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“Yellowface” in movies: a survey of American academic collections

Glenn Norio Masuchika (Library Learning Services, The Pennsylvania State University Libraries, University Park, Pennsylvania, USA)

Collection Building

ISSN: 0160-4953

Article publication date: 18 January 2013




The purpose of this paper is to investigate if collection developers in American academic libraries have added predominantly “yellowface” movies to their collections, or have actively sought out movies created and acted by Asian and Asian Americans, to balance out their libraries' collections.


In total, ten acknowledged “yellowface” movies and ten critically acclaimed Asian and Asian American movies were chosen. The collections of 157 academic libraries throughout the entire USA were then surveyed, including geographical areas that have had very few Asians or Asian Americans in their populations throughout their histories.


The results show that neither “yellowface” movies nor Asian and Asian American movies are overtly dominant in the collections of American academic librarians, and one can conclude that the collection developers actively sought to find a balance between movies in both categories, no matter the geographical locations of their libraries.

Social implications

No matter how unsavory is our racist past, representations of past bigotry and discrimination should be available for scholars of history, cultural studies, and sociology. However, interpretations of Asians defined with this jaundiced eye must be balanced with movies of Asians and Asian Americans defining themselves.


The area of Asian and Asian American movies is rather small and arcane, yet the results of this survey show that there are no academic areas too small or narrow that do not demand the attention of a knowledgeable collection developer.



Norio Masuchika, G. (2013), "“Yellowface” in movies: a survey of American academic collections", Collection Building, Vol. 32 No. 1, pp. 31-36.



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Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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