Document Type


Date of Degree

Fall 2015

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

American Studies

First Advisor

Birrell, Susan

First Committee Member

Oates, Thomas

Second Committee Member

Parratt, Catriona

Third Committee Member

Trachsel, Mary

Fourth Committee Member

Vogan, Travis


This research assesses cultural meanings attributed to Asian American sport celebrities, focusing specifically on former professional tennis player Michael Chang and professional golfer Michelle Wie. This work will examine how they are represented in mainstream American media and how their images have been used in various advertising campaigns. A key assumption of this research is that cultural stakeholders are involved in their particular media representations. Given that Asian American athletes have occupied peripheral positions in American sport, media and their invisibility in advertising campaigns, the recent commodification of Asian American athletic bodies is worth examining in greater detail.

Drawing on Susan Birrell and Mary McDonald's (1999, 2000) “reading sport” methodology, I critically read their representations in mainstream media and television commercials to explore the complexity and particularity of the articulation of power lines surrounding these Asian American sport celebrities. The “reading sport” methodology emphasizes the particularity of power relations and interdependence of lines of power. Accordingly, I situate his or her representations in the different contexts that each athlete had to encounter. Chang's representation is situated within the conservative climate of post-Reagan America, and Wie's representation is situated within the context neoliberal racism and postfeminism.

This study provides a broad understanding of the media representations of Asian American athletes and their different ideological functions in different contexts. Given that there have been a serious lack of studies regarding Asian American athletes, this study seeks to extend the existing body of knowledge about Asian American athletes and their multiple representations.

Public Abstract

It is hardly surprising to see Asian American athletes in American sports and watch them in mainstream media. Given that one of the stereotypes about Asian Americans is their athletic inferiority to other races, they have been grossly underrepresented in sport media. However, their presence in American sports and media seems to reflect the inclusiveness of American sports as well as tolerance for Asian Americans. More specifically, their representations appear to celebrate their racial differences and the cultural diversity of American sports and American society. However, this study critically examines the ways in which they are represented in mainstream media and various advertising campaigns, and also illustrates how their representations are consistent with dominant ideologies at particular moments and places.

This study uses reading sport methodology, which allows us to find cultural meanings that circulate within mediated accounts and narratives of particular sport celebrities and incidents, both personal and professional, in which they are involved. Informed by the reading sport methodology, I examine how power relations are produced around their mediated accounts and narratives in America since the 1980s.


publicabstract, Asian American, Celebrity, Sport Media


vii, 144 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 132-144).


Copyright 2015 Sang Uk Joo