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Desis Divided

The Political Lives of South Asian Americans

Sangay K. Mishra

For immigrants to America, from Europeans in the early twentieth century through later Latinos, Asians, and Caribbeans, gaining social and political ground has generally been considered an exercise in ethnic and racial solidarity. The experience of South Asian Americans, one of the fastest-growing immigrant populations in recent years, tells a different story of inclusion—one in which distinctions within a group play a significant role.

Focusing on Indian, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi American communities, Sangay K. Mishra analyzes features such as class, religion, nation of origin, language, caste, gender, and sexuality in mobilization. He shows how these internal characteristics lead to multiple paths of political inclusion, defying a unified group experience. How, for instance, has religion shaped the fractured political response to intensified discrimination against South Asians—Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs—in the post-9/11 period? How have class and home country concerns played into various strategies for achieving political power? And how do the political engagements of professional and entrepreneurial segments of the community challenge the idea of a unified diaspora? Pursuing answers, Mishra argues that, while ethnoracial mobilization remains an important component of South Asian American experience, ethnoracial identity is deployed differently by particular sectors of the South Asian population to produce very specific kinds of mobilizing and organizational infrastructures. And exploring these distinctions is critical to understanding the changing nature of the politics of immigrant inclusion—and difference itself—in America.


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The Diplomacy of Nationalism

The Six Companies and China’s Policy toward Exclusion

Yucheng Qin

This is a striking, original portrait of the Chinese Six Companies (Zhonghua huiguan), or Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association, the most prominent support organization for Chinese immigrants in the U.S. in the late nineteenth century. As a federation of "native-place associations" (huiguan) in California, the Six Companies responded to racist acts and legislation by organizing immigrant communities and employing effective diplomatic strategies against exclusion. Yucheng Qin substantiates recent arguments that Chinese immigrants were resourceful in fighting for their rights and, more importantly, he argues that through the Six Companies they created a political rhetoric and civic agenda that were then officially adopted by Qing court officials, who at first were unprepared for modern diplomacy. Out of necessity, these officials turned to the Six Companies for assistance and would in time adopt the tone and format of its programs during China’s turbulent transition from a tributary system to that of a modern nation-state.

Eventually the Six Companies and Qing diplomats were defeated by a coalition of anti-Chinese interest groups, but their struggle produced a template for modern Chinese nationalism—a political identity that transcends native place—in nineteenth-century America. By redirecting our gaze beyond China to the Six Companies in California and back again, Yucheng Qin redefines the historical significance of the huiguan. The ingenuity of his approach lies in his close attention to the transnational experience of the Six Companies, which provides a feasible framework for linking its diplomatic activism with Chinese history as well as the history of Chinese Americans and Sino-American relations.

The Diplomacy of Nationalism enlarges our view of the immigrant experience of Chinese in the U.S. by examining early Sino-American relations through the structure of Six Companies diplomacy as well as providing a better understanding of modern Chinese nationalism.

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Disoriented

Asian Americans, Law, and the Nation-State

Robert Chang

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

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Displacements and Diasporas

Asians in the Americas

Edited by Wanni W. Anderson and Robert G. Lee

Asians have settled in every country in the Western Hemisphere; some are recent arrivals, other descendents of immigrants who arrived centuries ago. Bringing together essays by thirteen scholars from the humanities and social sciences, Displacements and Diasporas explores this genuinely transnational Asian American experience-one that crosses the Pacific and traverses the Americas from Canada to Brazil, from New York to the Caribbean.

With an emphasis on anthropological and historical contexts, the essays show how the experiences of Asians across the Americas have been shaped by the social dynamics and politics of settlement locations as much as by transnational connections and the economic forces of globalization. Contributors bring new insights to the unique situations of Asian communities previously overlooked by scholars, such as Vietnamese Canadians and the Lao living in Rhode Island. Other topics include Chinese laborers and merchants in Latin America and the Caribbean, Japanese immigrants and their descendants in Brazil, Afro-Amerasians in America, and the politics of second-generation Indian American youth culture.

