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Emerging Voices

Experiences of Underrepresented Asian Americans

Edited by Huping Ling

While a growing number of popular and scholarly works focus on Asian Americans, most are devoted to the experiences of larger groups such as Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Filipino, and Indian Americans. As the field grows, there is a pressing need to understand the smaller and more recent immigrant communities. Emerging Voices fills this gap with its unique and compelling discussion of underrepresented groups, including Burmese, Indonesian, Mong, Hmong, Nepalese, Romani, Tibetan, and Thai Americans. Unlike the earlier and larger groups of Asian immigrants to America, many of whom made the choice to emigrate to seek better economic opportunities, many of the groups discussed in this volume fled war or political persecution in their homeland. Forced to make drastic transitions in America with little physical or psychological preparation, questions of "why am I here," "who am I," and "why am I discriminated against," remain at the heart of their post-emigration experiences. Bringing together eminent scholars from a variety of disciplines, this collection considers a wide range of themes, including assimilation and adaptation, immigration patterns, community, education, ethnicity, economics, family, gender, marriage, religion, sexuality, and work.

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Ends of Empire

Asian American Critique and the Cold War

Jodi Kim

Ends of Empire examines Asian American cultural production and its challenge to the dominant understanding of American imperialism, Cold War dynamics, and race and gender formation.
 
Jodi Kim demonstrates the degree to which Asian American literature and film critique the record of U.S. imperial violence in Asia and provides a glimpse into the imperial and gendered racial logic of the Cold War. She unfolds this particularly entangled and enduring episode in the history of U.S. global hegemony—one that, contrary to leading interpretations of the Cold War as a simple bipolar rivalry, was significantly triangulated in Asia.
 
The Asian American works analyzed here constitute a crucial body of what Kim reveals as transnational “Cold War compositions,” which are at once a geopolitical structuring, an ideological writing, and a cultural imagining. Arguing that these works reframe the U.S. Cold War as a project of gendered racial formation and imperialism as well as a production of knowledge, Ends of Empire offers an interdisciplinary investigation into the transnational dimensions of Asian America and its critical relationship to Cold War history.

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Escape from New York

The New Negro Renaissance beyond Harlem

Davarian L. Baldwin

In the midst of vast cultural and political shifts in the early twentieth century, politicians and cultural observers variously hailed and decried the rise of the “New Negro.” This phenomenon was most clearly manifest in the United States through the outpouring of Black arts and letters and social commentary known as the Harlem Renaissance. What is less known is how far afield of Harlem that renaissance flourished—how much the New Negro movement was actually just one part of a collective explosion of political protest, cultural expression, and intellectual debate all over the world.

In this volume, the Harlem Renaissance “escapes from New York” into its proper global context. These essays recover the broader New Negro experience as social movements, popular cultures, and public behavior spanned the globe from New York to New Orleans, from Paris to the Philippines and beyond. Escape from New York does not so much map the many sites of this early twentieth-century Black internationalism as it draws attention to how New Negroes and their global allies already lived. Resituating the Harlem Renaissance, the book stresses the need for scholarship to catch up with the historical reality of the New Negro experience. This more comprehensive vision serves as a lens through which to better understand capitalist developments, imperial expansions, and the formation of brave new worlds in the early twentieth century.

Contributors: Anastasia Curwood, Vanderbilt U; Frank A. Guridy, U of Texas at Austin; Claudrena Harold, U of Virginia; Jeannette Eileen Jones, U of Nebraska–Lincoln; Andrew W. Kahrl, Marquette U; Shannon King, College of Wooster; Charlie Lester; Thabiti Lewis, Washington State U, Vancouver; Treva Lindsey, U of Missouri–Columbia; David Luis-Brown, Claremont Graduate U; Emily Lutenski, Saint Louis U; Mark Anthony Neal, Duke U; Yuichiro Onishi, U of Minnesota, Twin Cities; Theresa Runstedtler, U at Buffalo (SUNY); T. Denean Sharpley-Whiting, Vanderbilt U; Michelle Stephens, Rutgers U, New Brunswick; Jennifer M. Wilks, U of Texas at Austin; Chad Williams, Brandeis U.

