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Behind the Headlines: APA News Blog

Academic Version: Applying my personal experiences and academic research as a professor of Sociology and Asian American Studies to provide a more complete understanding of political, economic, and cultural issues and current events related to American race relations, and Asia/Asian America in particular.

Plain English: Trying to put my Ph.D. to good use.

February 24, 2014

Written by C.N.

New Books: Contemporary Immigration to the U.S.

I am teaching my “Sociology of Immigration” course again this semester and to reflect the importance of this issue within the public and political realms of U.S. society at the moment, below are some recently-released books that highlight the multidimensional and interrelated aspects of immigration to the U.S. these days. As always, a book’s inclusion is for informational purposes only and does not necessarily mean a full endorsement of its contents.

Arizona Firestorm: Global Immigration Realities, National Media, and Provincial Politics, edited by Otto Santa Ana and Celeste González de Bustamante (Rowman & Littlefield)

'Arizona Firestorm' by Santa Ana and Gonzalez de Bustamente

In 2010, the governor of Arizona signed a controversial immigration bill (SB 1070) that led to a news media frenzy, copycat bills in twenty-two states, and a U.S. Supreme Court battle that put Arizona at the cross-hairs of the immigration debate. Arizona Firestorm brings together well-respected experts from across the political spectrum to examine and contextualize the political, economic, historical, and legal issues prompted by this and other anti-Latino and anti-immigrant legislation and state actions. It also addresses the news media’s role in shaping immigration discourse in Arizona and around the globe. Arizona is a case study of the roots and impact of the 21st century immigration challenge. Arizona Firestorm will be of interest to scholars and students in communication, public policy, state politics, federalism, and anyone interested in immigration policy or Latino politics.

Education and Immigration, by Grace Kao, Elizabeth Vaquera, and Kimberly Goyette (Polity Press)

'Education and Immigration' by Kao, Vaquera, and Goyette

Education is a crucially important social institution, closely correlated with wealth, occupational prestige, psychological well-being, and health outcomes. Moreover, for children of immigrants – who account for almost one in four school-aged children in the U.S. – it is the primary means through which they become incorporated into American society. This insightful new book explores the educational outcomes of post-1965 immigrants and their children.

Tracing the historical context and key contemporary scholarship on immigration, the authors examine issues such as structural versus cultural theories of education stratification, the overlap of immigrant status with race and ethnicity, and the role of language in educational outcomes. Throughout, the authors pay attention to the great diversity among immigrants: some arrive with PhDs to work as research professors, while others arrive with a primary school education and no English skills to work as migrant laborers. As immigrants come from an ever-increasing array of races, ethnicities, and national origins, immigrant assimilation is more complex than ever before, and education is central to their adaptation to American society.

Sacrificing Families: Navigating Laws, Labor, and Love Across Borders, by Leisy Abrego (Stanford University Press)

'Sacrificing Families' by Abrego

Widening global inequalities make it difficult for parents in developing nations to provide for their children, and both mothers and fathers often find that migration in search of higher wages is their only hope. Their dreams are straightforward: with more money, they can improve their children’s lives. But the reality of their experiences is often harsh, and structural barriers—particularly those rooted in immigration policies and gender inequities—prevent many from reaching their economic goals.

Sacrificing Families offers a first-hand look at Salvadoran transnational families, how the parents fare in the United States, and the experiences of the children back home. It captures the tragedy of these families’ daily living arrangements, but also delves deeper to expose the structural context that creates and sustains patterns of inequality in their well-being. What prevents these parents from migrating with their children? What are these families’ experiences with long-term separation? And why do some ultimately fare better than others?

As free trade agreements expand and nation-states open doors widely for products and profits while closing them tightly for refugees and migrants, these transnational families are not only becoming more common, but they are living through lengthier separations. Leisy Abrego gives voice to these immigrants and their families and documents the inequalities across their experiences.

Immigration, Poverty, and Socioeconomic Inequality, edited by David Card and Steven Raphael (Russell Sage Foundation)

'Immigration, Poverty, and Socioeconomic Inequality' by Card and Raphael

The rapid rise in the proportion of foreign-born residents in the U.S. since the mid-1960s is one of the most important demographic events of the past fifty years. The increase in immigration, especially among the less-skilled and less-educated, has prompted fears that the newcomers may have depressed the wages and employment of the native-born, burdened state and local budgets, and slowed the U.S. economy as a whole.

Would the poverty rate be lower in the absence of immigration? How does the undocumented status of an increasing segment of the foreign-born population impact wages in the U.S.? In Immigration, Poverty and Socioeconomic Inequality, noted labor economists David Card and Steven Raphael and an interdisciplinary team of scholars provide a comprehensive assessment of the costs and benefits of the latest era of immigration to the U.S. Immigration, Poverty and Socioeconomic Inequality rigorously explores shifts in population trends, labor market competition, and socioeconomic segregation to investigate how the recent rise in immigration affects economic disadvantage in the U.S.

Race and Immigration, by Nazli Kibria, Cara Bowman, and Megan O’Leary (Polity Press)

'Race and Immigration' by Kibria, Bowman, and O'Leary

Immigration has long shaped US society in fundamental ways. With Latinos recently surpassing African Americans as the largest minority group in the U.S., attention has been focused on the important implications of immigration for the character and role of race in U.S. life, including patterns of racial inequality and racial identity.

This insightful new book offers a fresh perspective on immigration and its part in shaping the racial landscape of the US today. Moving away from one-dimensional views of this relationship, it emphasizes the dynamic and mutually formative interactions of race and immigration. Drawing on a wide range of studies, it explores key aspects of the immigrant experience, such as the history of immigration laws, the formation of immigrant occupational niches, and developments of immigrant identity and community. Specific topics covered include: the perceived crisis of unauthorized immigration; the growth of an immigrant rights movement; the role of immigrant labor in the elder care industry; the racial strategies of professional immigrants; and the formation of pan-ethnic Latino identities.

Undocumented: How Immigration Became Illegal, by Aviva Chomsky (Beacon Press)

'Undocumented' by Chomsky

Immigrant rights activist Aviva Chomsky shows how “illegality” and “undocumentedness” are concepts that were created to exclude and exploit. With a focus on US policy, she probes how and why people, especially Mexican and Central Americans, have been assigned this status—and to what ends. Blending history with human drama, Chomsky explores what it means to be undocumented in a legal, social, economic, and historical context. She also unmasks how undocumented people live—how they work, what social services they’re eligible for, and how being undocumented affects the lives of children and families. Undocumented turns a fresh lens onto one of today’s most pressing debates.


April 29, 2013

Written by C.N.

New Books: Challenges and Rewards of Racial/Ethnic Diversity

Below are some recently-released books that highlight the challenges and the rewards associated with racial/ethnic diversity in U.S. society. Almost all types of heterogeneity is likely to produce strain and tension, but if dealt with in certain ways, can also result in many positive changes and greater cohesion as well. These books provide some glimpses into how these dynamics are taking place as we speak. A book’s inclusion is for informational purposes only and does not necessarily mean a full endorsement of its contents.

Bridging the Diversity Divide: Globalization and Reciprocal Empowerment in Higher Education: ASHE Higher Education Report, by Edna Chun and Alvin Evans (Jossey-Bass Publishing)

'Bridging the Diversity Divide' by Chin and Evans

The sweeping forces of globalization present new challenges for higher education but also represent a clear mandate for change. Because of the unfinished business of remedying the underrepresentation of minorities and women in higher education, this book is designed to assist campus leaders and educators in the difficult process of cultural transformation in support of diversity and inclusion. The book explores the model of reciprocal empowerment as a moral framework linking the institution’s values, culture, and workplace practices to the outside world through the prism of diversity.

Bridging the Diversity Divide is a practical guide that provides concrete approaches to the creation of a genuinely inclusive campus. Its focus is on research-based strategies that will enable institutions of higher education to assess current practices, create successful action plans, and move beyond structural representation to true reciprocal empowerment. The measurement strategies, organizational learning tools, and best practices included here will assist institutions of higher education in building a flexible repertoire of institutional approaches to reciprocal empowerment and inclusion.

Only by systemic organizational change will universities bridge the diversity divide and create a campus culture that values and celebrates the contributions of all its members. This is a must-read for educators seeking to translate diversity principles into practice.

Postville: USA: Surviving Diversity in Small-Town America, by Mark A Grey, Michele Devlin, and Aaron Goldsmith (Gemma Media)

'Postville' by Grey, Delvin, and Goldsmith

Postville is an obscure meatpacking town in the northeast corner of Iowa. Here, in the most unlikely of places, unparalleled diversity drew international media. Now people declare the town’s experiment in multiculturalism dead. It was not native Iowans, or the newly-arrived Orthodox Jews, or the immigrant workers who made Postville fail.

Postville was stopped in its tracks by a massive raid by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on May 12th 2008. 20% of the population was arrested, forcing the closure of the town’s kosher meatpacking plant. The raid exposed the disastrous enforcement of immigration policy, the exploitation of Postville by activists, and disturbing questions about the packing house’s operators.

Ethnoburb: The New Ethnic Community in Urban America, by Li Wei (University of Hawai’i Press)

'Ethnoburb' by Wei

This innovative work provides a new model for the analysis of ethnic and racial settlement patterns in the United States and Canada. Ethnoburbs — suburban ethnic clusters of residential areas and business districts in large metropolitan areas — are multiracial, multiethnic, multicultural, multilingual, and often multinational communities in which one ethnic minority group has a significant concentration but does not necessarily constitute a majority. Wei Li documents the processes that have evolved with the spatial transformation of the Chinese American community of Los Angeles and that have converted the San Gabriel Valley into ethnoburbs in the latter half of the twentieth century, and she examines the opportunities and challenges that occurred as a result of these changes.

Traditional ethnic and immigrant settlements customarily take the form of either ghettos or enclaves. Thus the majority of scholarly publications and mass media covering the San Gabriel Valley has described it as a Chinatown located in Los Angeles’ suburbs. Li offers a completely different approach to understanding and analyzing this fascinating place. By conducting interviews with residents, a comparative spatial examination of census data and other statistical sources, and fieldwork—coupled with her own holistic view of the area—Li gives readers an effective and fine-tuned socio-spatial analysis of the evolution of a new type of racially defined place. The San Gabriel Valley tells a unique story, but its evolution also speaks to those experiencing a similar type of ethnic and racial conurbation. In sum, Li sheds light on processes that are shaping other present (and future) ethnically and racially diverse communities.

On Being Different: Diversity and Multiculturalism in the North American Mainstream, by Conrad Kottak and Kathryn Kozaitis (McGraw Hill)

'on Being Different' by Kottak and Kozaitis

Understanding of cultural diversity is essential to a healthy multicultural society. Fundamental to this book’s approach is the belief that a comparative, cross-cultural view of human differences and similarities enhances understanding of diversity and multiculturalism within contemporary North America.

On Being Different provides an up-to-date, comprehensive, and interdisciplinary account of diversity and multiculturalism in the United States and Canada. Conrad Kottak and Kathryn Kozaitis clarify essential issues, themes, and topics in the study of diversity, including ethnicity, religion, gender, and sexual orientation. The book also presents an original theory of multiculturalism, showing how human agency and culture work to organize and change society. The authors use rich and varied ethnographic examples, from North America and abroad, to help students apply the material to their own lives, and thus gain a better understanding of diversity and multiculturalism.

