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Reviewed by:
  • Asian Canadian Studies Reader ed. by Roland Sintos Coloma and Gordon Pon
  • Anne Murphy (bio)
Roland Sintos Coloma and Gordon Pon, eds. Asian Canadian Studies Reader. University of Toronto Press. xiv, 388. $58.95

The publication of the Asian Canadian Studies Reader marks an important moment in the history of its field, and it is a history of which the collection itself is well aware. The authors of its first essay entitled "Asian Canadian Studies Now: Directions and Challenges" note that the volume is intended to support the development of Asian Canadian Studies programs in Canadian institutions [End Page 108] both by capturing the state of the field at this time and through a design appropriate for teaching at the introductory level. The volume does just this, providing also a valuable sense of where this field has been and where it is going.

A review of this length is insufficient for expressing the complexity of the work included in this collection; it is indeed well designed as the core text for a semester-long course. The careful design of the volume as a whole, as is clearly described in its first chapter, however, makes such a difficult task easier. The work is divided into six sections that are organized around the idea of "encounter" to situate "the historical and contemporary realities of Asian Canadians as intimately tied with those of other groups." In the first section, we have the introductory chapter, which lays out the goals for the volume and the history of the field. The second and third essays, by Sunera Thobani and Peter Li, lay out the racialized formations of citizenship and immigration discourses and also provide a valuable overview of key legislation and policy that undergird a highly racialized Canadian national imaginary. Essays by Sherene Razack and Richard Fung explore aspects of this imaginary in contemporary discourse. Razack explores how the "Sharia Debate" was articulated through a simply construed secular/religious dichotomy and the ways in which the state used "feminist concerns to stigmatize and police Muslims and to produce the normative citizen as unconnected to community." Fung explicates the racist and orientalizing tropes that dominate in gay porn, impeding the representation of Asian men in ways that are "erotic and politically palatable (as opposed to correct)." In the second section on "ethnic encounters," we see the explication of the experiences of groups that challenge the racialized national formations analysed in the first section, through three careful case studies of the incarceration of Japanese Canadians during World War II (Mona Oikawa), on art created as a response to the treatment of Chinese Canadians (Alice Ming Wai Jim), and the experiences of Filipino youth (Geraldine Pratt).

The third section of the collection explores "intersectional encounters" and the complex relationships among race, gender, and class in constituting Asian Canadian experiences. Himani Bannerji revisits state policy through a political critique of the depoliticizing valences of "multiculturalism" in the Canadian context, while Roxana Ng's essay pursues an unusual auto-ethnography to interrogate aspects of her own experience as an academic. Jasmin Jiwani's essay analyses representations in the Montreal Gazette to understand their portrayal of religious difference, which clearly reflect wider trends in the media post 9/11. The fourth section explores "comparative encounters," providing a valuable reading of "Asian and First Nations relations in literature" (Rita Wong) and how the regulation of sexuality and concerns over miscegenation underlay exclusionary legislation and policy (Eric Fong). Fong's piece could have fit easily in the third section as well. Overlap with the third section is also seen in the piece by Daiva Satsiulius and Abigail Bakan on the experiences of domestic workers in Canada, which demonstrates vividly the impact of gender, class, and national origin difference. [End Page 109]

The final two sections on "transnational encounters" and "after encounters" provide compelling accounts that place Asian Canadian histories within the broader frames of the local, the global, and the transnational (Lily Cho, Roy Miki, Sedef Arat-Koç) and in terms of future-looking engagements (Henry Yu, Laura Kwak, Roland Sintos Coloma). Returning to the formations of Canadian national identity with which the collection opens, and the complexity of relationships indicated...


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