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The Ethics and Poetics of Alterity in Asian American Poetry

Poetry by Asian American writers has had a significant impact on the landscape of contemporary American poetry, and a book-length critical treatment of Asian American poetry is long overdue. In this groundbreaking book, Xiaojing Zhou demonstrates how many Asian American poets transform the conventional “I” of lyric poetry---based on the traditional Western concept of the self and the Cartesian “I”---to enact a more ethical relationship between the “I” and its others.Drawing on Emmanuel Levinas's idea of the ethics of alterity---which argues that an ethical relation to the other is one that acknowledges the irreducibility of otherness---Zhou offers a reconceptualization of both self and other. Taking difference as a source of creativity and turning it into a form of resistance and a critical intervention, Asian American poets engage with broader issues than the merely poetic. They confront social injustice against the other and call critical attention to a concept of otherness which differs fundamentally from that underlying racism, sexism, and colonialism. By locating the ethical and political questions of otherness in language, discourse, aesthetics, and everyday encounters, Asian American poets help advance critical studies in race, gender, and popular culture as well as in poetry.The Ethics and Poetics of Alterity is not limited, however, to literary studies: it is an invaluable response to the questions raised by increasingly globalized encounters across many kinds of boundaries.The Poets: Marilyn Chin, Kimiko Hahn, Myung Mi Kim, Li Young Lee, Timothy Liu, David Mura, and John Yau

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An Ethics of Betrayal

The Politics of Otherness in Emergent U.S. Literatures and Culture

Crystal Parikh

In An Ethics of Betrayal, Crystal Parikh investigates the theme and tropes of betrayal and treason in Asian American and Chicano/Latino literary and cultural narratives. In considering betrayal from an ethical perspective, one grounded in the theories of Emmanuel Levinas and Jacques Derrida, Parikh argues that the minority subject is obligated in a primary, preontological, and irrecusable relation of responsibility to the Other. Episodes of betrayal and treason allegorize the position of this subject, beholden to the many others who embody the alterity of existence and whose demands upon the subject result in transgressions of intimacy and loyalty. In this first major comparative study of narratives by and about Asian Americans and Latinos, Parikh considers writings by Frank Chin, Gish Jen, Chang-rae Lee, Eric Liu, Amrico Parades, and Richard Rodriguez, as well as narratives about the persecution of Wen Ho Lee and the rescue and return of Elian Gonz\~lez. By addressing the conflicts at the heart of filiality, the public dimensions of language in the constitution of minority community,and the mercenary mobilizations of model minoritystatus, An Ethics of Betrayal seriously engages the challenges of conducting ethnic and critical race studies based on the uncompromising and unromantic ideas of justice, reciprocity, and ethical society.

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Ethnic Origins

The Adaptation of Cambodian and Hmong Refugees in Four American Cities

Immigration studies have increasingly focused on how immigrant adaptation to their new homelands is influenced by the social structures in the sending society, particularly its economy. Less scholarly research has focused on the ways that the cultural make-up of immigrant homelands influences their adaptation to life in a new country. In Ethnic Origins, Jeremy Hein investigates the role of religion, family, and other cultural factors on immigrant incorporation into American society by comparing the experiences of two little-known immigrant groups living in four different American cities not commonly regarded as immigrant gateways. Ethnic Origins provides an in-depth look at Hmong and Khmer refugees—people who left Asia as a result of failed U.S. foreign policy in their countries. These groups share low socio-economic status, but are vastly different in their norms, values, and histories. Hein compares their experience in two small towns—Rochester, Minnesota and Eau Claire, Wisconsin—and in two big cities—Chicago and Milwaukee—and examines how each group adjusted to these different settings. The two groups encountered both community hospitality and narrow-minded hatred in the small towns, contrasting sharply with the cold anonymity of the urban pecking order in the larger cities. Hein finds that for each group, their ethnic background was more important in shaping adaptation patterns than the place in which they settled. Hein shows how, in both the cities and towns, the Hmong’s sharply drawn ethnic boundaries and minority status in their native land left them with less affinity for U.S. citizenship or “Asian American” panethnicity than the Khmer, whose ethnic boundary is more porous. Their differing ethnic backgrounds also influenced their reactions to prejudice and discrimination. The Hmong, with a strong group identity, perceived greater social inequality and supported collective political action to redress wrongs more than the individualistic Khmer, who tended to view personal hardship as a solitary misfortune, rather than part of a larger-scale injustice. Examining two unique immigrant groups in communities where immigrants have not traditionally settled, Ethnic Origins vividly illustrates the factors that shape immigrants’ response to American society and suggests a need to refine prevailing theories of immigration. Hein’s book is at once a novel look at a little-known segment of America’s melting pot and a significant contribution to research on Asian immigration to the United States.

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Ethnic Renewal in Philadelphia's Chinatown

Space, Place, and Struggle

Philadelphia’s Chinatown, like many urban chinatowns, began in the late nineteenth century as a refuge for immigrant laborers and merchants in which to form a community to raise families and conduct business. But this enclave for expression, identity, and community is also the embodiment of historical legacies and personal and collective memories.
 
