TASA may have attempted to recreate a Night Market found in Taiwan and it would be difficult to exactly replicate it, there are many differences. Night Markets in Taiwan are also known a top destination and attracts many tourists and locals looking to shop and eat unique items. Night Markets in Taiwan may not necessarily have dance and martial art performances and the food available may differ as well.

The lack of authenticity of the Night Market brings up the idea of whether TASA should continue to intersect multiple identities and cultures or attempt to stick to its traditional roots. The traditional and non-traditional aspects of the Night market may leave attendees in confusion regarding the goals of the Night market. The traditional martial arts and dance performances allude to its grassroots nature with its less exposure and accessibility to the public. Many college students may not be knowledgeable in traditional Taiwanese performances and it may be a new experience for them. However, the more modernized dances may be seen as mass culture with its high accessibility and exposure to people. Many college students are probably familiar with and have seen the modern dances the performers danced. This brings up the issue as to whether TASA should continue to market their events as authentic or traditional or try to shift into a less authentic and more culturally diversified event.

A Night Market found in Taiwan: Heavily populated with many different food vendors and shops

UMD TASA Night Market: More focus on the performance aspect of culture


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