The Imperative of Integration, edited by Elizabeth Anderson (Princeton University Press)

'The Imperative of Integration' by Anderson

More than forty years have passed since Congress, in response to the Civil Rights Movement, enacted sweeping antidiscrimination laws in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Fair Housing Act of 1968. As a signal achievement of that legacy, in 2008, Americans elected their first African American president. Some would argue that we have finally arrived at a postracial America, but The Imperative of Integration indicates otherwise.

Elizabeth Anderson demonstrates that, despite progress toward racial equality, African Americans remain disadvantaged on virtually all measures of well-being. Segregation remains a key cause of these problems, and Anderson skillfully shows why racial integration is needed to address these issues. Weaving together extensive social science findings–in economics, sociology, and psychology–with political theory, this book provides a compelling argument for reviving the ideal of racial integration to overcome injustice and inequality, and to build a better democracy.

Considering the effects of segregation and integration across multiple social arenas, Anderson exposes the deficiencies of racial views on both the right and the left. She reveals the limitations of conservative explanations for black disadvantage in terms of cultural pathology within the black community and explains why color blindness is morally misguided. Multicultural celebrations of group differences are also not enough to solve our racial problems. Anderson provides a distinctive rationale for affirmative action as a tool for promoting integration, and explores how integration can be practiced beyond affirmative action.

Offering an expansive model for practicing political philosophy in close collaboration with the social sciences, this book is a trenchant examination of how racial integration can lead to a more robust and responsive democracy.

Alien Neighbors, Foreign Friends: Asian Americans, Housing, and the Transformation of Urban California, by Charlotte Brooks (University of Chicago Press)

'Alien Neighbors, Foreign Friends' by Brooks

Between the early 1900s and the late 1950s, the attitudes of white Californians toward their Asian American neighbors evolved from outright hostility to relative acceptance. Charlotte Brooks examines this transformation through the lens of California’s urban housing markets, arguing that the perceived foreignness of Asian Americans, which initially stranded them in segregated areas, eventually facilitated their integration into neighborhoods that rejected other minorities.

Against the backdrop of cold war efforts to win Asian hearts and minds, whites who saw little difference between Asians and Asian Americans increasingly advocated the latter group’s access to middle-class life and the residential areas that went with it. But as they transformed Asian Americans into a “model minority,” whites purposefully ignored the long backstory of Chinese and Japanese Americans’ early and largely failed attempts to participate in public and private housing programs.

As Brooks tells this multifaceted story, she draws on a broad range of sources in multiple languages, giving voice to an array of community leaders, journalists, activists, and homeowners—and insightfully conveying the complexity of racialized housing in a multiracial society.

Dangerous or Endangered?: Race and the Politics of Youth in Urban America, by Jennifer Tilton (New York University Press)

'Dangerous or Endangered' by Tilton

How do you tell the difference between a “good kid” and a “potential thug”? In Dangerous or Endangered?, Jennifer Tilton considers the ways in which children are increasingly viewed as dangerous and yet, simultaneously, as endangered and in need of protection by the state.

Tilton draws on three years of ethnographic research in Oakland, California, one of the nation’s most racially diverse cities, to examine how debates over the nature and needs of young people have fundamentally reshaped politics, transforming ideas of citizenship and the state in contemporary America. As parents and neighborhood activists have worked to save and discipline young people, they have often inadvertently reinforced privatized models of childhood and urban space, clearing the streets of children, who are encouraged to stay at home or in supervised after-school programs. Youth activists protest these attempts, demanding a right to the city and expanded rights of citizenship.

Dangerous or Endangered? pays careful attention to the intricate connections between fears of other people’s kids and fears for our own kids in order to explore the complex racial, class, and gender divides in contemporary American cities.


March 4, 2013

Written by C.N.

New Books: Race, Immigration, Integration, and History

The following new books look at the intersections and connections between race, ethnicity, immigration, and community and how different groups of color/immigrants negotiated the political, economic, and cultural landscape of U.S. society through the years, the impacts they’ve had on their new surroundings, and vice versa. As always, a book’s inclusion is for informational purposes only and does not necessarily mean a full endorsement of its contents.

Mexican Americans Across Generations: Immigrant Families, Racial Realities, by Jessica M. Vasquez (New York University Press)

'Mexican Americans Across Generations' by Vazquez

While newly arrived immigrants are often the focus of public concern and debate, many Mexican immigrants and Mexican Americans have resided in the United States for generations. Latinos are the largest and fastest-growing ethnic group in the United States, and their racial identities change with each generation. While the attainment of education and middle class occupations signals a decline in cultural attachment for some, socioeconomic mobility is not a cultural death-knell, as others are highly ethnically identified. There are a variety of ways that middle class Mexican Americans relate to their ethnic heritage, and racialization despite assimilation among a segment of the second and third generations reveals the continuing role of race even among the U.S.-born.

Mexican Americans Across Generations investigates racial identity and assimilation in three-generation Mexican American families living in California. Through rich interviews with three generations of middle class Mexican American families, Vasquez focuses on the family as a key site for racial and gender identity formation, knowledge transmission, and incorporation processes, exploring how the racial identities of Mexican Americans both change and persist generationally in families. She illustrates how gender, physical appearance, parental teaching, historical era and discrimination influence Mexican Americans’ racial identity and incorporation patterns, ultimately arguing that neither racial identity nor assimilation are straightforward progressions but, instead, develop unevenly and are influenced by family, society, and historical social movements.

News for All the People: The Epic Story of Race and the American Media, by Juan González and Joseph Torres (Verso)

'News for All the People' by Gonzalez and Torres

From the earliest colonial newspapers to the Internet age, America’s racial divisions have played a central role in the creation of the country’s media system, just as the media has contributed to—and every so often, combated—racial oppression. News for All the People reveals how racial segregation distorted the information Americans received from the mainstream media. It unearths numerous examples of how publishers and broadcasters actually fomented racial violence and discrimination through their coverage. And it chronicles the influence federal media policies exerted in such conflicts. It depicts the struggle of Black, Latino, Asian, and Native American journalists who fought to create a vibrant yet little-known alternative, democratic press, and then, beginning in the 1970s, forced open the doors of the major media companies.

The writing is fast-paced, story-driven, and replete with memorable portraits of individual journalists and media executives, both famous and obscure, heroes and villains. It weaves back and forth between the corporate and government leaders who built our segregated media system—such as Herbert Hoover, whose Federal Radio Commission eagerly awarded a license to a notorious Ku Klux Klan organization in the nation’s capital—and those who rebelled against that system, like Pittsburgh Courier publisher Robert L. Vann, who led a remarkable national campaign to get the black-face comedy Amos ‘n’ Andy off the air.

Based on years of original archival research and up-to-the-minute reporting and written by two veteran journalists and leading advocates for a more inclusive and democratic media system, News for All the People should become the standard history of American media.

Bengali Harlem and the Lost Histories of South Asian America, by Vivek Bald (Harvard University Press)

'Bengali Harlem' by Vivek Bald

In the final years of the nineteenth century, small groups of Muslim peddlers arrived at Ellis Island every summer, bags heavy with embroidered silks from their home villages in Bengal. The American demand for “Oriental goods” took these migrants on a curious path, from New Jersey’s beach boardwalks into the heart of the segregated South. Two decades later, hundreds of Indian Muslim seamen began jumping ship in New York and Baltimore, escaping the engine rooms of British steamers to find less brutal work onshore. As factory owners sought their labor and anti-Asian immigration laws closed in around them, these men built clandestine networks that stretched from the northeastern waterfront across the industrial Midwest.

The stories of these early working-class migrants vividly contrast with our typical understanding of immigration. Vivek Bald’s meticulous reconstruction reveals a lost history of South Asian sojourning and life-making in the United States. At a time when Asian immigrants were vilified and criminalized, Bengali Muslims quietly became part of some of America’s most iconic neighborhoods of color, from Tremé in New Orleans to Detroit’s Black Bottom, from West Baltimore to Harlem. Many started families with Creole, Puerto Rican, and African American women.

As steel and auto workers in the Midwest, as traders in the South, and as halal hot dog vendors on 125th Street, these immigrants created lives as remarkable as they are unknown. Their stories of ingenuity and intermixture challenge assumptions about assimilation and reveal cross-racial affinities beneath the surface of early twentieth-century America.

Whiteness and Racialized Ethnic Groups in the United States: The Politics of Remembering, by Sherrow O. Pinder (Lexington Books)

'Whiteness and Racialized Ethnic Groups in the U.S.' by Pinder

Whiteness and Racialized Ethnic Groups in the United States, in order to account for the never ending discrimination toward racialized ethnic groups including First Nations, blacks, Chinese, and Mexicans, revisits the history of whiteness in the United States. It shows the difference between remembering a history of human indignities and recreating one that composes its own textual memory. More specifically, it reformulates how the historically reliant positionality of whiteness, as a part of the everyday practice and discourse of white supremacy, would later become institutionalized.

Even though “whiteness studies,” with the intention of exposing white privilege, has entered the realm of academic research and is moving toward antiracist forms of whiteness or, at least, toward antiracist approaches for a different form of whiteness, it is not equipped to relinquish the privilege that comes with normalized whiteness. Hence, in order to construct a post white identity, whiteness would have to be denormalized and freed of it of its presumptive hegemony.

Hmong and American: From Refugees to Citizens, edited by Vincent K. Her and Mary Louise Buley-Meissner (Minnesota Historical Society Press)

'Hmong and American' ed. by Her and Buley-Meissner

Farmers in Laos, U.S. allies during the Vietnam War, refugees in Thailand, citizens of the Western world—the stories of the Hmong who now live in America have been told in detail through books and articles and oral histories over the past several decades. Like any immigrant group, members of the first generation may yearn for the past as they watch their children and grandchildren find their way in the dominant culture of their new home.

For Hmong people born and educated in the United States, a definition of self often includes traditional practices and tight-knit family groups but also a distinctly Americanized point of view. How do Hmong Americans negotiate the expectations of these two very different cultures?

In an engaging series of essays featuring a range of writing styles, leading scholars, educators, artists, and community activists explore themes of history, culture, gender, class, family, and sexual orientation, weaving their own stories into depictions of a Hmong American community where people continue to develop complex identities that are collectively shared but deeply personal as they help to redefine the multicultural America of today.

Bending with the Wind: Memoir of a Cambodian Couple’s Escape to America, by Bounchoeurn Sao, Diyana D. Sao, and Karline F. Bird (McFarland)

'Bending With the Wind' by Sao, Sao, and Bird

Before the Khmer Rouge takeover of Cambodia in April 1975, Sao Bounchoeurn and San Bounriem grew up in idyllic, though vastly different, circumstances. After a secondary education, Bounchoeurn entered the army, joined the Special Forces, and worked for the Americans. He became a slave laborer after the fall of Phnom Penh and eventually escaped to Thailand. In another part of Cambodia, Bounriem lived happily spoiled and uneducated.

Fleeing from the advancing Khmer Rouge, she arrived at the same refugee camp as Bounchoeurn, where they met, married, and immigrated to America. This riveting memoir chronicles the couple’s childhoods, their lives under the Khmer Rouge, their journeys to Thailand and later the United States, and their efforts to forge a new life. This remarkable tale offers an intimate look inside the terrors of the Khmer Rouge and an inspiring portrait of the immigrant experience in America.


