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Asian Americans, Law, and the Nation-State

Robert Chang

Publication Year: 1999

Does "Asian American" denote an ethnic or racial identification? Is a person of mixed ancestry, the child of Euro- and Asian American parents, Asian American? What does it mean to refer to first generation Hmong refugees and fifth generation Chinese Americans both as Asian American?

In Disoriented: Asian Americans, Law, and the Nation State, Robert Chang examines the current discourse on race and law and the implications of postmodern theory and affirmative action-all of which have largely excluded Asian Americans-in order to develop a theory of critical Asian American legal studies.

Demonstrating that the ongoing debate surrounding multiculturalism and immigration in the U.S. is really a struggle over the meaning of "America," Chang reveals how the construction of Asian American-ness has become a necessary component in stabilizing a national American identity-- a fact Chang criticizes as harmful to Asian Americans. Defining the many "borders" that operate in positive and negative ways to construct America as we know it, Chang analyzes the position of Asian Americans within America's black/white racial paradigm, how "the family" operates as a stand-in for race and nation, and how the figure of the immigrant embodies a central contradiction in allegories of America.

"Has profound political implications for race relations in the new century"
—Michigan Law Review, May 2001

Published by: NYU Press


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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-ii


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p. vii

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pp. ix-x

For permission to reprint materials first published elsewhere, I would like to thank the following journals and presses: American University Law Review, Asian Law Journal, California Law Review, Harvard Latino Law Review, Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly, New York University Press, La Raza Law Journal, and UCLA Chicano-Latino Law Review. What appears in this book are substantially rewritten forms of what appeared in these earlier publications....

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Introduction: Becoming Asian American

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pp. 1-8

To bastardize Simone de Beauvoir’s famous phrase, one is not born an Asian American, one becomes one. For myself, being Asian American did not occur solely through an accident of birth. I was born in Korea and came to the United States at an early age. Being Asian American is something I became and perhaps am still becoming. In a different context, Calvin Coolidge said, “We have a great...

Part I. A Meditation on Borders

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1. Dreaming in Black and White: Racial-Sexual Policing in The Birth of a Nation, The Cheat, and Who Killed Vincent Chin?

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pp. 11-26

America dreams of race in black and white. By this I mean that the current racial paradigm has become naturalized so that race in America is generally understood to mean black and white. This notion of race limits people’s understanding and willingness to engage with the history and current situation of Asian Americans in the United States. Instead of being included as participants in conversations on race...

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2. Centering the Immigrant in the Inter/National Imagination

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pp. 27-42

How a nation treats the immigrant speaks volumes about the nation. This is especially true for the United States, which regards itself as a nation of immigrants. How the United States treats the immigrant is part of the “project of national self-definition . . . [which] includes not only deciding whom to admit and expel, but also providing for each alien’s transition...

Part II. Developing a Critical Asian American Legal Studies Bridge: Introduction to Part II

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3. Why We Need a Critical Asian American Legal Studies

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pp. 48-60

Present-day attitudes about minorities often demonstrate a lack of understanding about the history and current status of Asian Americans. For example, during the spring of 1991, a national poll conducted by the Wall Street Journal and NBC News “revealed that the majority of American voters believe that Asian Americans are not discriminated against in the United States” and that “[s]ome even believe that Asian Americans receive ‘too many special advantages.’”1 The United States Commission on Civil Rights called this a misconception in 1992 and compiled evidence confirming that Asian Americans face widespread prejudice, discrimination, and barriers to equal opportunity....

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4. Narrative Space

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pp. 61-75

No discourse takes place in a vacuum. Each situates itself, or is situated, within a certain space.1 A new discourse must create a space within which to operate. A critical Asian American legal studies, as a new discourse, is no exception—it too must create a space, showing its relation to other discourses. Some of this work has already been done. In the previous chapter, I showed that the need to develop...

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5. A Narrative Account of Asian America

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pp. 76-97

Exclusion has many faces. Its harms are insidious and its methods multifarious. One reason that exclusion is so readily able to work its harms is that, at a certain point, it becomes so pervasive that it becomes invisible. In this way, the present-day effects of exclusion become disconnected from the past. As a consequence, the oppressed are blamed for the sins of their oppressors. For example, the dominant group often condemns the existence of ethnic enclaves such as Chinatowns and decries the unassimilability of Asian Americans. In doing so,...

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6. Mapping Asian American Legal Studies

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pp. 98-106

A diversity of views exists within Asian American legal studies. This diversity is inevitable, and it is indeed desirable, because diversity, a term not synonymous with divisiveness, serves as a source of strength. Those engaging in Asian American legal studies will have differing theoretical commitments and methodologies, but we should still be able to speak to one another as long as we understand that we share a common goal—justice—even if we disagree about...

Part III. From Identity Politics to Political Identities

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pp. 118-120


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pp. 121-133


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pp. 134-146


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pp. 147-149


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pp. 150-183


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pp. 184-190

About the Author

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pp. 191-191

E-ISBN-13: 9780814772393
E-ISBN-10: 0814772390
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814715215
Print-ISBN-10: 0814715214

Page Count: 248
Publication Year: 1999

OCLC Number: 45885685
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Disoriented

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Asian Americans -- Social conditions.
  • Race discrimination -- Law and legislation -- United States.
  • Asian Americans -- Legal status, laws, etc.
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