Exploring values and Asian culture by asking: ‘What is cuteness?’

Wednesday, Feb 12, 2020

The February 12, 2020 Princeton Alumni Weekly visits the Fall 2019 course “Too Cute!: Race, Style, & Asiamania,” taught by Anne Cheng, professor of English and American studies and director of the Program in American Studies:

A few years ago, English professor Anne Cheng ’85 was visiting a Hello Kitty store in Pittsburgh when she noticed that those around her seemed enamored with the merchandise. Again and again, she heard people describe the character as cute. 

“What is cuteness?” wondered Cheng, the only Asian American customer in the store at the time. “And why is it, in America, so deeply associated with femininity, smallness, and the Japanese?”

That moment would inspire a Princeton course titled “Too Cute!: Race, Style, & Asiamania.” The class, which enrolled about 60 students in the fall semester, challenges students to develop a working definition of “cuteness” and explore its implications for larger questions of race, culture, and appearance. It also serves as an introduction to Asian American studies.

Read the entire piece at Princeton Alumni Weekly Online.