Leslie Bow

Professor, English and Asian American Studies
7179 Helen C. White Hall
(608) 890-2455
E-mail Leslie Bow
Asian American Studies, Comparative Ethnic Studies, Asian American literature, literature by women of color, feminist theory, critical race studies, Cultural Studies, popular culture, race and sexuality.

Degrees and Institutions

PhD, University of California, Santa Cruz, 1993
MA, State University of New York, Buffalo, 1988
BA, University of California, Berkeley, 1984



Selected Articles and Book Chapters

  • “Asian American Women’s Literature and the Promise of Committed Art.” In Cambridge History of American Women’s Writing, ed. Dale Bauer. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, forthcoming. 
  • “Asian Americans, Racial Latency, Southern Traces.” In Oxford Handbook to the Literature of the U.S. South, ed. Barbara Ladd and Fred Hobson, Oxford University Press, forthcoming. 
  • “Transracial/Transgender: Analogies of Difference in Mai’s America.”  Signs: A Journal of Women in Culture and Society 35.1 (Autumn 2009).
  • “Playing in the Dark and the Ghosts in the Machine.” American Literary History 20.3 (Fall 2008). 
  • “Racial Interstitiality and the Anxieties of the ‘Partly Colored’: Representations of Asians under Jim Crow, ” Journal of Asian American Studies 10.1 (February 2007). 
  • "'For Every Gesture of Loyalty, There Doesn't Have to Be a Betrayal': Asian American Criticism and the Politics of Locality," In Who Can Speak?: Authority and Critical Identity, ed. Judith Roof and Robyn Wiegman, University of Illinois Press, 1995, reprinted in Feminist Communication Theory: Selections in Context, ed. Lana F. Rakow and Laura A. Wackwitz, Sage, 2004. 
  • "The Gendered Subject of Human Rights: Asian American Literature as Postcolonial Intervention." Cultural Critique (Winter 1999). 
  • "Erasure and Representation: Asian American Women in the Academy." Profession 1997
  • Also: articles on Amy Tan, Le Ly Hayslip, Jade Snow Wong, Cherrie Moraga, and Wendy Law-Yone.

Selected Essays

  • “Adopting a Genre.” The Progressive 73.10 (Oct. 2009): 43-44. 
  • “Camera-Ready.” Michigan Quarterly Review 47: 2 (Spring 2008), reprinted in Utne Reader: The Best of the Alternative Press. 149 (Sept./Oct. 2008). 
  • “Meditations of the ‘Partly Colored,’” The Southern Review (Winter 2007).

Research Interests

Leslie Bow served as Director of Asian American Studies at the University of Wisconsin and on the editorial board of American Literature, the Executive Committee of the Modern Language Association, Division on Asian American Literature, and numerous committees of the Association for Asian American Studies, the CIC, and the UW System Institute on Race & Ethnicity. She is on the editorial board of Contemporary Women Writers and the advisory board of the Society for the Study of American Women Writers.  She is a contributor to Progressive magazine and the Progressive Media Project through which her op-ed columns appear in newspapers across the United States.


Current Interests

I am currently working on racial fantasy in a monograph that explores the relationship between race and desire in portrayals of cultural difference.  The increasingly metaphoric depiction of social injustice produces a specific paradox: advocating for minority rights where no minorities actually appear.  Fantasy—whether in the form of CGI, fetish objects, or children’s picture books—allows for the simultaneous invocation and disavowal of race in the public sphere.  I look at the veiled saturation of racial signs in imaginary depictions of social hierarchy in order to understand the utility of fantasy in American culture in general and its implications for Asian Americans in particular.

I am currently editing the four-volume series, Asian American Feminisms, for Routledge, comprised of transnational scholarship on Asian American women’s issues across academic disciplines.

Recent Books

  • Book Cover for "Partly Colored"

    Partly Colored: Asian Americans and Racial Anomaly in the Segregated South

    Leslie Bow

    New York University Press


    2012 Honorable mention for the Book Award in Cultural Studies from the Association for Asian American Studies

    By elucidating the experience of interstitial ethnic groups such as Mexican, Asian, and Native Americans—groups that are held to be neither black nor white—Leslie Bow explores how the color line accommodated, or refused to accommodate, “other” ethnicities within a binary racial system.

  • Book Cover for "The Scent of the Gods"

    The Scent of the Gods, by Fiona Cheong

    Leslie Bow, Ed.

    University of Illinois Press


    The Scent of the Gods tells the enchanting, haunting story of a young girl's coming of age in Singapore during the tumultuous years of its formation as a nation. Eleven-year-old Su Yen bears witness to the secretive lives of "grown-ups" in her diasporic Chinese family and to the veiled threats in Southeast Asia during the Cold War years. From a child's limited perspective, the novel depicts the emerging awareness of sexuality in both its beauty and its consequences, especially for women.

  • Book Cover for "Betrayal & Other Acts of Subversion"

    Betrayal & Other Acts of Subversion: Feminism, Sexual Politics, Asian American Women's Literature

    Leslie Bow

    Princeton University Press


    Leslie Bow here explores how representations of females transgressing the social order play out in literature by Asian American women. Beginning with the notion that feminist and Asian American identity are mutually exclusive, she analyzes how women serve as boundary markers between ethnic or national collectives in order to reveal the male-based nature of social cohesion.