April 23, 2012

Written by C.N.

New Books: Asian Americans in Media, Literature, and Imagery

The following new books look at the historical, cultural, and political dimensions of how Asian Americans have been portrayed and imagined in media, literature, and popular culture. As always, a book’s inclusion is for informational purposes only and does not necessarily mean a full endorsement of its contents.

Black Power, Yellow Power, and the Making of Revolutionary Identities, by Rychetta Watkins (University Press of Mississippi)

'Black Power, Yellow Power' by Rychetta Watkins

Images of upraised fists, afros, and dashikis have long dominated the collective memory of Black Power and its proponents. The “guerilla” figure-taking the form of the black-leather-clad revolutionary within the Black Panther Party-has become an iconic trope in American popular culture. That politically radical figure, however, has been shaped as much by Asian American cultural discourse as by African American political ideology. From the Asian-African Conference held in April of 1955 in Bandung, Indonesia, onward to the present, Afro-Asian political collaboration has been active and influential.

In Black Power, Yellow Power, and the Making of Revolutionary Identities, author Rychetta Watkins uses the guerilla figure as a point of departure and shows how the trope’s rhetoric animates discourses of representation and identity in African American and Asian American literature and culture. In doing so, she examines the notion of “Power,” in terms of ethnic political identity, and explores collaborating-and sometimes competing-ethnic interests that have drawn ideas from the concept.

The project brings together a range of texts-editorial cartoons, newspaper articles, novels, visual propaganda, and essays-that illustrate the emergence of this subjectivity in Asian American and African American cultural productions during the Power period, roughly 1966 through 1981. After a case study of the cultural politics of academic anthologies and the cooperation between Frank Chin and Ishmael Reed, the volume culminates with analyses of this trope in Sam Greenlee’s The Spook Who Sat by the Door, Alice Walker’s Meridian, and John Okada’s No No Boy.

The Oriental Obscene: Violence and Racial Fantasies in the Vietnam Era, by Sylvia Shin Huey Chong (Duke University Press)

'The Oriental Obscene' by Sylvia Shin Huey Chon

The Oriental Obscene is a sophisticated analysis of Americans’ reactions to visual representations of the Vietnam War, such as the photograph of the “napalm girl,” news footage of the Tet Offensive, and feature films from The Deer Hunter to Rambo: First Blood Part II. Sylvia Shin Huey Chong combines psychoanalytic and film theories with U.S. cultural history to explain what she terms the oriental obscene: racialized fantasies that Americans derived largely from images of Asians as the perpetrators or victims of extreme violence.

Chong contends that these fantasies helped Americans to process the trauma of the Vietnam War, as well as the growth of the Asian American population after the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 and the postwar immigration of Southeast Asian refugees. The oriental obscene animated a wide range of political narratives, not only the movements for and against the war, but causes as diverse as the Black Power movement, law-and-order conservatism, second-wave feminism, and the nascent Asian American movement. During the Vietnam era, pictures of Asian bodies were used to make sense of race, violence, and America’s identity at home and abroad.

Seven Contemporary Plays from the Korean Diaspora in the Americas, by Esther Kim Lee (Duke University Press)

'Plays from the Korean Diaspora' by Esther Kim Lee

Showcasing the dynamism of contemporary Korean diasporic theater, this anthology features seven plays by second-generation Korean diasporic writers from the United States, Canada, and Chile. By bringing the plays together in this collection, Esther Kim Lee highlights the range of themes and styles that have enlivened Korean diasporic theater in the Americas since the 1990s. Some of the plays are set in urban Koreatowns. One takes place in the middle of Texas, while another unfolds entirely in a character’s mind. Ethnic identity is not as central as it was in the work of previous generations of Asian diasporic playwrights.

In these plays, dramas of diaspora and displacement are likely to be part of broader stories, such as the difficulties faced by a young mother trying to balance family and career. Running through those stories are themes of assimilation, authenticity, family, memory, trauma, and gender-related expectations of success. Lee’s introduction includes a brief history of the Korean peninsula in the twentieth century and of South Korean immigration to the Americas, along with an overview of Asian American theater and the place of Korean American theater within it. Each play is preceded by a brief biography of the playwright and a summary of the play’s production history.

The Chinese Diaspora on American Screens: Race, Sex, and Cinema, by Gina Marchetti (Temple University Press)

'Chinese Diaspora on American Screens' by Gina Marchetti

The Chinese Diaspora on American Screens looks at the way in which issues of race and sexuality have become central concerns in cinema generated by and about Chinese communities in America after the mid-1990s. This companion volume to Marchetti’s From Tian’anmen to Times Square looks specifically at the Chinese diaspora in relation to ethnic, racial, gender, and sexual identity as depicted in the cinema.

Examining films from the United States and Canada, as well as transnational co-productions, The Chinese Diaspora on American Screens includes analyses of films such as The Wedding Banquet and Double Happiness in addition to interviews with celebrated filmmakers such as Wayne Wang. Marchetti also reflects on how Chinese identity is presented in a multitude of media forms, including commercial cinema, documentaries, experimental films, and hybrid digital media to offer a textured look at representations of the Chinese diasporic experience after Tian’anmen.

Straitjacket Sexualities: Unbinding Asian American Manhoods in the Movies, by Celine Shimizu (Stanford University Press)

'Straitjacket Sexualities' by Celine Shimizu

Depictions of Asian American men as effeminate or asexual pervade popular movies. Hollywood has made clear that Asian American men lack the qualities inherent to the heroic heterosexual male. This restricting, circumscribed vision of masculinity—a straitjacketing, according to author Celine Parreñas Shimizu—aggravates Asian American male sexual problems both on and off screen.

Straitjacket Sexualities: Unbinding Asian American Manhoods in the Movies looks to cinematic history to reveal the dynamic ways Asian American men, from Bruce Lee to Long Duk Dong, create and claim a variety of masculinities. Representations of love, romance, desire, and lovemaking show how Asian American men fashion manhoods that negotiate the dynamics of self and other, expanding our ideas of sexuality. The unique ways in which Asian American men express intimacy is powerfully represented onscreen, offering distinct portraits of individuals struggling with group identities. Rejecting “macho” men, these movies stake Asian American manhood on the notion of caring for, rather than dominating, others.

Straitjacket Sexualities identifies a number of moments in the movies wherein masculinity is figured anew. By looking at intimate relations on screen, power as sexual prowess and brute masculinity is redefined, giving primacy to the diverse ways Asian American men experience complex, ambiguous, and ambivalent genders and sexualities.


March 22, 2012

Written by C.N.

New Books: Asian American Identity, Power, and Community

The following new books examine the intersections of Asian American racial/ethnic identity, power and institutional relationships with mainstream U.S. society, and how community dynamics affect their sense of belonging within this context. As always, a book’s inclusion is for informational purposes only and does not necessarily mean a full endorsement of its contents.

Chinese Chicago: Race, Transnational Migration, and Community Since 1870, by Huping Ling (Stanford University Press)

'Chinese Chicago' by Huping Ling

Numerous studies have documented the transnational experiences and local activities of Chinese immigrants in California and New York in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Less is known about the vibrant Chinese American community that developed at the same time in Chicago. In this sweeping account, Huping Ling offers the first comprehensive history of Chinese in Chicago, beginning with the arrival of the pioneering Moy brothers in the 1870s and continuing to the present.

Ling focuses on how race, transnational migration, and community have defined Chinese in Chicago. Drawing upon archival documents in English and Chinese, she charts how Chinese made a place for themselves among the multiethnic neighborhoods of Chicago, cultivating friendships with local authorities and consciously avoiding racial conflicts.

Ling takes readers through the decades, exploring evolving family structures and relationships, the development of community organizations, and the operation of transnational businesses. She pays particular attention to the influential role of Chinese in Chicago’s academic and intellectual communities and to the complex and conflicting relationships among today’s more dispersed Chinese Americans in Chicago.

Uncle Swami: South Asians in America Today, by Vijay Prashad (The New Press)

'Uncle Swami' by Vijay Prashad

Within hours of the attacks on the World Trade Center, misdirected assaults on Sikhs and other South Asians flared on streets across the nation, serving as harbingers of a more suspicious, less discerning, and increasingly fearful world view that would drastically change ideas of belonging and acceptance in America.

Weaving together distinct strands of recent South Asian immigration to the United States, Uncle Swami creates a richly textured analysis of the systems and sentiments behind shifting notions of cultural identity in a post 9/11 world. Vijay Prashad continues the conversation sparked by his celebrated work The Karma of Brown Folk and confronts the experience of migration across an expanse of generations and class divisions, from the birth of political activism among second generation immigrants to the meteoric rise of South Asian American politicians in Republican circles to the migrant workers who suffer in the name of American capitalism.

A powerful new indictment of American imperialism at the dawn of the twenty-first century, Uncle Swami restores a diasporic community to its full-fledged complexity, beyond model minorities and the specters of terrorism.

Samurai among Panthers: Richard Aoki on Race, Resistance, and a Paradoxical Life, by Diane C. Fujino (University of Minnesota Press)

'Samurai Among Panthers' by Diane C. Fujino

An iconic figure of the Asian American movement, Richard Aoki (1938–2009) was also, as the most prominent non-Black member of the Black Panther Party, a key architect of Afro-Asian solidarity in the 1960s and ’70s. His life story exposes the personal side of political activism as it illuminates the history of ethnic nationalism and radical internationalism in America.

A reflection of this interconnection, Samurai among Panthers weaves together two narratives: Aoki’s dramatic first-person chronicle and an interpretive history by a leading scholar of the Asian American movement, Diane C. Fujino. Aoki’s candid account of himself takes us from his early years in Japanese American internment camps to his political education on the streets of Oakland, to his emergence in the Black Panther Party.

As his story unfolds, we see how his parents’ separation inside the camps and his father’s illegal activities shaped the development of Aoki’s politics. Fujino situates his life within the context of twentieth-century history—World War II, the Cold War, and the protests of the 1960s. She demonstrates how activism is both an accidental and an intentional endeavor and how a militant activist practice can also promote participatory democracy and social service.

The result of these parallel voices and analysis in Samurai among Panthers is a complex—and sometimes contradictory—portrait of a singularly extraordinary activist and an expansion and deepening of our understanding of the history he lived.

Chinese Mexicans: Transpacific Migration and the Search for a Homeland, 1910-1960, by Julia Maria Schiavone Camacho (University of North Carolina Press)

'Chinese Mexicans' by Julia Maria Schiavone Camacho

At the turn of the twentieth century, a wave of Chinese men made their way to the northern Mexican border state of Sonora to work and live. The ties–and families–these Mexicans and Chinese created led to the formation of a new cultural identity: Chinese Mexican. During the tumult of the Mexican Revolution of 1910, however, anti-Chinese sentiment ultimately led to mass expulsion of these people.

Julia Maria Schiavone Camacho follows the community through the mid-twentieth century, across borders and oceans, to show how they fought for their place as Mexicans, both in Mexico and abroad. Tracing transnational geography, Schiavone Camacho explores how these men and women developed a strong sense of Mexican national identity while living abroad—in the United States, briefly, and then in southeast Asia where they created a hybrid community and taught their children about the Mexican homeland.