Together the essays provide a valuable comparative portrait of Asians across the Americas. Engaging issues of diaspora, transnational social practice and community building, gender, identity, institutionalized racism, and deterritoriality, this volume presents fresh perspectives on displacement, opening the topic up to a wider, more interdisciplinary terrain of inquiry and teaching.

 

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Diversity in Diaspora

Hmong Americans in the Twenty-First Century

edited by Mark Edward Pfeifer, Monica Chiu, and Kou Yang

This anthology wrestles with Hmong Americans’ inclusion into and contributions to Asian American studies, as well as to American history and culture and refugee, immigrant, and diasporic trajectories. It negotiates both Hmong American political and cultural citizenship, meticulously rewriting the established view of the Hmong as “new” Asian neighbors—an approach articulated, Hollywood style, in Clint Eastwood’s film Gran Torino. The collection boldly moves Hmong American studies away from its usual groove of refugee recapitulation that entrenches Hmong Americans points-of-origin and acculturation studies rather than propelling the field into other exciting academic avenues.

Following a summary of more than three decades’ of Hmong American experience and a demographic overview, chapters investigate the causes of and solutions to socioeconomic immobility in the Hmong American community and political and civic activism, including Hmong American electoral participation and its affects on policymaking. The influence of Hmong culture on young men is examined, followed by profiles of female Hmong leaders who discuss the challenges they face and interviews with aging Hmong Americans. A section on arts and literature looks at the continuing relevance of oral tradition to Hmong Americans’ successful navigation in the diaspora, similarities between rap and rwv txhiaj (unrehearsed, sung poetry), and Kao Kalia Yang’s memoir, The Latehomecomer. The final chapter addresses the lay of the land in Hmong American studies, constituting a comprehensive literature review.

Diversity in Diaspora showcases the desire to shape new contours of Hmong American studies as Hmong American scholars themselves address new issues. It represents an essential step in carving out space for Hmong Americans as primary actors in their own right and in placing Hmong American studies within the purview of Asian American studies.

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Double Cross

Japanese Americans In Black And White Chicago

Jacalyn D. Harden

Since the Great Migration of the early twentieth century, Chicago has been a cauldron of race relations, symbolizing the tenacity of discrimination and segregation. But as in other cities with significant populations of Latinos and Asians, Arabs and Jews, this image belies complex racial dynamics. In Double Cross, Jacalyn D. Harden provides an essential rethinking of the ways we understand and talk about race, using an examination of the Japanese American community of Chicago’s Far North Side to form an innovative new framework for looking at race, identity, and political change. The Japanese American community in Chicago rapidly expanded between 1940 and 1950 in the aftermath of wartime internment and government relocation programs. Harden tells their story through archival research and interviews with some of the first Japanese Americans who were relocated to Chicago in the 1940s, incorporating her own experiences as an African American scholar who has lived in Japan. The result is a compelling and surprising account of racial interactions, one that clarifies the complex interweaving between black and Asian lives and reclaims a lost history of solidarity between the two groups. Moving from the Great Migration to the “great relocation” to gentrification, Harden explores the shared history of civil rights struggles that firmly links Japanese and African Americans, most importantly the issue of reparations (for internment during World War II and slavery, respectively). She describes the efforts of Japanese Americans to “double-cross the color line” by building coalitions across race, age, and class boundaries, and their vexed position as sometimes “colored,” sometimes white (for example, the Japanese American soldier who was instructed to use the white washrooms at boot camp in Alabama during World War II, while thousands were being relocated to internment camps). Double Cross is a major contribution to our thought about race relations, challenging orthodoxy and shedding new light on the complex identities, conflicting interests, and external forces that have defined the concept of race in the United States.

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Drawing New Color Lines

Transnational Asian American Graphic Narratives

Edited by Monica Chiu

The global circulation of comics, manga, and other such visual mediums between North America and Asia produces transnational meanings no longer rooted in a separation between “Asian” and “American.” Drawing New Color Lines explores the culture, production, and history of contemporary graphic narratives that depict Asian Americans and Asians. It examines how Japanese manga and Asian popular culture have influenced Asian American comics; how these comics and Asian American graphic narratives depict the “look” of race; and how these various representations are interpreted in nations not of their production. By focusing on what graphic narratives mean for audiences in North America and those in Asia, the collection discusses how Western theories about the ways in which graphic narratives might successfully overturn derogatory caricatures are themselves based on contested assumptions; and illustrates that the so-called odorless images featured in Japanese manga might nevertheless elicit interpretations about race in transnational contexts. With contributions from experts based in North America and Asia, Drawing New Color Lines will be of interest to scholars in a variety of disciplines, including Asian American studies, cultural and literary studies, comics and visual studies.

