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Introduction to the Special Issue

From: Journal of Asian American Studies
Volume 14, Number 3, October 2011
pp. 323-329 | 10.1353/jaas.2011.0036

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

The field of Asian American Studies has been at the forefront of scholarly discussions regarding the presence of Asians and Pacific Islanders in the Americas and Asian-Latino relations. Pioneering works by Evelyn Hu-DeHart, Lane Ryo Hirabayashi, Karen Tei Yamashita, Roshni Rustomji-Kerns, Lok Siu, Walton Look Lai, Seiichi Higashide, and James Tigner, among others, have helped to nurture and inspire other fields of inquiry into examining the rich, complex history and contemporary issues that are a legacy of these experiences. Moreover, Asian American studies has also been one of the first disciplines to center the mixed-race experience and help foster the growth of an emerging multiracial studies scholarship. Early works by Paul Spickard, Maria P. P. Root, Teresa Williams-León, Velina Hasu Houston, Cynthia Nakashima, Christina Iijima Hall, Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu, and George Kitahara Kich, for example, led the way in rearticulating and moving beyond the black/white paradigm of race and mixed-race relations, by focusing on the understudied histories of mixed-race peoples of Asian descent and the complex ways identities are forged and maintained. Within this field scholars such as Karen Isaksen Leonard, Steven Masami Ropp, Fabiana Chiu-Rinaldi, Seiichi Higashide, Evelyn Hu-DeHart, and others have also made an effort to include the experiences of mixed-race and cultural identities of Asian Latinos, not only in the United States but throughout the rest of the Western Hemisphere as well. These studies have spoken to the rich history and experiences of mixed-race Asian Latinos and how multiple racial formations continue to be dynamic within a hemispheric context, forged through the story of mestizaje, the racial and cultural blending of peoples. This special issue of Journal of Asian American Studies (JAAS) continues the conversation, bringing to light new perspectives from emerging scholars whose voices contribute to the ever-growing presence of mixed-race peoples and continued interracial relations in the Americas.

This particular topic has been an interest of mine since I began graduate school in 2000. Early on in my academic career I had the opportunity to attend two key caucus meetings. The first was the Asian Latino Caucus held in Los Angeles in 2005 at the Association for Asian American Studies (AAAS) conference facilitated by Lisa Cacho and Stephen Masami Ropp. The second caucus was the Mixed Race Caucus held in Chicago in 2008, which was facilitated by Camilla Fojas and Wei Ming Dariotis. In both caucuses, I was intrigued by the intersections and possibilities these topics would have when examining the Asian Latino experience in the Americas and in what ways the lives of these mixed-race communities complicate the process and inclusion of their stories in the narrative of mestizaje.

When approached by Huping Ling, the JAAS editor, to do a special issue, I thought about what direction this issue would go given my own research interests, which were highly influenced by these bodies of scholarship. That idea emerged while at the AAAS conference in Austin, Texas, in 2010. I had the good fortune of attending the "Unruly Crossings: Asian/ Latino/American" plenary on April 9, 2010, which was organized and facilitated by Lok Siu and Erika Lee. After the plenary session I was inspired not only by the topics that were discussed presenting the historical presence, contributions, and complex relationships of Asians in the Americas and the Caribbean but also by what it left me thinking afterward—namely, how these topics of discussion speak to the racial blending of Asians and Latinos, which has been the catalyst for interracial marriages and other forms of unions, and the experiences of their mixed-race children, who in the process of just being born redefine and challenge what it means to be both Asian and Latino. Indeed, despite the fact that their parents and they themselves have often been excluded from the narrative of mestizaje (depending on time and circumstance), they remained major actors in this story. As Evelyn Hu-DeHart, one of the speakers at the plenary noted, "these histories are hidden in plain view."

What this issue intends to do is contribute in its own way to the larger discussion of Asian-Latino relations and mestizaje so that it...



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