Lisa Nakamura

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Lisa Nakamura

Lisa Nakamura is Gwendolyn Calvert Baker Collegiate Professor of American Culture in the Department of American Cultures and Coordinator of Digital Studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.[1][2]


Lisa Nakamura earned a B.A. from Reed College and a Ph.D. in English from the Graduate Center at City University of New York.[3] She is a professor of Media and Cinema Studies; professor of Asian American Studies; and professor of Gender and Women’s Studies.[3] She is a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Asian American Studies, Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies,Games and Culture, and New Media and Society.[3][4] She also serves on the international advisory board of Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society.[5]


Nakamura formerly served as the Director of the Asian American Studies Program, Professor in the Institute of Communication Research and Media Studies Program and Professor of Asian American Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. Her main areas of contribution are in interrogating the racial/ethnic assumptions embedded in the representations of race in digital media, particularly within gaming cultures.

She is the author of Digitizing Race: Visual Cultures of the Internet (2008), Cybertypes: Race, Ethnicity, and Identity on the Internet, (2013) and is co-editor of Race in Cyberspace (2013).She has also published articles in Critical Studies in Media Communication, PMLA, Cinema Journal, The Women’s Review of Books, Camera Obscura, and the Iowa Journal of Cultural Studies. Nakamura is working on a new monograph on Massively Multiplayer Online Role playing games, the transnational racialized labor, and avatarial capital in a “postracial” world.[3][4]

She teaches courses on Asian Americans and media as well as advanced courses on new media criticism, history, and theory.[3][4]


Nakamura's book, Digitizing Race: Visual Cultures of the Internet, discusses the visual cultures of the Internet and the type of information we seek online. She is interested in the emergence and immense popularity of racially themed websites that are created by for and about people of color. She is interested in what she terms the “racio-visual logic of the internet.” Jessie Daniels of Hunter College, City University of New York argues that the book's central insight is that the Internet is a “visual technology, a protocol for seeing that is interfaced and networked in ways that produce a particular set of racial formations.” From Facebook to YouTube to avatars to video games, visual representations online incorporate the embodied, gendered, and racialized self online.[6][7]

Doris Witt of the University of Iowa reviews the book, Race in Cyberspace edited by Beth E. Kolko, Lisa Nakamura, and Gilbert B. Rodman. In an effort to open up a “space where a larger, more extended, and more inclusive conversation about race and cyberspace can take place,” Witt discusses how the book discusses the processes through which race is performed online by privileged consumers of cyberspace rather than the way in which cyberspace has been produced by and has helped reproduce a racialized global division of labor.[8][9]

“Where Do You Want to Go Today?”[edit]

"Where Do You Want to Go Today?"; Cybernetic Tourism, the Internet, and Transnationality is the essay of Nakamura in the book Race in Cyberspace. She is describing how Media Giants during 90’s such as Compaq, IBM, Origin, Anthem, and Microsoft indiscriminately consumed the exotic images in order to let western viewers feel as if the whole world is connected. This idea is explained by examples of how those corporations featured "...idealized images of Others who miraculously speak like 'us' still look like 'them'." Caravan camel and Arab guy middle of the desert are talking about technological terms in a perfect English.[10] Nakamura mentions "...putting these incongruous words into the Other’s mouth, thus demonstrating the hegemonic power of its “high-speed information network” to make the planet smaller by causing everyone to speak the same language ... " Exaggerating the exotic "otherness" while making them use the same language like "us," makes western viewers as a subject in this whole technical journey and "them" as the touristic object. Indeed, she mentions that the idealized exotic others speaking perfect English "frames the whole ad for its viewer as a window onto an “other” world." Furthermore, she mentions that this whole phenomenon is highly related to colonialism and post-colonialism.

As reviewed by Samantha Blackmon from Purdue University, Nakamura’s third book, Cybertypes: Race, Ethnicity, and Identity on the Internet, aims to interrogate how the internet shapes and reshapes our perceptions of race, ethnicity, and identity. Blackmon states that Nakamura names the images of racial identity online that shape the specific perceptions of cybertypes, and how these cybertypes are often determined and defined by the racial and ethnic stereotypes that are already established in our current society.[11][12]

"Indigenous Circuits: Navajo Women and the Racialization of Early Electronic Manufacture"[edit]

In her seminal essay, Nakamura examines the racialization of digital labor, focusing specifically on narratives constructed around the employment of Navajo women at the Fairchild semiconductor plant in Shiprock, New Mexico. Fairchild was lured to the Navajo reservation in 1965 by tax benefits and cheap labor; reservations existed like foreign nations in that they were exempt from U.S. minimum wage laws. It was via a mobilization of gendered racio-cultural traits that Fairchild built a justification for this exploitation of the labor of a largely female and indigenous workforce and the reservation that existed in a state of exception. In a 1969 Fairchild brochure, for example, a photograph of a geometric, woven rug appears in junction with an image of a semiconductor. Nakamura writes, The resemblance between the pattern of the rug depicted on the first page and the circuit is striking and uncanny. It makes the visual argument that Indian rugs are merely a different material iteration of the same pattern or aesthetic tradition found within the integrated circuit." She continues: "Depicting electronics manufacture as a high-tech version of blanket weaving performed by willing and skillful indigenous women served two goals: it permitted the incursion of factories into Indian reservations to be seen as a continuation of rather than a break from “traditional” Indian activities, and it pioneered the blurring of the line between wage labor and creative-cultural labor; one seamlessly became the other." In her analysis of the visual and written discourse surrounding the Shiprock Fairchild plant, Nakamura concludes that digital labor done by women of color is presented as an extension of an existing cultural practice rather than a cultural loss. This discursive erasure has continues wherever digital labor is transposed; as labor markets for electronic manufacture have shifted to Asia, the same "nimble fingers" arguments, imbued with gendered and racialized meanings, persist.



  1. ^ Nakamura, Lisa. "Bio - Lisa Nakamura". Retrieved 21 September 2015.
  2. ^ "American Culture Faculty - Lisa Nakamura". University of Michigan. Retrieved 21 September 2015.
  3. ^ a b c d e University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. Asian American Studies. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-05-13. Retrieved 2010-03-02.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^ a b c Lisa Nakamura Home Site
  5. ^ "Masthead". Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society. 2012-08-22. Retrieved 2017-08-22.
  6. ^ Daniels, Jessie. “Visualizing Race and Embodiment in Cyberspace.” Symbolic Interaction; Winter 2010, Vol.33 Issues 1, p141-144, 4p
  7. ^ Nakamura, Lisa. “Digitizing Race: Visual Cultures of the Internet.”
  8. ^ Witt, Doris. “Race Space.” Science Fiction Studies; Jul2003, Vol. 30 Issue 2, p323-326, 4p.
  9. ^ “Race in Cyberspace”
  10. ^ Nakamura, Lisa. ""Where Do You Want to Go Today?"". Race in Cyberspace.
  11. ^ Blackmon, Samantha. “A Review of Cybertypes: Race, Ethnicity, and Identity on the Internet.” London: Routledge. 2002.
  12. ^ Nakamura, Lisa. “Cybertypes: Race, Ethnicity, and Identity on the Internet.”
  13. ^ Curriculum Vitae. Lisa Nakamura. Archived 2013-04-29 at the Wayback Machine