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Asian America

Forming New Communities, Expanding Boundaries

Edited by Huping Ling

The last half century witnessed a dramatic change in the geographic, ethnographic, and socioeconomic structure of Asian American communities. While traditional enclaves were strengthened by waves of recent immigrants, native-born Asian Americans also created new urban and suburban areas. Asian America is the first comprehensive look at post-1960s Asian American communities in the United States and Canada. Contributors from an array of academic fields focus on global views of Asian American communities as well as on territorial and cultural boundaries.

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The Asian American Achievement Paradox

JENIFFER LEE is professor of sociology at the University of California, Irvine. MIN ZHOU is professor of sociology at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, and the University of California, Los Angeles.

Asian Americans are often stereotyped as the “model minority.” Their sizeable presence at elite universities and high household incomes have helped construct the narrative of Asian American “exceptionalism.” While many scholars and activists characterize this as a myth, pundits claim that Asian Americans’ educational attainment is the result of unique cultural values. In The Asian American Achievement Paradox, sociologists Jennifer Lee and Min Zhou offer a compelling account of the academic achievement of the children of Asian immigrants. Drawing on in-depth interviews with the adult children of Chinese immigrants and Vietnamese refugees and survey data, Lee and Zhou bridge sociology and social psychology to explain how immigration laws, institutions, and culture interact to foster high achievement among certain Asian American groups.

For the Chinese and Vietnamese in Los Angeles, Lee and Zhou find that the educational attainment of the second generation is strikingly similar, despite the vastly different socioeconomic profiles of their immigrant parents. Because immigration policies after 1965 favor individuals with higher levels of education and professional skills, many Asian immigrants are highly educated when they arrive in the United States. They bring a specific “success frame,” which is strictly defined as earning a degree from an elite university and working in a high-status field. This success frame is reinforced in many local Asian communities, which make resources such as college preparation courses and tutoring available to group members, including their low-income members.

While the success frame accounts for part of Asian Americans’ high rates of achievement, Lee and Zhou also find that institutions, such as public schools, are crucial in supporting the cycle of Asian American achievement. Teachers and guidance counselors, for example, who presume that Asian American students are smart, disciplined, and studious, provide them with extra help and steer them toward competitive academic programs. These institutional advantages, in turn, lead to better academic performance and outcomes among Asian American students. Yet the expectations of high achievement come with a cost: the notion of Asian American success creates an “achievement paradox” in which Asian Americans who do not fit the success frame feel like failures or racial outliers. While pundits ascribe Asian American success to the assumed superior traits intrinsic to Asian culture, Lee and Zhou show how historical, cultural, and institutional elements work together to confer advantages to specific populations. An insightful counter to notions of culture based on stereotypes, The Asian American Achievement Paradox offers a deft and nuanced understanding how and why certain immigrant groups succeed.

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The Asian American Movement

Active for more than two decades, the Asian American movement began a middle-class reform effort to achieve racial equality, social justice, and political empowerment. In this first history and in-depth analysis of the Movement, William Wei traces to the late 1960s, the genesis of an Asian American identity, culture, and activism.

Wei analyzes the Asian American women's movement, the alternative press, Asian American involvement in electoral politics. Interviews with many key participants in the Movement and photographs of Asian American demonstrations and events enliven this portrayal of the Movement's development, breadth, and conflicts.

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Asian American Plays for a New Generation

Plays for a New Generation

Edited by Josephine Lee, Don Eitel and R. A. Shiomi

Asian American plays provide an opportunity to think about how racial issues are engaged through theatrical performance physical contact, bodily labor, and fleshly desire as well as through the more standard elements of plot, setting, characterization, staging, music, and action.

Asian American Plays for a New Generation showcases seven exciting new plays that dramatize timely themes that are familiar to Asian Americans. The works variously address immigration, racism, stereotyping, identity, generational tensions, assimilation, and upward mobility as well as post-9/11 paranoia, racial isolation, and adoptee experiences.

Each of these works engages directly and actively with Asian American themes through performance to provide an important starting point for building relationships, raising political awareness, and creating active communities that can foster a sense of connection or even rally individuals to collective action.

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Asian American Political Participation

Emerging Constituents and Their Political Identities

Asian Americans are a small percentage of the U.S. population, but their numbers are steadily rising—from less than a million in 1960 to more than 15 million today. They are also a remarkably diverse population—representing several ethnicities, religions, and languages—and they enjoy higher levels of education and income than any other U.S. racial group. Historically, socioeconomic status has been a reliable predictor of political behavior. So why has this fast-growing American population, which is doing so well economically, been so little engaged in the U.S. political system? Asian American Political Participation is the most comprehensive study to date of Asian American political behavior, including such key measures as voting, political donations, community organizing, and political protests. The book examines why some groups participate while others do not, why certain civic activities are deemed preferable to others, and why Asian socioeconomic advantage has so far not led to increased political clout. Asian American Political Participation is based on data from the authors’ groundbreaking 2008 National Asian American Survey of more than 5,000 Chinese, Indian, Vietnamese, Korean, Filipino, and Japanese Americans. The book shows that the motivations for and impediments to political participation are as diverse as the Asian American population. For example, native-born Asians have higher rates of political participation than their immigrant counterparts, particularly recent adult arrivals who were socialized outside of the United States. Protest activity is the exception, which tends to be higher among immigrants who maintain connections abroad and who engaged in such activity in their country of origin. Surprisingly, factors such as living in a new immigrant destination or in a city with an Asian American elected official do not seem to motivate political behavior—neither does ethnic group solidarity. Instead, hate crimes and racial victimization are the factors that most motivate Asian Americans to participate politically. Involvement in non-political activities such as civic and religious groups also bolsters political participation. Even among Asian groups, socioeconomic advantage does not necessarily translate into high levels of political participation. Chinese Americans, for example, have significantly higher levels of educational attainment than Japanese Americans, but Japanese Americans are far more likely to vote and make political contributions. And Vietnamese Americans, with the lowest levels of education and income, vote and engage in protest politics more than any other group. Lawmakers tend to favor the interests of groups who actively engage the political system, and groups who do not participate at high levels are likely to suffer political consequences in the future. Asian American Political Participation demonstrates that understanding Asian political behavior today can have significant repercussions for Asian American political influence tomorrow.

