Asian American Studies Now
A Critical Reader
Publication Year: 2010
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Title Page, Copyright Page
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Were it not for our students, we would not have envisioned this project or embarked on it. It is their yearning for understanding Asian America that keeps us teaching, researching, and writing in the field. And it was our sense of their passion for shaping a more just society through their engagement with...
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Ten years have passed since Jean Wu and Min Song edited Asian American Studies: A Reader, inspired by the idea that an interdisciplinary collection of foundational writings about Asian America would make course preparation easier for teachers of introductory level Asian American Studies courses.1 Since...
One: Situating Asian America
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1. When and Where I Enter
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A solitary figure defies a tank, insofar as a solitary figure can defy a tank. A “goddess of liberty” in the image of the Statue of Liberty arises from the midst of a vast throng gathered in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. The November 1, 1991, issue of Asiaweek carries the caption “Welcoming Asians” under a picture of the...
2. Neither Black Nor White
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In his 1989 feature film Do the Right Thing, filmmaker Spike Lee explores urban race relations by tracing the interplay of a set of characters during a sweltering day in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, New York. Lee’s film tracks the life of a neighborhood...
3. Detroit Blues: "Because of You, Motherfuckers"
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I arrived in Detroit in 1976 with little more than my beat-up Chevy Vega, a suitcase, a few boxes, and about a hundred dollars. My first order of business was to find a job, preferably at an auto factory. I was on a mission, a grand adventure, to learn what it meant to be an American in America’s...
4 A Dialogue on Racial Melancholia
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Configuring whiteness as contagion, Birdie Lee, the narrator of Danzy Senna’s Caucasia, connects assimilation to illness and disease. Separated from her African American activist father, Birdie Lee and her blue-blooded mother flee from the law in a racialized and radicalized 1970s Boston...
5. Home is Where the Han Is: A Korean American Perspective on the Los Angeles Upheavals
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About half of the estimated $850 million in material losses incurred during the Los Angeles upheavals was sustained by a community no one seems to want to talk much about. Korean Americans in Los Angeles, suddenly at the front lines when violence came to the buffer zone...
6. Recognizing Native Hawaiians: A Quest for Sovereignty
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The truth and significance of these statements of findings by the U.S. Congress in the Native Hawaiian Health Care Improvement Act and Public Law 103–150 is at the heart of the most important human rights issue facing Hawai’i’s people in the new millennium...
7. Situating Asian Americans in the Political Discourse on Affirmative Action
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The hegemonic “black/white” paradigm of race relations has fundamentally shaped how we think about, engage, and politically mobilize around racial issues. Historical narratives of racialized minorities in the United States are cast in the shadows of the black/white encounter...
8. Racism: From Domination to Hegemony
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At the turn of the twenty-first century the world has largely dispensed with the overt racial hierarchies that existed before the post–World War II racial break: colonialism, racially demarcated labor reserves, explicit policies of segregation and apartheid, and candid avowals of racial superiority and inferiority all appear today as hopeless atavisms, relics of a benighted...
Two: History and Memory
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9 The Chinese are Coming. How Can We Stop Them?: Chinese Exclusion and the Origins of American Gatekeeping
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In 1876, H. N. Clement, a San Francisco lawyer, stood before a California State Senate Committee and sounded the alarm: “The Chinese are upon us. How can we get rid of them? The Chinese are coming. How can we stop them?”1 Panicked cries such as these and portrayals of Chinese...
10. Public Health and the Mapping of Chinatown
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Nineteenth-century San Francisco journalists, politicians, and health officials feared an impending epidemic catastrophe festering in the tenements of what was then labeled as Chinatown. In the press coverage of public health inspections, newspaper reporters described the Chinatown labyrinth as hundreds of underground passageways connecting...
11. The Secret Munson Report
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By fall of 1941, war with Japan appeared imminent. For well over a year, coded messages going in and out of Tokyo had been intercepted and decoded by Washington cryptoanalysts. With relations between Tokyo and Washington rapidly deteriorating, a desperate sense of national urgency was evidenced in messages to Ambassador...
12. Asian American Struggles for Civil, Political, Economic, and Social Rights
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In the last century and a half, Asian immigrants and Asian Americans who have fought for various rights in the United States have sometimes succeeded and at other times failed in their efforts. The history of their struggles can be divided into four periods: (1) the 1860s to the 1880s, (2) the 1890s to the 1920s, (3) the 1940s to the 1970s...
13. Out of the Shadows: Camptown Women, Military Brides, and Korean (American) Communities
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A group of women wanted to participate in the life of their church, whose congregants, like themselves, were Korean immigrants to the United States. After much discussion, the women decided that they wanted to help prepare the food for the annual Thanksgiving dinner. Their proposal, however, was rejected by the church women’s group. The church...
14. The Cold War Origins of the Model Minority Myth
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In 1974, the writer Frank Chin expressed it this way: “Whites love us because we’re not black.”1 The elevation of Asian Americans to the position of model minority had less to do with the actual success of Asian Americans than with the perceived failure—or worse, refusal—of African...
15. Why China?: Identifying Histories of Transnational Adoption
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Contemporary poststructural and psychoanalytic theorists define identification as a process that occurs where individual lives meet the haunting of social relationships— a process that “names the entry of history and culture into the subject” (Fuss 1995: 3; see also Cheng 2001).1 In this sense, there are several overlapping histories that “identify” Chinese adopted...
