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Author ORCID Identifier

https://orcid.org/0000-0003-3987-2319

AccessType

Campus-Only Access for Five (5) Years

Document Type

dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Communication

Year Degree Awarded

2021

Month Degree Awarded

September

First Advisor

Emily West

Second Advisor

Wayne Xu

Third Advisor

Burcu Baykurt

Fourth Advisor

Miliann Kang

Subject Categories

Communication Technology and New Media | Critical and Cultural Studies | Gender, Race, Sexuality, and Ethnicity in Communication | International and Intercultural Communication | Social Media

Abstract

This dissertation explores YouTube as an empowering space for Asian American women who have been persistently marginalized by US mainstream media. Asian American women use YouTube to build an authentic persona, share insecurities about their bodies, and convey experiences of being othered due to their racial identities. Increasingly visible on YouTube, Asian American women are launching beauty and fashion brands and becoming successful entrepreneurs. Yet, in adopting their unique use of “Asianness” as a branding point, especially those Korean American entrepreneurs identifying as “K-beauty” (Korean beauty) ambassadors on various social media, are they simultaneously reproducing the trope of Asian femininity as exotic and hyperfeminine?

Shaped by YouTube video-recommendation algorithms that prioritize trendy topics and consumption-related fields, and the YouTube Creator Academy that encourages intercultural videos to maximize the profitability of channels, K-beauty trends are now being adopted by non-Koreans in North America, including Black women influencers on YouTube. K-beauty, which encompasses aesthetics, cosmetic products, and beauty ideals from South Korea, also reflects the light skin preference in South Korea. This is characterized by including only a limited number of makeup foundation shades, yet a large number of whitening products. Black women, who have been historically oppressed by White hegemonic beauty ideals, actively critique this anti-Black aspect in K-beauty. In response, Korean viewers strongly argue that K-beauty cannot be judged by “Western standards,” asserting that Korea is a mono-ethnic country where light skin preference does not necessarily translate into anti-Blackness. I propose that this conflict arguably has been shaped by YouTube’s digital infrastructure by analyzing the module titled “Building a global channel” on YouTube Creator Academy as an indication of how YouTube defines the direction of intercultural videos and channels. It encourages YouTubers to make intercultural videos for greater engagement and profits, by treating local culture as a commodity that is unique enough from the dominant culture, and by relying heavily on visuality rather than nuanced contextualization of each culture.

DOI

https://doi.org/10.7275/24216035

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