Schiavone Camacho also addresses how Mexican women challenged their legal status after being stripped of Mexican citizenship because they married Chinese men. After repatriation in the 1930s-1960s, Chinese Mexican men and women, who had left Mexico with strong regional identities, now claimed national cultural belonging and Mexican identity in ways they had not before.

Plague, Fear, and Politics in San Francisco’s Chinatown, by Guenter B. Risse (Johns Hopkins University Press)

'Plague, Fear, and Politics' by Guenter B. Risse

When health officials in San Francisco discovered bubonic plague in their city’s Chinatown in 1900, they responded with intrusive, controlling, and arbitrary measures that touched off a sociocultural conflict still relevant today. Guenter B. Risse’s history of an epidemic is the first to incorporate the voices of those living in Chinatown at the time, including the desperately ill Wong Chut King, believed to be the first person infected.

Lasting until 1904, the plague in San Francisco’s Chinatown reignited racial prejudices, renewed efforts to remove the Chinese from their district, and created new tensions among local, state, and federal public health officials quarreling over the presence of the deadly disease. Risse’s rich, nuanced narrative of the event draws from a variety of sources, including Chinese-language reports and accounts. He addresses the ecology of Chinatown, the approaches taken by Chinese and Western medical practitioners, and the effects of quarantine plans on Chinatown and its residents.

Risse explains how plague threatened California’s agricultural economy and San Francisco’s leading commercial role with Asia, discusses why it brought on a wave of fear mongering that drove perceptions and intervention efforts, and describes how Chinese residents organized and successfully opposed government quarantines and evacuation plans in federal court. By probing public health interventions in the setting of one of the most visible ethnic communities in United States history, Plague, Fear, and Politics in San Francisco’s Chinatown offers insight into the clash of Eastern and Western cultures in a time of medical emergency.

The House on Lemon Street: Japanese Pioneers and the American Dream, by Mark Rawitsch (University Press of Colorado)

'The House on Lemon Street' Mark Rawitch

In 1915, Jukichi and Ken Harada purchased a house on Lemon Street in Riverside, California. Close to their restaurant, church, and children’s school, the house should have been a safe and healthy family home. Before the purchase, white neighbors objected because of the Haradas’ Japanese ancestry, and the California Alien Land Law denied them real-estate ownership because they were not citizens. To bypass the law Mr. Harada bought the house in the names of his three youngest children, who were American-born citizens. Neighbors protested again, and the first Japanese American court test of the California Alien Land Law of 1913—The People of the State of California v. Jukichi Harada—was the result.

Bringing this little-known story to light, The House on Lemon Street details the Haradas’ decision to fight for the American dream. Chronicling their experiences from their immigration to the United States through their legal battle over their home, their incarceration during World War II, and their lives after the war, this book tells the story of the family’s participation in the struggle for human and civil rights, social justice, property and legal rights, and fair treatment of immigrants in the United States.

The Harada family’s quest for acceptance illuminates the deep underpinnings of anti-Asian animus, which set the stage for Executive Order 9066, and recognizes fundamental elements of our nation’s anti-immigrant history that continue to shape the American story. It will be worthwhile for anyone interested in the Japanese American experience in the twentieth century, immigration history, public history, and law.

Vanishing Filipino Americans: The Bridge Generation, by Peter Jamero (University Press of America)

'Vanishing Filipino Americans' by Peter Jamero

Documentation of Filipino American history is largely limited to the Manong Generation that immigrated to the United States during the early 1900s. Their second-generation children — the Bridge Generation — are now in their sixties, seventies, and eighties; however, the literature is silent regarding their life in America.

Vanishing Filipino Americans explores the Bridge Generation’s growing up years; their maturation as participants in Filipino youth clubs; their development of a unique subculture; their civic participation; and their triumphs and struggles in America’s workforce. Jamero begins the process of documenting the experiences and contributions of these second-generation Filipino Americans, addressing a significant void in the history of Filipinos in America.

Asian American Racial Realities in Black and White, by Bruce Calvin Hoskins (Lynne Rienner Publishers)

'Asian American Racial Realities' by Bruce Calvin Hoskins

What does it mean for an Asian American to be part white or part black? Bruce Hoskins probes the experience of biracial Asian Americans, revealing the ways that our discourse about multiracial identities too often reinforces racial hierarchies.

Hoskins explores the everyday lives of people of Asian/white and Asian/black heritage to uncover the role of our society s white-black continuum in shaping racial identity. Mixing intimate personal stories with cutting-edge theoretical analysis, he directly confronts the notion that multiracial identity provides an easy solution for our society s racial stratification.


February 28, 2012

Written by C.N.

New Books: Hmong, Cambodians, Laotians, and Thais

The following new books examine some political, economic, and cultural issues of Southeast Asian ethnic groups in Asia and in the U.S. that do not get as much scholarly and public attention from compared to larger east Asian ethnic groups — Hmong, Laotians, Cambodians, and Thais. As always, a book’s inclusion is for informational purposes only and does not necessarily mean a full endorsement of its contents.

Thais in Los Angeles, by Chanchanit Martorell and Beatrice “Tippe” Morlan (Arcadia Publishing)

'Thais in Los Angeles' by Martorell and Morlan

Los Angeles is home to the largest Thai population outside of Thailand. With a relatively recent history of immigration to the United States dating to 1965, reports estimate that 80,000 Thais make their home in Southern California. In spite of its brief history in the United States, the Thai community in Los Angeles has already left its mark on the city. While the proliferation of Thai-owned businesses and shops has converted East Hollywood and some San Fernando Valley neighborhoods to destinations for cultural tourism, the Thai community in Los Angeles County reverberates still from global attention over the 1995 El Monte human trafficking case. The great popularity of Thai cuisine, textiles, and cultural festivals continues to preserve, enrich, and showcase one of Asia’s most distinctive cultures.

The Persistence of Cambodian Poverty: From the Killing Fields to Today, by Harold Kerbo (McFarland Publishing)

'The Persistence of Cambodian Poverty' by Harold Kerbo

Since the tragedies of the “killing fields” and the rule of the Khmer Rouge, the global community has largely ignored the social issues plaguing Cambodia. Though the infamous killings have largely stopped, poverty and corruption are rampant in contemporary Cambodia. This book includes a short history of Cambodia and covers the systemic nature of Cambodian poverty, the economic success stories of Vietnam and Laos, the corruption in Cambodia, and hopes for its future. Intended for the general reader, this book is particularly relevant to those interested in the broader issue of eliminating world poverty.

Writing from These Roots: Literacy in a Hmong-American Community, by John M. Duffy (University of Hawai’i Press)

'Writing from the Roots' by John Duffy

Writing from These Roots documents the historical development of literacy in a Midwestern American community of Laotian Hmong, a people who came to the United States as refugees from the Vietnam War and whose language had no widely accepted written form until one created by missionary-linguists was adopted in the late twentieth century by Hmong in Laos and, later, the U.S. and other Western nations. As such, the Hmong have often been described as “preliterates,” “nonliterates,” or members of an “oral culture.” Although such terms are problematic, it is nevertheless true that the majority of Hmong did not read or write in any language when they arrived in the U.S.

For this reason, the Hmong provide a unique opportunity to study the forces that influence the development of reading and writing abilities in cultures in which writing is not widespread and to do so within the context of the political, economic, religious, military, and migratory upheavals classified broadly as “globalization.”

Drawing on life-history interviews collected from Hmong refugees in a Wisconsin community, this book examines the disparate political and institutional forces that shaped Hmong literacy development in the twentieth century, including, in Laos, French colonialism, Laotian nationalism, missionary Christianity, and the CIA during the Vietnam War. It further examines the influences on Hmong literary in the U.S., including public schooling, evangelical Christianity, ethnic self-help organizations, and media discourses about Hmong refugees.

In relating the particulars of the Hmong story, the author asks broad questions–still urgent and unresolved–about the nature of literacy development: How do people learn to read and write? What are the forces that nourish, compel, sustain, deny, or redeem literacy? What processes are at work when a majority of people within a given culture, begins, for the first time in its history, to acquire and use written language? And, finally, in what ways do minority peoples–refugees, immigrants, and others–claim the possibilities of literacy for themselves, using it as an instrument to compose identities, cultures, and conceptions of the world? Writing from These Roots offers a theoretical perspective on these and other questions concerning literacy development, one rooted in the symbolic interactions of peoples, cultures, and nations.

Laotian Daughters: Working toward Community, Belonging, and Environmental Justice, by Bindi V. Shah (Temple University Press)

'Laotian Daughters' by Bindi V. Shah

Laotian Daughters focuses on second-generation environmental justice activists in Richmond, California. Bindi Shah’s pathbreaking book charts these young women’s efforts to improve the degraded conditions in their community and explores the ways their activism and political practices resist the negative stereotypes of race, class, and gender associated with their ethnic group.

Using ethnographic observations, interviews, focus groups, and archival data on their participation in Asian Youth Advocates—a youth leadership development project—Shah analyzes the teenagers’ mobilization for social rights, cross-race relations, and negotiations of gender and inter-generational relations. She also addresses issues of ethnic youth, and immigration and citizenship and how these shape national identities.

Shah ultimately finds that citizenship as a social practice is not just an adult experience, and that ethnicity is an ongoing force in the political and social identities of second-generation Laotians.

Facing the Khmer Rouge: A Cambodian Journey, by Ronnie Yimsut (Rutgers University Press)

'Facing the Khmer Rouge' by 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. Teenaged Ronnie was left orphaned, literally buried under the bodies of his family and friends. 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, another frightening journey to the unknown. Yet he prevailed, attending the University of Oregon and becoming 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.


February 1, 2012

Written by C.N.

New Books & Recent News Articles on Immigration

As always, the start of the new semester has been quite busy and a little hectic. As a result and as my regular readers have probably noticed, I have not been able to write new posts as often as I would like. This spring semester, I am teaching my “Sociology of Immigration” course once again, so below are summaries of some newly-released books and recent news articles related to the issue of immigration to the U.S. As always, a book’s inclusion is for informational purposes only and does not necessarily mean a full endorsement of its contents.

Citizenship and Immigration, by Christian Joppke (Polity)

'Citizenship and Immigration' by Christian Joppke

This incisive book provides a succinct overview of the new academic field of citizenship and immigration, as well as presenting a fresh and original argument about changing citizenship in our contemporary human rights era. Instead of being nationally resilient or in “postnational” decline, citizenship in Western states has continued to evolve, converging on a liberal model of inclusive citizenship with diminished rights implications and increasingly universalistic identities.

This convergence is demonstrated through a sustained comparison of developments in North America, Western Europe and Australia. Topics covered in the book include: recent trends in nationality laws; what ethnic diversity does to the welfare state; the decline of multiculturalism accompanied by the continuing rise of antidiscrimination policies; and the new state campaigns to “upgrade” citizenship in the post-2001 period.