16. The "Four Prisons" and the Movements of Liberation: Asian American Activism from the 1960s to the 1990s
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According to Ali Shariati, an Iranian philosopher, each of us exists within four prisons.1 First is the prison imposed on us by history and geography; from this confinement, we can escape only by gaining a knowledge of science and technology. Second is the prison of history; our freedom comes when we understand how historical forces operate...
Three: Culture, Politics, and Society
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17. Youth Culture, Citizenship, and Globalization: South Asian Muslim Youth in the United States after Septemer 11th
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In the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks, questions of citizenship and racialization have taken on new, urgent meanings for South Asian immigrant youth. Many South Asian Americans, Arab Americans, and Muslim Americans, or individuals who appeared “Muslim,” have been victims of physical assaults and racial profiling as part of the renewed...
18. Asian Immigrant Women and Global Restructuring, 1970s-1990s
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Genny O’Connor, a Filipina domestic worker in Los Angeles, left her office job in the Philippines in hopes of seeking a much higher paying job in the United States. In the Philippines, her salary could barely cover her day-to-day expenses and, needless to say, did not leave her with many resources to provide her family with the financial support expected...
19. Medical, Racist, and Colonial Constructions of Power in Anne Fadiman's The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down
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This essay is about medical, racist, and colonial constructions of power. It incorporates the following seemingly disparate, but what I will prove to be inextricably connected, discourses: those surrounding the Vietnam War and its subsequent stateside refugee management; current medical care for Southeast Asian patients; and so-called authorial...
20. Searching for Community: Filipino Gay Men in New York City
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In 1987, a Filipino gay man named Exotica was crowned Miss Fire Island. The Miss Fire Island beauty contest is an annual drag event in Fire Island (located off the coast of Long Island) and is considered to be the premier gay summer mecca...
21. How to Rehabilitate a Mulatto: The Iconography of Tiger Woods
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Tiger Woods’s tongue-in-cheek identification as “Cablinasian” on the Oprah Winfrey Show in April 1997 resulted in such contentiousness within the black community that Winfrey followed up later that same month with a program devoted to the “Tiger Woods Race Controversy.”1 Woods’s identification as Cablinasian...
22. Occult Racism: The Masking of Race in the Hmong Hunter Incident
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When the fatal shooting of six hunters by a Hmong man in the woods of Wisconsin received sensationalized national coverage in 2004, Hmong Americans struggled with an intensification of the hostile typing that had haunted their arrival in the United States since 1975. Mainstream accounts all the way through the trial in fall 2005 asserted that the incident, whether from the point of view of the white...
23. Collateral Damage: Southeast Asian Poverty in the United States
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On 22 August 1996, President Bill Clinton signed into law the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA). Once fully implemented, this act has the potential to destroy the means of subsistence of millions of working and jobless poor who will be removed from all federal assistance...
Four: Pedagogies and Possibilities
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24. Whither Asian American Studies?
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A superficial look at Asian American studies today indicates that we have made considerable progress. Since the early 1990s, professional associations in various disciplines have included panels on Asian American topics in their annual conferences. Scholars in the field have given talks all over the country. A few senior...
25. Freedom Schooling: Reconceptualizing Asian American Studies for Our Communities
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“The educational system today is designed for failure.” I hear this statement often these days. I hear it often, and I say it myself. I hear it from K–12 activist teachers as they confront mandates for standardized testing and orders to “teach to the test.” I hear it from college teachers who work with first-generation college students as they cope with stringent new policies limiting...
26. Asians on the Rim: Transnational Capital and Local Community in the Making of Contemporary Asian America
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An issue of AsianWeek in January 1996 contained two items that cogently illustrate the problem I would like to discuss in this chapter. One was an invited editorial by Matt Fong, California state treasurer and “one of the nation’s highest elected Asian American officials.” Entitled “From Gold Mountain to the Golden Door...
27. Crafting Solidarities
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Many people adhere to the idea that political interests must be based on a single conception of identity (whether of gender, race, class, or sexual orientation). This theory, which operates under the omnibus label “identity politics,” wallows in parochialism and rejects any attempt to formulate universal categories (considered to be...
28. We Will Not Be Used: Are Asian Americans the Racial Bourgeoisie?
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It is a special honor to address supporters of the Asian Law Caucus. Here, before this audience, I am willing to speak in the tradition of our women warriors, to go beyond the platitudes of fund-raiser formalism and to talk of something that has been bothering me and that I need your help on. I want to speak of my fear that...
29. The Struggle Over Parcel C: How Boston's Chinatown Won a Victory in the Fight Against Institutional Expansionism and Environmental Racism
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For the last fifty years, Boston’s Chinatown has been a shrinking community. Squeezed in by highways on two sides, its land is being gradually consumed by two medical institutions, Tufts University Medical School and New England Medical Center.1 During the last few decades, these two medical institutions have...
30. Race Matters in Civic Engagement Work
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In her keynote address entitled “Civic Engagement: The University as Public Good” delivered at a 2004 AACU Symposium on practicing liberal education, Nancy Cantor, Chancellor of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, noted that the university has a critical role to play in civic engagement because the university has the means to foster culture-changing work in society. Cantor suggested...
31. Homes, Borders, and Possibilities
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Home making is really border making: it is about deciding who is in as well as who is out. I began this project on Filipino Americans in San Diego at the border—the U.S.-Mexico border.1 Since the mid-1970s, the militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border region has intensified. From San Diego to the Rio Grande Valley, armed U.S. federal agents patrol key border points...
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Copyrights and Permissions
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Page Count: 672
Publication Year: 2010