Negotiating Identity in a Multi-cultural Context in Elizabeth Wong’s Kimchee and Chitlins: A Serious Comedy about Getting Along

Hana’ Khalief Ghani

College of Arts/Department of Translation, Al-Mustansiriyah University. Email:

 Volume 10, Number 1, 2018 I Full Text PDF

DOI: 10.21659/rupkatha.v10n1.18

Received November 20, 2017; Revised January 28, 2018; Accepted February 14, 2018; Published February 25, 2018.


Based on the real story of the racial clash that took place between two hyphenated minorities in the United States of America, namely; the Korean and the African in Los Angeles in 1990, this paper sets out to explore issues that go beyond this apparently simple racial conflict. Kimchee and Chitlins, indeed, is a serious attempt by the Chinese-American dramatist Elizabeth Wong, being herself a journalist and a member of minority community, to dig deep into the problems that plague and are still plaguing these communities, namely; racial discrimination and profiling, stereotyping and marginalization, and loss of cultural heritage. Drawing on the theories of ‘Melting Pot’ and ‘Salad Bowl’, the paper discusses the politics of identity in relation to the main characters’ attempt to define ‘who are they’ and ‘how do they look at themselves as well as at others in their multicultural society.’ To overcome these problems, the dramatist encourages members of minorities to reach out to each other and understand the cultural as well as other types of differences that do separate them. Rather than yielding to, and assimilating into the main society, Wong advocates preserving the cultural heritage besides developing the skills of coexisting and tolerating the Other. The title of the play is a clear reference to Wong’s suggestion as ‘Kimchee’ is the ‘heart of Korea’-its most popular meal- and ‘Chitlins’ is a translation of the ‘history’ of African people in America. Putting them beside each other certainly means the possibility of coexistence and mutual understanding and respect.

Keywords: Wong, Kimchee and Chitlins, minorities, Koreans, Afro-Americans, (anti)assimilation, coexistence, cultural differences.