The Fence: National Security, Public Safety, and Illegal Immigration along the U.S.-Mexico Border, by Robert Lee Maril (Texas Tech University Press)

'The Fence' by Robert Lee Maril

To the American public it’s a 2,000-mile-long project to keep illegal immigrants, narcotics, and terrorists on the other side of the U.S.–Mexico border. In the deserts of Arizona, it’s a “virtual fence” of high-tech electronic sensors, cameras, and radar. In some border stretches it’s a huge concrete-and-steel wall; in others it’s a series of solitary posts designed to stop drug runners; in still others it’s rusted barbed-wire cattle fences. For two-thirds of the international boundary it’s nonexistent. Just what is this entity known as “the fence”? And more important, is it working?

Through first-person interviews with defense contractors, border residents, American military, Minutemen, county officials, Customs and Border Protection agents, environmental activists, and others whose voices have never been heard, Robert Lee Maril examines the project’s human and financial costs. Along with Maril’s site visits, his rigorous analysis of government documents from 1999 to the present uncovers fiscal mismanagement by Congress, wasteful defense contracts, and unkept political promises. As drug violence mounts in border cities and increasing numbers of illegal migrants die from heat exhaustion in the Arizona desert, Maril argues how the fence may even be making an incendiary situation worse.

Avoiding preconceived conclusions, he proposes new public policies that take into consideration human issues, political negotiation, and the need for compromise. Maril’s lucid study shows the fence to be a symbol in concrete, steel, microchips, and fiber optics for the crucible of contemporary immigration policy, national security, and public safety.

Immigration Nation: Raids, Detentions, and Deportations in Post-9/11 America, by Tanya Maria Golash-Boza (Paradigm Publishers)

'Immigration Nation' by Tanya Maria Golash-Boza

Immigration Nation is a critical analysis of the human rights impact of US immigration policy. In the wake of September 11, 2001, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was created to prevent terrorist attacks. The creation of DHS led to dramatic increases in immigration law enforcement raids, detentions and deportations have increased six-fold in the past decade. Immigration Nation considers the widespread impact of this new enforcement regime.

Immigration Nation explains how immigration policies in the U.S. have had negative consequences for citizens, families and communities. Even though family reunification is officially a core component of U.S. immigration policy, our policies often tear families apart. Despite the perception that immigration policy primarily affects immigrants, it frequently has devastating effects on citizens. The immigration policy debate is nearly always framed in terms of security and economic needs. In contrast, this book addresses the debate with the human rights of migrants and their families at the center of the analyses.

Living “Illegal”: The Human Face of Unauthorized Immigration, by Marie Friedmann Marquardt, Timothy J. Steigenga, Philip J. Williams, and Manuel A. Vasquez (New Press)

'Living Illegal' by Marquardt, Steigenga, Williams, and Vazquez

Today’s polarized debates over immigration revolve around a set of one-dimensional characters and unchallenged stereotypes. Yet the resulting policy prescriptions, not least of them Arizona’s draconian new law SB 1070, are dangerously real and profoundly counterproductive. A major new antidote to this trend, Living “Illegal” is an ambitious new account of the least understood and most relevant aspects of the American immigrant experience today. Based on years of research into the lives of ordinary migrants, Living “Illegal” offers richly textured stories of real people—working, building families, and enriching their communities even as the political climate grows more hostile.

Moving far beyond stock images and conventional explanations, Living “Illegal” challenges our assumptions about why immigrants come to the United States, where they settle, and how they have adapted to the often confusing patchwork of local immigration ordinances. This revealing narrative takes us into Southern churches (which have quietly emerged as the only organizations open to migrants), into the fields of Florida, onto the streets of major American cities during the historic immigrant rights marches of 2006, and back and forth across different national boundaries—from Brazil to Mexico and Guatemala.

A deeply humane book, Living “Illegal” will stand as an authoritative new guide to one of the most pressing issues of our time.

The Immigrant Advantage: What We Can Learn from Newcomers to America about Health, Happiness and Hope, by Claudia Kolker (Free Press)

'The Immigrant Advantage' by Claudia Kolker

Do you have a relative or friend who would gladly wait on you, hand and foot, for a full month after you had a baby? How about someone to deliver a delicious, piping hot home-cooked meal, just like your mother’s, right to your front door after work? Do you know people you’d trust enough to give several hundred dollars a month to, with no receipt, on the simple promise that the accumulated wealth will come back to you a year later?

Not many of us can answer “yes” to these questions. But as award-winning journalist Claudia Kolker has discovered, each of these is one of a wide variety of cherished customs brought to the United States by immigrant groups, often adapted to American life by the second generation in a distinctive blending of old and new. Taken together, these extraordinary traditions may well contribute to what’s known as “the immigrant paradox,” the growing evidence that immigrants, even those from poor or violence-wracked countries, tend to be both physically and mentally healthier than most native-born Americans.

These customs are unfamiliar to most Americans, but they shouldn’t be. Honed over centuries, they provide ingenious solutions to daily challenges most of us face and provide both social support and comfort. They range from Vietnamese money clubs that help people save and Mexican cuarentenas—a forty-day period of rest for new mothers—to Korean afterschools that offer highly effective tutoring at low cost and Jamaican multigenerational households that help younger family members pay for college and, eventually, their own homes.

Fascinated by the success of immigrant friends, Claudia Kolker embarked on a journey to uncover how these customs are being carried on and adapted by the second and third generations, and how they can enrich all of our lives. In a beautifully written narrative, she takes readers into the living rooms, kitchens, and restaurants of immigrant families and neighborhoods all across the country, exploring the sociable street life of Chicago’s “Little Village,” a Mexican enclave with extraordinarily low rates of asthma and heart disease; the focused quiet of Korean afterschool tutoring centers; and the loving, controlled chaos of a Jamaican extended-family home.

She chronicles the quests of young Indian Americans to find spouses with the close guidance of their parents, revealing the benefits of “assisted marriage,” an American adaptation of arranged marriage. And she dives with gusto into some of the customs herself, experimenting to see how we might all fit them into our lives. She shows us the joy, and excitement, of savoring Vietnamese “monthly rice” meals delivered to her front door, hiring a tutor for her two young girls, and finding a powerful sense of community in a money-lending club she started with friends.

The Immigrant Advantage is an adventurous exploration of little-known traditional wisdom, and how in this nation of immigrants our lives can be enriched by the gifts of our newest arrivals.

Massachusetts is Third State to Reject Obama Immigration Program

  • Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick joins his counterparts in New York and Illinois in declining to participate in the controversial federal “Secure Communities” program that critics charge encourage police to round up anyone suspected of being undocumented.

Red-Blue Divide Widens on Issue of Undocumented Immigration

  • “America’s red and blue states are increasingly going in exactly opposite directions on the issue of illegal immigration – a testament to how difficult finding middle ground has become on the federal level.”

Better Lives for Mexicans Cut Allure of Going North

  • “The extraordinary Mexican migration that delivered millions of illegal immigrants to the United States over the past 30 years has sputtered to a trickle, and research points to a surprising cause: unheralded changes in Mexico that have made staying home more attractive. A growing body of evidence suggests that a mix of developments — expanding economic and educational opportunities, rising border crime and shrinking families — are suppressing illegal traffic as much as economic slowdowns or immigrant crackdowns in the United States.”

Deportations Of Immigrants Hits Record Number Under Obama Administration

  • “Huge increases in deportations of people after they were arrested for breaking traffic or immigration laws or driving drunk helped the Obama administration set a record last year for the number of criminal immigrants forced to leave the country, documents show. . . . The spike in the numbers of people deported for traffic offenses as well as a 78 percent increase in people deported for immigration-related offenses renewed skepticism about the administration’s claims that it is focusing on the most dangerous criminals.”

Companies Use Immigration Crackdown to Turn a Profit

  • As the U.S. and other western countries ramp up their arrest and deportation of suspected undocumented immigration, private security companies are seeing skyrocketing business and profits.

Immigration Crackdown Also Snares Americans

  • “In a spate of recent cases across the country, American citizens have been confined in local jails after federal immigration agents, acting on flawed information from Department of Homeland Security databases, instructed the police to hold them for investigation and possible deportation. Americans said their vehement protests that they were citizens went unheard by local police officers and jailers for days, with no communication with federal immigration agents to clarify the situation. Any case where an American is held, even briefly, for immigration investigation is a potential wrongful arrest because immigration agents lack legal authority to detain citizens.”

Arizona Sheriff Violates Civil Rights of Latinos, Justice Department Says

  • “The U.S. government said Thursday that [Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio] who called himself the toughest sheriff in America ran an office that has committed wide-ranging civil rights violations against Latinos, including a pattern of racial profiling and heavy-handed immigration patrols based on racially charged complaints. The U.S. Justice Department’s expert on measuring racial profiling called it the most egregious case he has seen, the department’s civil rights division chief told reporters.”

Arizona Candidate Challenged Over English Skills

  • “What began as an effort by political opponents to block Alejandrina Cabrera from the ballot for a seat on the City Council has mushroomed into an uncomfortable discussion of just how fluent Arizona officeholders need to be. Like many other states, Arizona has long required politicians at all levels to speak, read and write English, but the law fails to spell out just what that means. Is grade-school knowledge enough? Must one speak flawlessly? Who is to decide?”

In Lights of Charges of Anti-Latino Abuse, East Haven Mayor Says He’ll Support Latinos by Eating Tacos

  • Federal prosecutors charge four East Haven CT police officers with systematically harassing, beating, and retaliating against Latinos in their town and people who spoke up for them. East Haven’s Police Chief is eventually forced to resign. When asked how he would support Latinos in his community in lights of these indictments, East Haven Mayor Joseph Maturo Jr. answered, “I might have tacos when I go home.”

January 2, 2012

Written by C.N.

New Books: Looking into the Future of Racial/Ethnic Relations

First off, Happy New year to everyone. Hopefully 2012 will bring you and your loved ones — and humanity in general — a little more peace, prosperity, and harmony. With that theme in mind, the following new books highlight some possible ways that racial/ethnic relations in the U.S. are headed in the new year and the near future. As always, a book’s inclusion is for informational purposes only and does not necessarily mean a full endorsement of its contents.

The End of Anger: A New Generation’s Take on Race and Rage, by Ellis Cose (Ecco Books)

'The End of Anger' by Ellis Cose

From a venerated and bestselling voice on American life comes a contemporary look at the decline of black rage; the demise of white guilt; and the intergenerational shifts in how blacks and whites view, and interact with, each other.

In the heady aftermath of President Obama’s election, conventional wisdom suggested that the bitter, angry, and destructive elements of discrimination were ebbing at last and America was becoming a postracial nation. But with this dawning age that promised so much came shifting demographics and a newfound seat of rage in the polarizing Tea Party movement, even as black optimism gained ground, giving rise to questions about assumed truths concerning race in America.

Combining the talents earned from a lifetime in journalism with the insights and thoughtfulness of a close observer of the American experience, renowned author Ellis Cose offers a fresh, original appraisal of our nation at this extraordinary time, tracking the diminishment of black anger and investigating the “generational shifting of the American mind.”

Weaving material from myriad interviews as well as two large and ambitious surveys that he conducted—one of black Harvard MBAs and the other of graduates of A Better Chance, a program offering elite educational opportunities to thousands of young people of color since 1963—Cose offers an invaluable portrait of contemporary America that attempts to make sense of what a people do when the dream, for some, is finally within reach as one historical era ends and another begins.

In short, The End of Anger is not just about blacks but about America—its past and its hoped-for future—and may well be the most important book dealing with race to be published in recent decades.

