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Journal of Asian American Studies 3.2 (2000) 258-260

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Book Review

Across the Pacific: Asian Americans and Globalization

Across the Pacific: Asian Americans and Globalization. Edited by Evelyn Hu-DeHart. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1999.

This volume comes with a foreword by Vishakha N. Desai of the Asia Society in New York which underwrote a series of discussions on "Bridges with Asia." The collection itself is published in the well-known Temple University Press series on "Asian American History and Culture." It is perhaps the first volume in the series [End Page 258] to explicitly ask what is the role of Asian Americans, and the state of Asian American studies, in a globalized world ?

The field of Asian American studies emerged out of the civil rights movements of the 1960s, but it is currently being reconfigured by the shifting terrains shaped by trans-Pacific connections. A deep tension is produced by the Pacific-orientation versus the national/community-focus, thus requiring Asian American scholars to sort out their ideological, political, and academic agendas in an era of globalization. The introductory chapter by Evelyn Hu-DeHart and Arif Dirlik's essay pose key questions in this conceptual paradox and political dilemma. Should Asian American studies make alliances with Asian studies, and risk being subsumed under the latter's "Orientalist" hegemonic premises? Or should Asian American studies assert it's own "place-based politics" (Dirlik, p. 48), and reject the transnational linkages and claims increasingly shaped by global capitalism? The founding generation wants to hold onto its control of the political meaning of Asian American community, to insist on the "local" versus the "global," and yet one cannot escape the impression that the field is only truly acquainted with the "community" of Asian American academics and conspicuous activists, but rather out of touch with the diverse communities spawned by globalization.

The remaining six chapters deal with different aspects of transnational linkages and their effects on American Chinese communities. Lucie Cheng argues that Asian Americans play a "pivotal role in the restructuring of U.S.-China relations," especially in the economic and social domains (p. 62). They are beneficiaries as well as victims of the economic bloc called Greater China, but because of "transnational racism," have limited options in other fields. This stress on the multiple roles of Asian Americans in transnational networks is picked up by Le Anh Tu Packard. Vietnamese Americans not only help the re-integration of Vietnam into the global economy, they have also been strong in people-to-people projects, especially in the realms of humanitarian work and the restoration of Vietnamese cultural heritage.

The next three chapters track the effects of U.S. foreign policy, immigration laws, and media coverage on the precarious status of Asian Americans. Although current conditions seem ripe for Asian Americans to have a bigger voice in U.S. foreign policy, Paul Y. Wanatabe explores both the opportunities and constraints for Asian Americans as a political influence. The legacy of racism, and on-going perceptions of disloyalty and unreliability have stymied Asian American political activism. Neil Gotanda provides a useful genealogy that links colonial legislation on "Negros" to racial exclusion and more contemporary congressional rulings that promote racial subordination against non-white immigrants. Setsuko [End Page 259] Matsunaga Nishi discusses the historical role of the media in producing and popularizing racist ideology and imagery about Asia that have fed nativist sentiments against Asian Americans, especially during periods of high tension in U.S.-Asian relations. The final chapter by Luis H. Francia explores the idea of "home" produced in creative writings as one of instability and ambivalence. The themes of dis-orientation, displacement, and marginality shape a vision of home as one poised between America and the Homeland.

In short, the volume raises some good questions, and while many of the arguments sound familiar, they are slightly recast to take into account the impact of the new transnationalism on Asian Americans. The handling of scholarship on the Asia-Pacific and overseas Chinese networks is uneven, and the reader is hampered by...


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