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East is West and West is East

Gender, Culture, and Interwar Encounters between Asia and America

Karen Kuo

Between 1919-1938,   contact between Asia and America forced a reassessment of the normative boundaries of race, sex, gender, class, home, and nation. Karen Kuo’s provocative East Is West and West Is East looks closely at these global shifts to modernity.

In her analysis of five forgotten texts—the 1930 film East Is West, Frank Capra’s 1937 version of Lost Horizon and its 1973 remake, Younghill Kang's novel East Goes West, and Baroness Ishimoto’s memoir/manifesto, Facing Both Ways—Kuo elucidates how “Asia” played a role in shaping American gender and racial identities and how Asian authors understood modern America and its social, political, and cultural influence on Asia.

Kuo asserts that while notions of white and Asian racial difference remain salient, sexual and gendered constructions of Asians and whites were at times about similarity and intersections as much as they were about establishing differences. 
 

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East Meets Black

Asian and Black Masculinities in the Post-Civil Rights Era

By Chong Chon-Smith

East Meets Black examines the making and remaking of race and masculinity through the racialization of Asian and black men, confronting this important white stratagem to secure class and racial privilege, wealth, and status in the post–civil rights era. Indeed Asian and black men in neoliberal America are cast by white supremacy as oppositional. Through this opposition in the US racial hierarchy, Chong Chon-Smith argues that Asian and black men are positioned along binaries brain/body, diligent/lazy, nerd/criminal, culture/ genetics, student/convict, and technocrat/athlete—in what he terms “racial magnetism.”

Via this concept, East Meets Black traces the national conversations that oppose black and Asian masculinities, but also the Afro-Asian counterpoints in literature, film, popular sport, hip-hop music, performance arts, and internet subcultures. Chon-Smith highlights the spectacle and performance of baseball players such as Ichiro Suzuki within global multiculturalism and the racially coded controversy between Yao Ming and Shaquille O’Neal in transnational basketball. Further, he assesses the prominence of martial arts buddy films such as Romeo Must Die and Rush Hour that produce Afro-Asian solidarity in mainstream Hollywood cinema. Finally, Chon-Smith explores how the Afro-Asian cultural fusions in hip-hop open up possibilities for the creation of alternative subcultures, to disrupt myths of black pathology and the Asian model minority.

In this first interdisciplinary book on Asian and black masculinities in literature and popular culture, Chon-Smith explores the inspiring, contradictory, hostile, resonant, and unarticulated ways in which the formation of Asian and black racial masculinity has affected contemporary America.

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East-West Montage

Reflections on Asian Bodies in Diaspora

Sheng-mei Ma

Approximately twelve hours’ difference lies between New York and Beijing: The West and the East are, literally, night and day apart. Yet East-West Montage crosscuts the two in the manner of adjacent filmic shots to accentuate their montage-like complementarity. It examines the intersection between East and West—the Asian diaspora (or more specifically Asian bodies in diaspora) and the cultural expressions by and about people of Asian descent on both sides of the Pacific. Following the introduction "Establishing Shots," the book is divided into seven intercuts, which in turn subdivide into dialectically paired chapters focusing on specific body parts or attributes. The range of material examined is broad and rich: the iconography of the opium den in film noir, the writings of Asian American novelists, the swordplay and kung fu film, Japanese anime, the "Korean Wave" (including soap operas like Winter Sonata and the cult thriller Oldboy), Rogers and Hammerstein’s Orientalist musicals, the comic Blackhawk, the superstar status of the Dalai Lama, and the demise of Hmong refugees and Chinese retirees in the U.S. Highly original and immensely readable, East-West Montage will appeal to many working in a range of disciplines, including Asian studies, Asian American studies, cultural studies, ethnic studies, film studies, popular culture, and literary criticism.

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