New Destination Dreaming: Immigration, Race, and Legal Status in the Rural American South, by Helen Marrow (Stanford University Press)

'New Destination Dreaming' by Helen Marrow

New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles have long been shaped by immigration. These gateway cities have traditionally been assumed to be the major flashpoints in American debates over immigration policy—but the reality on the ground is proving different. Since the 1980s, new immigrants have increasingly settled in rural and suburban areas, particularly within the South. Couple this demographic change with an increase in unauthorized immigrants, and the rural South, once perhaps the most culturally and racially “settled” part of the country, now offers a window into the changing dynamics of immigration and, more generally, the changing face of America.

New Destination Dreaming explores how the rural context impacts the immigrant experience, how rapid Hispanic immigration influences southern race relations, and how institutions like schools and law enforcement agencies deal with unauthorized residents. Though the South is assumed to be an economically depressed region, low-wage food processing jobs are offering Hispanic newcomers the opportunity to carve out a living and join the rural working class, though this is not without its problems. Inattention from politicians to this growing population and rising black-brown tensions are both factors in contemporary rural southern life.

Ultimately, Marrow presents a cautiously optimistic view of Hispanic newcomers’ opportunities for upward mobility in the rural South, while underscoring the threat of anti-immigrant sentiment and restrictive policymaking that has gripped the region in recent years. Lack of citizenship and legal status still threatens many Hispanic newcomers’ opportunities. This book uncovers what more we can do to ensure that America’s newest residents become productive and integrated members of rural southern society rather than a newly excluded underclass.

Rallying for Immigrant Rights: The Fight for Inclusion in 21st Century America, edited by Kim Voss and Irene Bloemraad (University of California Press)

'Rallying for Immigrant Rights' edited by Voss and Bloemraad

From Alaska to Florida, millions of immigrants and their supporters took to the streets across the United States to rally for immigrant rights in the spring of 2006. The scope and size of their protests, rallies, and boycotts made these the most significant events of political activism in the United States since the 1960s. This accessibly written volume offers the first comprehensive analysis of this historic moment.

Perfect for students and general readers, its essays, written by a multidisciplinary group of scholars and grassroots organizers, trace the evolution and legacy of the 2006 protest movement in engaging, theoretically informed discussions. The contributors cover topics including unions, churches, the media, immigrant organizations, and immigrant politics. Today, one in eight U.S. residents was born outside the country, but for many, lack of citizenship makes political voice through the ballot box impossible. This book helps us better understand how immigrants are making their voices heard in other ways.

Rethinking the Asian American Movement, by Daryl Joji Maeda (Routledge)

'Rethinking the Asian American Movement' by Daryl Joji Maeda

Although it is one of the least-known social movements of the 1960s and 1970s, the Asian American movement drew upon some of the most powerful currents of the era, and had a wide-ranging impact on the political landscape of Asian America, and more generally, the United States. Using the racial discourse of the black power and other movements, as well as antiwar activist and the global decolonization movements, the Asian American movement succeeded in creating a multi-ethnic alliance of Asians in the United States and gave them a voice in their own destinies.

Rethinking the Asian American Movement provides a short, accessible overview of this important social and political movement, highlighting key events and key figures, the movement’s strengths and weaknesses, how it intersected with other social and political movements of the time, and its lasting effect on the country. It is perfect for anyone wanting to obtain an introduction to the Asian American movement of the twentieth century.

Asian American Political Participation: Emerging Constituents and Their Political Identities, edited by Janelle Wong, S. Karthick Ramakrishnan, Taeku Lee, and Jane Junn (Russell Sage Foundation)

'Asian American Political Participation' edited by Wong, Ramakrishnan, Lee, and Junn

Asian Americans are the most heavily immigrant population and their numbers are steadily rising from less than a million in 1960 to more than 15 million today. They are also a remarkably diverse population representing a vast array of ethnic groups, religions, and languages and they enjoy higher levels of education and income than any other U.S. racial group. Historically, socioeconomic status has been a reliable predictor of political behavior.

So why has this fast-growing American population, which is doing so well economically, been so overlooked the U.S. political system? Asian American Political Participation is the most comprehensive study to date of Asian American political behavior, including such key measures as voting, political donations, community organizing, and political protests. The book examines why some groups participate while others do not, why certain civic activities are deemed preferable to others, and why Asian socioeconomic advantage has so far not led to increased political clout.

Asian American Political Participation is based on data from the authors groundbreaking 2008 National Asian American Survey of more than 5,000 Chinese, Indian, Vietnamese, Korean, Filipino, and Japanese Americans. The book shows that the motivations for and impediments to political participation are as diverse as the Asian American population. For example, native-born Asians have higher rates of political participation than their immigrant counterparts, particularly recent adult arrivals who were socialized outside of the United States. Protest activity is the exception, which tends to be higher among immigrants who maintain connections abroad and who engaged in such activity in their country of origin.

Surprisingly, factors such as living in a new immigrant destination or in a city with an Asian American elected official do not seem to motivate political behavior neither does ethnic group solidarity. Instead, hate crimes and racial victimization are the factors that most motivate Asian Americans to participate politically. Involvement in non-political activities such as civic and religious groups also bolsters political participation. Even among Asian groups, socioeconomic advantage does not necessarily translate into high levels of political participation. Chinese Americans, for example, have significantly higher levels of educational attainment than Japanese Americans, but Japanese Americans are far more likely to vote and make political contributions. And Vietnamese Americans, with the lowest levels of education and income, vote and engage in protest politics more than any other group.

Lawmakers tend to favor the interests of groups who actively engage the political system, and groups who do not participate at high levels are likely to suffer political consequences in the future. Asian American Political Participation demonstrates that understanding Asian political behavior today can have significant repercussions for Asian American political influence tomorrow.

Creating a New Racial Order: How Immigration, Multiracialism, Genomics, and the Young Can Remake Race in America, by Jennifer L. Hochschild, Vesla M. Weaver, and Traci R. Burch (Princeton University Press)

'Creating a New Racial Order' by Hochschild, Weaver, and Burch

The American racial order–the beliefs, institutions, and practices that organize relationships among the nation’s races and ethnicities–is undergoing its greatest transformation since the 1960s. Creating a New Racial Order takes a groundbreaking look at the reasons behind this dramatic change, and considers how different groups of Americans are being affected. Through revealing narrative and striking research, the authors show that the personal and political choices of Americans will be critical to how, and how much, racial hierarchy is redefined in decades to come.

The authors outline the components that make up a racial order and examine the specific mechanisms influencing group dynamics in the United States: immigration, multiracialism, genomic science, and generational change. Cumulatively, these mechanisms increase heterogeneity within each racial or ethnic group, and decrease the distance separating groups from each other. The authors show that individuals are moving across group boundaries, that genomic science is challenging the whole concept of race, and that economic variation within groups is increasing.

Above all, young adults understand and practice race differently from their elders: their formative memories are 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and Obama’s election–not civil rights marches, riots, or the early stages of immigration. Blockages could stymie or distort these changes, however, so the authors point to essential policy and political choices.

Portraying a vision, not of a postracial America, but of a different racial America, Creating a New Racial Order examines how the structures of race and ethnicity are altering a nation.


November 14, 2011

Written by C.N.

New Books: Whiteness and Racial/Ethnic Change in the U.S.

The following new books highlight how demographic, political, economic, and cultural changes taking place in U.S. society are transforming racial/ethnic dynamics as well. In the process, the traditional relationship of being White and being American — and the larger dynamics of Whiteness — are also evolving. As always, a book’s inclusion is for informational purposes only and does not necessarily mean a full endorsement of its contents.

The Myth of Post-Racial America: Searching for Equality in the Age of Materialism, by Roy H. Kaplan (R&L Education)

'The Myth of Post-Racial America' by Roy Kaplan

The Myth of Post-Racial America provides a history of race and racism in the United States. These concepts became integral parts of American society through social, psychological, and political decisions, which are documented so readers can learn about the origin of myths and stereotypes that have created schisms in our society from its founding to the present day. This information is essential reading for students and teachers so they can become more effective in their work and value cultural differences, modes of expression, and learning styles.

White Male Privilege: A Study of Racism in America 50 Years After Voting Rights Act, by Mark Rosenkranz (Law Dog Books)

'White Male Privilege' by Mark Rosenkranz

Discrimination and racism has existed in America since the very early days of colonization. In the Declaration of Independence, our founding fathers declared “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” and yet, it would be another 189 years before Americans would be equal by law. It has been suggested that with the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, America had finally overcame its ugly past of racism and discrimination. As we entered into the new millennium, the author wondered if America had really set aside its biases and discriminatory practices.

The author interviewed eight people as he developed the foundations for this book. One of the people he was honored to interview was Brian Swann, the brother of famous footballer Lynn Swann. Brian shared his story of a racially motivated encounter that he and his brother’s had experienced in the 1970′s in San Francisco, California, at the hands of the San Francisco Police Department. Each of the eight people interviewed for this book brought with them a different experience and viewpoint as it relates to discrimination and racism in America, and more specifically, white male privilege in America. The author brought these eight individual viewpoints together, and told their story as they relate to American history, from the early days of colonization through the present day.

Seeing White: An Introduction to White Privilege and Race, by Jean Halley, Amy Eshleman, and Ramya Mahadevan Vijaya (Rowman & Littlefield)

'Seeing White' by Halley, Eshleman, and Vijaya

This interdisciplinary textbook challenges students to see race as everyone’s issue. Drawing on sociology, psychology, history, and economics, Seeing White introduces students to the concepts of white privilege and social power. Seeing White is designed to help break down some of the resistance students feel in discussing race. Each chapter opens with compelling concrete examples to help students approach issues from a range of perspectives.

The early chapters build a solid understanding of privilege and power, leading to a critical exploration of discrimination. Key theoretical perspectives include cultural materialism, critical race theory, and the social construction of race. Each chapter includes discussion questions to help students evaluate institutions and policies that perpetuate or counter forces of privilege and discrimination.

Everyday Forms of Whiteness: Understanding Race in a ‘Post-Racial’ World, by Melanie E. L. Bush (Rowman & Littlefield)

'Everyday Forms of Whiteness' by Melanie Bush

The second edition of Melanie Bush’s acclaimed Everyday Forms of Whiteness looks at the often-unseen ways racism impacts our lives. The author has interviewed and surveyed hundreds of college students and reveals that even though we talk as though we live in a ‘post-racial’ world after the election of Barack Obama, racism is still very much a factor in everyday life. The second edition incorporates new data and interviews to show how the everyday thinking of ordinary people contributes to the perpetuation of systemic racialized inequality. The book introduces key terms for the study for race and ethnicity, reveals the mechanisms that support the racial hierarchy in U.S. society, then outlines ways we can challenge long-standing patterns of racial inequality.

The Persistence of the Color Line: Racial Politics and the Obama Presidency, by Randall Kennedy (Pantheon)

'The Persistence of the Color Line' by Randall Kennedy

Timely—as the 2012 presidential election nears—and controversial, here is the first book by a major African-American public intellectual on racial politics and the Obama presidency. Renowned for his cool reason vis-à-vis the pitfalls and clichés of racial discourse, Randall Kennedy—Harvard professor of law and author of the New York Times best seller Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word—gives us a keen and shrewd analysis of the complex relationship between the first black president and his African-American constituency.