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Asian American Studies Now

A Critical Reader

Edited and with an Introduction by Jean Yu-Wen Shen Wu and Thomas C. Chen

Asian American Studies Now represents the changes occurring in Asian American communities and the world that require a reconsideration of how the interdisciplinary field of Asian American studies is defined and taught. The editors have selected essays for the significance of their contribution and their clarity, brevity, and accessibility to readers with little to no prior knowledge of Asian American studies, and feature reprints of seminal articles and groundbreaking texts, as well as bold new scholarship.

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Asian Americans in Dixie

Race and Migration in the South

Jigna Desai

Extending the understanding of race and ethnicity in the South beyond the prism of black-white relations, this interdisciplinary collection explores the growth, impact, and significance of rapidly growing Asian American populations in the American South. Avoiding the usual focus on the East and West Coasts, several essays attend to the nuanced ways in which Asian Americans negotiate the dominant black and white racial binary, while others provoke readers to reconsider the supposed cultural isolation of the region, reintroducing the South within a historical web of global networks across the Caribbean, Pacific, and Atlantic.

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Asian Americans in Michigan

Voices from the Midwest

Edited by Sook Wilkinson and Victor Jew

While the number of Asians in Michigan was small for a good portion of the state’s history, many Asian-derived communities have settled in the area and grown significantly over time. In Asian Americans in Michigan: Voices from the Midwest, editors Sook Wilkinson and Victor Jew have assembled forty-one contributors to give an intimate glimpse into Michigan’s Asian-American communities, creating a fuller picture of these often overlooked groups. Accounts in the collection come from a range of perspectives, including first-generation immigrants, those born in the United States, and third- and fourth-generation Americans of Asian heritage. In five sections, contributors consider the historical and demographic origins of Michigan’s Asian American communities, explore their experiences in memory and legacy keeping, highlight particular aspects of community culture and heritage, and comment on prospects and hopes for the future. This volume’s vibrant mix of contributors trace their ancestries back to East Asia (China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan), South Asia (Bangladesh, India, Pakistan), and Southeast Asia (Cambodia, Laos, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, and the Hmong). Though each contributor writes from his or her unique set of experiences, Asian Americans in Michigan also reveals universal values and memories held by larger communities. Asian Americans in Michigan makes clear the significant contributions by individuals in many fields—including art, business, education, religion, sports, medicine, and politics—and demonstrates the central role of community organizations in bringing ethnic groups together and preserving memories. Readers interested in Michigan history, sociology, and Asian American studies will enjoy this volume.

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Asian Diaspora and East-West Modernity

by Sheng-mei Ma

Drawing from Anglo-American, Asian American, and Asian literature as well as J-horror and manga, Chinese cinema and Internet, and the Korean Wave, Sheng-mei Ma’s Asian Diaspora and East-West Modernity probes into the conjoinedness of West and East, of modernity’s illusion and nothing’s infinitude. Suspended on the stylistic tightrope between research and poetry, critical analysis and intuition, Asian Diaspora restores affect and heart to the experience of diaspora in between East and West, at-homeness and exilic attrition. Diaspora, by definition, stems as much from socioeconomic and collective displacement as it points to emotional reaction. This book thus challenges the fossilized conceptualizations in area studies, ontology, and modernism. The book's first two chapters trace the Asian pursuit of modernity into nothing, as embodied in horror film and the gaming motif in transpacific literature and film. Chapters three through eight focus on the borderlands of East and West, the edges of humanity and meaning. Ma examines how loss occasions a revisualization of Asia in children's books, how Asian diasporic passing signifies, paradoxically, both "born again" and demise of the "old" self, how East turns "yEast" or the agent of self-fashioning for Anglo-America, Asia, and Asian America, how the construct of “bugman” distinguishes modern West's and East's self-image, how the extreme human condition of "non-person" permeates the Korean Wave, and how manga artists are drawn to wartime Japan. The final two chapters interrogate the West's death-bound yet enlightening Orientalism in Anglo-American literature and China's own schizophrenic split, evidenced in the 2008 Olympic Games.

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Asian North American Identities

Beyond the Hyphen

Eleanor Ty and Donald C. Goellnicht, eds.

The nine essays in Asian North American Identities explore how Asian North Americans are no longer caught between worlds of the old and the new, the east and the west, and the south and the north. Moving beyond national and diasporic models of ethnic identity to focus on the individual feelings and experiences of those who are not part of a dominant white majority, the essays collected here draw from a wide range of sources, including novels, art, photography, poetry, cinema, theatre, and popular culture. The book illustrates how Asian North Americans are developing new ways of seeing and thinking about themselves by eluding imposed identities and creating spaces that offer alternative sites from which to speak and imagine.

Contributors are Jeanne Yu-Mei Chiu, Patricia Chu, Rocio G. Davis, Donald C. Goellnicht, Karlyn Koh, Josephine Lee, Leilani Nishime, Caroline Rody, Jeffrey J. Santa Ana, Malini Johar Schueller, and Eleanor Ty.

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