In Ethnic Renewal in Philadelphia’s Chinatown. Kathryn Wilson charts the unique history of this neighborhood. After 1945, a new generation of families began to shape Chinatown’s future. As plans for urban renewal—ranging from a cross-town expressway and commuter rail in the 1960s to a downtown baseball stadium in 2000—were proposed and developed, “Save Chinatown” activists rose up and fought for social justice.
 
Wilson chronicles the community’s efforts to save and renew itself through urban planning, territorial claims, and culturally specific rebuilding. She shows how these efforts led to Chinatown’s growth and its continued ability to serve as a living community for subsequent waves of new immigration.  

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Ethnic Solidarity for Economic Survival

Korean Greengrocers in New York City

Generations of immigrants have relied on small family businesses in their pursuit of the American dream. This entrepreneurial tradition remains highly visible among Korean immigrants in New York City, who have carved out a thriving business niche for themselves operating many of the city’s small grocery stores and produce markets. But this success has come at a price, leading to dramatic, highly publicized conflicts between Koreans and other ethnic groups. In Ethnic Solidarity for Economic Survival, Pyong Gap Min takes Korean produce retailers as a case study to explore how involvement in ethnic businesses—especially where it collides with the economic interests of other ethnic groups—powerfully shapes the social, cultural, and economic unity of immigrant groups. Korean produce merchants, caught between white distributors, black customers, Hispanic employees, and assertive labor unions, provide a unique opportunity to study the formation of group solidarity in the face of inter-group conflicts. Ethnic Solidarity for Economic Survival draws on census and survey data, interviews with community leaders and merchants, and a review of ethnic newspaper articles to trace the growth and evolution of Korean collective action in response to challenges produce merchants received from both white suppliers and black customers. When Korean produce merchants first attempted to gain a foothold in the city’s economy, they encountered pervasive discrimination from white wholesale suppliers at Hunts Point Market in the Bronx. In response, Korean merchants formed the Korean Produce Association (KPA), a business organization that gradually evolved into a powerful engine for promoting Korean interests. The KPA used boycotts, pickets, and group purchasing to effect enduring improvements in supplier-merchant relations. Pyong Gap Min returns to the racially charged events surrounding black boycotts of Korean stores in the 1990s, which were fueled by frustration among African Americans at a perceived economic invasion of their neighborhoods. The Korean community responded with rallies, political negotiations, and publicity campaigns of their own. The disappearance of such disputes in recent years has been accompanied by a corresponding reduction in Korean collective action, suggesting that ethnic unity is not inevitable but rather emerges, often as a form of self-defense, under certain contentious conditions. Solidarity, Min argues, is situational. This important new book charts a novel course in immigrant research by demonstrating how business conflicts can give rise to demonstrations of group solidarity. Ethnic Solidarity for Economic Survival is at once a sophisticated empirical analysis and a riveting collection of stories—about immigration, race, work, and the American dream.

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Ethnicity and Inequality in Hawai'i

Challenging the dominant view of Hawai’i as a “melting pot paradise”—a place of ethnic tolerance and equality—Jonathan Okamura examines how ethnic inequality is structured and maintained in island society. He finds that ethnicity, not race or class, signifies difference for Hawaii’s people and therefore structures their social relations. In Hawai’i, residents attribute greater social significance to the presumed cultural differences between ethnicities than to more obvious physical differences, such as skin color.

According to Okamura, ethnicity regulates disparities in access to resources, rewards, and privileges among ethnic groups, as he demonstrates in his analysis of socioeconomic and educational inequalities in the state. He shows that socially and economically dominant ethnic groups—Chinese Americans, Japanese Americans, and Whites—have stigmatized and subjugated the islands’ other ethnic groups—especially Native Hawaiians, Filipino Americans, and Samoans. He demonstrates how ethnic stereotypes have been deployed against ethnic minorities and how these groups have contested their subordinate political and economic status by articulating new identities for themselves.

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Facing the Khmer Rouge

A Cambodian Journey

Ronnie Yimsut

As a child growing up in Cambodia, Ronnie Yimsut played among the ruins of the Angkor Wat temples, surrounded by a close-knit community. As the Khmer Rouge gained power and began its genocidal reign of terror, his life became a nightmare. In this stunning memoir, Yimsut describes how, in the wake of death and destruction, he decides to live.

Escaping the turmoil of Cambodia, he makes a perilous journey through the jungle into Thailand, only to be sent to a notorious Thai prison. Fortunately, he is able to reach a refugee camp and ultimately migrate to the United States, where he attended the University of Oregon and became an influential leader in the community of Cambodian immigrants. Facing the Khmer Rouge shows Ronnie Yimsut’s personal quest to rehabilitate himself, make a new life in America, and then return to Cambodia to help rebuild the land of his birth.

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