Kennedy tackles such hot-button issues as the nature of racial opposition to Obama, whether Obama has a singular responsibility to African Americans, electoral politics and cultural chauvinism, black patriotism, the differences in Obama’s presentation of himself to blacks and to whites, the challenges posed by the dream of a postracial society, and the far-from-simple symbolism of Obama as a leader of the Joshua generation in a country that has elected only three black senators and two black governors in its entire history. Eschewing the critical excesses of both the left and the right, Kennedy offers a gimlet-eyed view of Obama’s triumphs and travails, his strengths and weaknesses, as they pertain to the troubled history of race in America.

State of White Supremacy: Racism, Governance, and the United States, edited by Moon-Kie Jung, Joao Costa Vargas, Eduardo Bonilla-Silva (Stanford University Press)

'State of White Supremacy' edited by Jung, Vargas, and Bonilla-Silva

The deeply entrenched patterns of racial inequality in the United States simply do not square with the liberal notion of a nation-state of equal citizens. Uncovering the false promise of liberalism, State of White Supremacy reveals race to be a fundamental, if flexible, ruling logic that perpetually generates and legitimates racial hierarchy and privilege.

Racial domination and violence in the United States are indelibly marked by its origin and ongoing development as an empire-state. The widespread misrecognition of the United States as a liberal nation-state hinges on the twin conditions of its approximation for the white majority and its impossibility for their racial others. The essays in this book incisively probe and critique the U.S. racial state through a broad range of topics, including citizenship, education, empire, gender, genocide, geography, incarceration, Islamophobia, migration and border enforcement, violence, and welfare.

Dear White America: Letter to a New Minority, by Tim Wise (City Lights Publishers)

'Dear White America' by Tim Wise

White Americans have long been comfortable in the assumption that they are the cultural norm. Now that notion is being challenged, as white people wrestle with what it means to be part of a fast-changing, truly multicultural nation. Facing chronic economic insecurity, a popular culture that reflects the nation’s diverse cultural reality, a future in which they will no longer constitute the majority of the population, and with a black president in the White House, whites are growing anxious.

This anxiety has helped to create the Tea Party movement, with its call to “take our country back.” By means of a racialized nostalgia for a mythological past, the Right is enlisting fearful whites into its campaign for reactionary social and economic policies. In urgent response, Tim Wise has penned his most pointed and provocative work to date. Employing the form of direct personal address, he points a finger at whites’ race-based self-delusion, explaining how such an agenda will only do harm to the nation’s people, including most whites. In no uncertain terms, he argues that the hope for survival of American democracy lies in the embrace of our multicultural past, present and future.


October 20, 2011

Written by C.N.

New Books: Asian Diasporas, Communities, and Transnationalism

The following new books highlight the different dimensions of globalized and transnational connections between Asia and Asian American as reflected in empirical, cultural, and literature studies of diasporas, communities, and ethnic enclaves within the U.S. and their relationship back to Asia and the rest of the world. As always, a book’s inclusion is for informational purposes only and does not necessarily mean a full endorsement of its contents.

Writing the Ghetto: Class, Authorship, and the Asian American Ethnic Enclave, by Yoonmee Chang (Rutgers University Press)

'Writing the Ghetto' by Yoonmee Chang

In the United States, perhaps no minority group is considered as “model” or successful as the Asian American community. Rather than living in ominous “ghettoes,” Asian Americans are described as residing in positive-sounding “ethnic enclaves.” Writing the Ghetto helps clarify the hidden or unspoken class inequalities faced by Asian Americans, while insightfully analyzing the effect such notions have had on their literary voices.

Yoonmee Chang examines the class structure of Chinatowns, Koreatowns, Little Tokyos, and Little Indias, arguing that ghettoization in these spaces is disguised. She maintains that Asian American literature both contributes to and challenges this masking through its marginalization by what she calls the “ethnographic imperative.” Chang discusses texts from the late nineteenth century to the present, including those of Sui Sin Far, Winnifred Eaton, Monica Sone, Fae Myenne Ng, Chang-rae Lee, S. Mitra Kalita, and Nam Le. These texts are situated in the contexts of the Chinese Exclusion Era, Japanese American internment during World War II, the globalization of Chinatown in the late twentieth century, the Vietnam War, the 1992 Los Angeles riots, and the contemporary emergence of the “ethnoburb.”

Sweating Saris: Indian Dance as Transnational Labor, by Priya Srinivasan (Temple University Press)

'Sweating Saris' by Priya Srinivasan

Combining critical dance history and ethnography to look at issues of immigration, citizenship, and ethnic identity, Priya Srinivasan’s groundbreaking book Sweating Saris considers Indian dance in the diaspora as a form of embodied, gendered labour. Chronicling the social, cultural, and political relevance of the dancers’ experiences, she raises questions of class, cultural nationalism, and Orientalism. Srinivasan presents stories of female (and male) Indian dancers who were brought to the United States between the 1880s and early 1900s to perform.

She argues that mastery of traditional Indian dance is intended to socialize young women into their role as proper Indian American women in the twenty-first century. The saris and bells that are intrinsic to the shaping of female Indian American gender identity also are produced by labouring bodies, which sweat from the physical labour of the dance and thus signifies both the material realities of the dancing body and the abstract aesthetic labour.

Srinivasan merges ethnography, history, critical race theory, performance and post-colonial studies among other disciplines to investigate the embodied experience of Indian dance. The dancers’ sweat stained and soaked saris, the aching limbs are emblematic of global circulations of labor, bodies, capital, and industrial goods. Thus the sweating sari of the dancer stands in for her unrecognized labor.

Srinivasan shifts away from the usual emphasis on Indian women dancers as culture bearers of the Indian nation. She asks us to reframe the movements of late nineteenth century transnational Nautch Indian dancers to the foremother of modern dance Ruth St. Denis in the early twentieth century to contemporary teenage dancers in Southern California, proposing a transformative theory of dance, gendered-labor, and citizenship that is far-reaching.

Melancholy Order: Asian Migration and the Globalization of Borders, by Adam M. McKeown (Columbia University Press)

'Melancholy Order' by Adam McKeown

As Adam M. McKeown demonstrates, the push for increased border control and identity documentation is the continuation of more than 150 years of globalization. Not only are modern passports and national borders inseparable from the rise of global mobility, but they are also tied to the emergence of individuals and nations as the primary sites of global power and identity.

McKeown’s detailed history traces how, rather than being a legacy of “traditional” forms of sovereignty, practices of border control historically rose from attempts to control Asian migration around the Pacific in the 1880s. New policies to control mobility had to be justified in the context of contemporary liberal ideas of freedom and mobility, generating principles that are taken for granted today, such as the belief that migration control is a sovereign right of receiving nations and that it should occur at a country’s borders.

McKeown shows how the enforcement of these border controls required migrants to be extracted from social networks of identity and reconstructed as isolated individuals within centralized filing systems. Methods for excluding Asians from full participation in the “family of civilized nations” are now the norm between all nations. These practices also helped institutionalize global cultural and economic divisions, such as East/West and First and Third World designations, which continue to shape our understanding.

The Chinese/Vietnamese Diaspora: Revisiting the Boat People, edited by Yuk Wah Chan (Routledge)

'The Chinese/Vietnamese Diaspora' by Yuk Wah Chan

Over three decades have passed since the first wave of Indochinese refugees left their homelands. These refugees, mainly the Vietnamese, fled from war and strife in search of a better life elsewhere. By investigating the Vietnamese diaspora in Asia, this book sheds new light on the Asian refugee era (1975-1991), refugee settlement and different patterns of host-guest interactions that will have implications for refugee studies elsewhere. The book provides:

  • A clearer historical understanding of the group dynamics among refugees – the ethnic Chinese ‘Vietnamese refugees’ from both the North and South as well as the northern ‘Vietnamese refugees’
  • An examination of different aspects of migration including: planning for migration, choices of migration route, and reasons for migration
  • An analysis of the ethnic and refugee politics during the refugee era, the settlement and subsequent resettlement

This book will be of interest to students and scholars of globalization, migration, ethnicities, refugee histories and politics.

Transnational Asian Identities in Pan-Pacific Cinemas: The Reel Asian Exchange, edited by Philippa Gates and Lisa Funnell (Routledge)

This collection examines the exchange of Asian identities taking place at the levels of both film production and film reception amongst pan-Pacific cinemas. The authors consider, on the one hand, texts that exhibit what Mette Hjort refers to as, “marked transnationality,” and on the other, the polysemic nature of transnational film texts by examining the release and reception of these films.

The topics explored in this collection include the innovation of Hollywood generic formulas into 1950′s and 1960′s Hong Kong and Japanese films; the examination of Thai and Japanese raced and gendered identity in Asian and American films; the reception of Hollywood films in pre-1949 China and millennial Japan; the production and performance of Asian adoptee identity and subjectivity; the political implications and interpretations of migrating Chinese female stars; and the production and reception of pan-Pacific co-productions.

Chinatowns, by Gregor Benton (Routledge)

Exploring how each Chinatown is different; Benton explains how a unique culture developed and outlines their basic cultural, social, and political features. He highlights the unique features of the different Chinatowns surveyed. For instance, in Paris, there is a Chinatown populated primarily by Chinese who are the descendants of Chinese migrants to Southeast Asia (a former French colony).

In the United States, the cloistered nature of Chinatowns stemmed from institutionalized racism. And in Australia, weaker taboos against interracial sex led to more open enclaves. Everywhere, though, Chinatowns have been stereotyped as places of exoticism and corruption, and to this day are frequently viewed through an Orientalist gaze. In this truly unique book, Gregor Benton applies his vast knowledge to cover all of these features.


September 21, 2011

Written by C.N.

New Books: Asian Americans Connecting Past and Present

Below are some recently-released books that highlight the connections between past and present in the lives of Asian Americans. As scholars and philosophers will tell you, knowing where a particular group or nation has been is the first step towards knowing where they are going. As always, a book’s inclusion is for informational purposes only and does not necessarily mean a full endorsement of its contents.

The Third Asiatic Invasion: Empire and Migration in Filipino America, 1898-1946, by Rick Baldoz (NYU Press)

'The Third Asiatic Invasion' by Rick Baldoz

The first half of the twentieth century witnessed a wave of Filipino immigration to the United States, following in the footsteps of earlier Chinese and Japanese immigrants, the first and second “Asiatic invasions.” Perceived as alien because of their Asian ethnicity yet legally defined as American nationals granted more rights than other immigrants, Filipino American national identity was built upon the shifting sands of contradiction, ambiguity, and hostility.

Rick Baldoz explores the complex relationship between Filipinos and the U.S. by looking at the politics of immigration, race, and citizenship on both sides of the Philippine-American divide: internationally through an examination of American imperial ascendancy and domestically through an exploration of the social formation of Filipino communities in the United States. He reveals how American practices of racial exclusion repeatedly collided with the imperatives of U.S. overseas expansion. A unique portrait of the Filipino American experience, The Third Asiatic Invasion links the Filipino experience to that of Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, Chinese and Native Americans, among others, revealing how the politics of exclusion played out over time against different population groups.

