Sean Metzger works at the intersections of Asian American, Caribbean, Chinese, film, performance and sexuality studies. His first book, Chinese Looks: Fashion, Performance, Race, was published by Indiana University Press in 2014. From yellow-face performance in the 19th century to Jackie Chan in the 21st century, Chinese Looks examines articles of clothing and modes of adornment as a window on how American views of China have changed in the past 150 years. The text provides a cultural history of three iconic objects in theatrical and cinematic performance: the queue, or man’s hair braid; the woman’s suit known as the qipao; and the Mao suit. Each object emerges at a pivotal moment in U.S.-China relations, indexing shifts in the balance of power between the two nations. Metzger shows how aesthetics, gender, politics, economics and race are interwoven and argues that close examination of particular forms of dress can help us think anew about gender and modernity. Metzger has also co-edited three collections of essays: Embodying Asian/American Sexualities with Gina Masequesmay (Lexington, 2009); Futures of Chinese Cinema: Technologies and Temporalities in Chinese Screen Cultures with Olivia Khoo (Intellect, 2009); Race, Space, Place: The Making and Unmaking of Freedoms in the Atlantic World with Michaeline Crichlow (a special issue of Cultural Dynamics, Nov. 2009). A fourth volume of essays entitled Islands, Images, Imaginaries co-edited with Francisco J. Hernández Adrián and Michaeline Crichlow, was published as a special issue of the journal Third Text in 2014.
Metzger is currently a Framing the Global fellow with Indiana University and Indiana University Press for which he is working on a second book, tentatively called The Chinese Atlantic. This study examines site specific performances and on-location shooting in the Caribbean and beyond where Chinese investments, fiscal and cultural, help us shift understandings of local and national cultures.
Prior to his arrival at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television, Metzger was assistant professor of English, theater studies, and Asian & Middle Eastern studies at Duke University. He was awarded the inaugural Fulbright Research Chair in North American Society and Culture at Concordia University (Montreal) and has also been adjunct faculty at Antioch University, Loyola Marymount University and the USC School of Dramatic Arts. In addition to his academic work, he spent three years in social services at the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center and as an independent consultant to school districts and other non-profit institutions. He continues consulting work on an ad-hoc basis.
A closeted actor and director, Metzger occasionally creeps on or behind stage.