Weaving together an impressive range of materials–including newspapers, government reports, legal documents and archival sources—into a seamless narrative, Baldoz illustrates how the quixotic status of Filipinos played a significant role in transforming the politics of race, immigration and nationality in the United States.

In Pursuit of Gold: Chinese American Miners and Merchants in the American West, by Sue Fawn Chung (University of Illinois Press)

'In Pursuit of Gold' by Sue Fawn Chung

Both a history of an overlooked community and a well-rounded reassessment of prevailing assumptions about Chinese miners in the American West, In Pursuit of Gold brings to life in rich detail the world of turn-of-the-century mining towns in the Northwest. Sue Fawn Chung meticulously recreates the lives of Chinese immigrants, miners, merchants, and others who populated these towns and interacted amicably with their white and Native American neighbors, defying the common perception of nineteenth-century Chinese communities as insular enclaves subject to increasing prejudice and violence.

While most research has focused on Chinese miners in California, this book is the first extensive study of Chinese experiences in the towns of John Day in Oregon and Tuscarora, Island Mountain, and Gold Creek in Nevada. Chung illustrates the relationships between miners and merchants within the communities and in the larger context of immigration, arguing that the leaders of the Chinese and non-Chinese communities worked together to create economic interdependence and to short-circuit many of the hostilities and tensions that plagued other mining towns.

Peppered with fascinating details about these communities from the intricacies of Chinese gambling games to the techniques of hydraulic mining, In Pursuit of Gold draws on a wealth of historical materials, including immigration records, census manuscripts, legal documents, newspapers, memoirs, and manuscript collections. Chung supplements this historical research with invaluable first-hand observations of artifacts that she experienced in archaeological digs and restoration efforts at several of the sites of the former booming mining towns.

In clear, analytical prose, Chung expertly characterizes the movement of Chinese miners into Oregon and Nevada, the heyday of their mining efforts in the region, and the decline of the communities due to changes in the mining industry. Highlighting the positive experiences and friendships many of the immigrants had in these relatively isolated mining communities, In Pursuit of Gold also suggests comparisons with the Chinese diaspora in other locations such as British Columbia and South Africa.

Prisons and Patriots: Japanese American Wartime Citizenship, Civil Disobedience, and Historical Memory, by Cherstin Lyon (Temple University Press)

'Prisons and Patriots' by Cherstin Lyon

Prisons and Patriots provides a detailed account of forty-one Nisei (second-generation Japanese Americans), known as the Tucsonians, who were imprisoned for resisting the draft during WWII. Cherstin Lyon parallels their courage as resisters with that of civil rights hero Gordon Hirabayashi, well known for his legal battle against curfew and internment, who also resisted the draft.

These dual stories highlight the intrinsic relationship between the rights and the obligations of citizenship, particularly salient in times of war. Lyon considers how wartime civil disobedience has been remembered through historyohow soldiers have been celebrated for their valour while resisters have been demonized as unpatriotic. Using archival research and interviews, she presents a complex picture of loyalty and conflict among first-generation Issei and Nisei.

Lyon contends that the success of the redress movement has made room for a narrative that neither reduces the wartime confinement to a source of shame nor proffers an uncritical account of heroic individuals.

Relative Histories: Mediating History in Asian American Family Memoirs, by Rocio G. Davis (University of Hawai’i Press)

'Relative Histories' by Rocio G. Davis

Relative Histories focuses on the Asian American memoir that specifically recounts the story of at least three generations of the same family. This form of auto/biography concentrates as much on other members of one’s family as on oneself, generally collapses the boundaries conventionally established between biography and autobiography, and in many cases—as Rocío G. Davis proposes for the auto/biographies of ethnic writers—crosses the frontier into history, promoting collective memory.

Davis centers on how Asian American family memoirs expand the limits and function of life writing by reclaiming history and promoting community cohesion. She argues that identity is shaped by not only the stories we have been told, but also the stories we tell, making these narratives important examples of the ways we remember our family’s past and tell our community’s story.

In the context of auto/biographical writing or filmmaking that explores specific ethnic experiences of diaspora, assimilation, and integration, this work considers two important aspects: These texts re-imagine the past by creating a work that exists both in history and as a historical document, making the creative process a form of re-enactment of the past itself. Each chapter centers on a thematic concern germane to the Asian American experience: the narrative of twentieth-century Asian wars and revolutions, which has become the subtext of a significant number of Asian American family memoirs.

Asian Refugees in America: Narratives of Escape and Adaptation, by Eleanor Herz Swent (McFarland Publishing)

'Asian Refugees in America' by Eleanor Herz Swent

When Eleanor Swent began teaching English as a Second Language in 1967 at a school for adults in Oakland, California, she soon learned that many of the Asian immigrants in her classes had remarkable tales to tell of struggles in their homelands and their efforts to make new lives in America. This oral history, based on interviews Swent conducted with her students over thirty years, documents the Asian immigrant experience as never before.

Here are the stories of desperate individuals who swam to escape from China to Macao and Hong Kong; of Chinese daughters considered worthless by their families; of political refugees from Vietnam; of ethnic Chinese who fled by boat from Vietnam; of refugees from the genocide in Cambodia. As these remarkable new Americans learn different words and customs, they also enlarge our national vision, enriching our culture while assuring us that human dignity can rise above terrible circumstances.

Charlie Chan: The Untold Story of the Honorable Detective and His Rendezvous with American History, by Yunte Huang (W.W. Norton & Co.)

'Charlie Chan' by Yunte Huang

Hailed as “irrepressibly spirited and entertaining” (Pico Iyer, Time) and “a fascinating cultural survey” (Paul Devlin, Daily Beast), this provocative first biography of Charlie Chan presents American history in a way that it has never been told before. Yunte Huang ingeniously traces Charlie Chan from his real beginnings as a bullwhip-wielding detective in territorial Hawaii to his reinvention as a literary sleuth and Hollywood film icon.

Huang finally resurrects the “honorable detective” from the graveyard of detested postmodern symbols and reclaims him as the embodiment of America’s rich cultural diversity. The result is one of the most critically acclaimed books of the year and a “deeply personal . . . voyage into racial stereotyping and the humanizing force of story telling.”


July 27, 2011

Written by C.N.

Recent Books & Articles on Islam & Muslim Americans

The recent mass murder tragedy in Norway has once again focused attention on ongoing sociological issues related to Islam in general and Muslim Americans in particular. As we approach the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the debate and controversy surrounding the present and future dynamics of Muslim-west relations will only intensify. With this in mind, the following news articles and recently-released books shed more light on these important issues facing not just Muslim Americans, but all of U.S. society and indeed, the entire world.

Difference Between a Christian and Muslim Terrorist

This graphic (I found it on Digg.com but am not sure who the creator of it is) caught my attention and I think makes a powerful statement about how criticism of religious extremism seems to differ according to which religion is implicated:

Difference between a Christian and Muslim terrorist

Muslim-Western Tensions Persist

As the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attack approaches, new data from the Pew Research Group shows that unfortunately, tensions and suspicions still exist between the west and Muslim populations.

Muslim and Western publics continue to see relations between them as generally bad, with both sides holding negative stereotypes of the other. . . . However, the latest Pew Global Attitudes survey finds somewhat of a thaw in the U.S. and Europe compared with five years ago. A greater percentage of Western publics now see relations between themselves and Muslims as generally good compared with 2006.

In contrast, Muslims in predominantly Muslim nations are as inclined to say relations are generally bad as they were five years ago. And, as in the past, Muslims express more unfavorable opinions about Christians than Americans or Europeans express about Muslims. Muslims in the Middle East and elsewhere who say relations with the West are bad overwhelmingly blame the West. However, while Americans and Europeans tend to blame Muslims for bad relations, significant numbers believe Westerners are responsible.

Mistaken for Muslims, Sikhs Hit by Hate Crimes

A suspected hate crime in Sacramento CA tragically highlights the inability (or refusal) of some Americans to distinguish between Asian ethnic and religious groups and instead, blindly acting on racist stereotypes to attack innocent Americans.

The traditional [Sikh] headwear might have singled them out late last week when they were gunned down, one fatally, in what police are investigating as a suspected hate crime. On Monday, local religious leaders pleaded for the community to come forward with leads but also said they will not be deterred by violence.

“Our community will continue to wear our turbans proudly,” said Navi Kaur, the granddaughter of Surinder Singh, 65, who died from his wounds. His friend, 78-year-old Gurmej Atwal, remains in critical condition. They were walking through their neighborhood in Elk Grove, just south of the California state capital Sacramento, Friday afternoon when someone in what witnesses described as a pickup truck opened fire.

Monday also marked the start of a trial involving a confirmed hate crime against a Sikh. . . . [Amar Shergill] is the attorney for a Sikh cab driver beaten four months ago by passengers who shouted anti-Islamic slurs at him in West Sacramento, which sits across the Sacramento River from the state capital. The two defendants pleaded no contest Monday to felony assault.

As the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks approaches, several people at Monday’s news conference drew links between the Sacramento-area crimes and national and international developments. From unrest in North Africa to congressional hearings on radicalization of Muslims in the U.S., speakers warned of an increasingly hostile climate.

Arabic One of the Fastest-Growing Language Courses at U.S. Colleges

Student enrollment in Arabic, Korean and Chinese classes is showing the fastest growth among foreign language courses at U.S. colleges, even though Spanish remains the most popular by a huge margin, a new study shows.

The survey of more than 2,500 colleges and universities by the Modern Language Assn., or MLA, found that enrollment in Arabic surged by 46% between 2006 and 2009. More U.S. college students are studying Arabic than Russian, a change that officials say reflects a shift of interest from Cold War concerns to current issues involving the Middle East and terrorism.

American Muslims Ask, Will We Ever Belong?

Last year’s controversy about the location of a Muslim center near Ground Zero has many American Muslims exasperated about if and when they will ever be fully accepted into mainstream U.S. society.

For nine years after the attacks of Sept. 11, many American Muslims made concerted efforts to build relationships with non-Muslims, to make it clear they abhor terrorism, to educate people about Islam and to participate in interfaith service projects. They took satisfaction in the observations by many scholars that Muslims in America were more successful and assimilated than Muslims in Europe.

Now, many of those same Muslims say that all of those years of work are being rapidly undone by the fierce opposition to a Muslim cultural center near ground zero that has unleashed a torrent of anti-Muslim sentiments and a spate of vandalism. . . . Dr. Ferhan Asghar, an orthopedic spine surgeon in Cincinnati and the father of two young girls [says], “In no other country could we have such freedoms — that’s why so many Muslims choose to make this country their own. But we do wonder whether it will get to the point where people don’t want Muslims here anymore.”

Behind the Backlash: Muslim Americans After 9/11, by Lori Peek (Temple University Press)

'Behind the Backlash' by Peek

As the nation tried to absorb the shock of the 9/11 attacks, Muslim Americans were caught up in an unprecedented wave of backlash violence. Public discussion revealed that widespread misunderstanding and misrepresentation of Islam persisted, despite the striking diversity of the Muslim community.

Letting the voices of 140 ordinary Muslim American men and women describe their experiences, Lori Peek’s path-breaking book, Behind the Backlash presents moving accounts of prejudice and exclusion. Muslims speak of being subjected to harassment before the attacks, and recount the discrimination they encountered afterwards. Peek also explains the struggles of young Muslim adults to solidify their community and define their identity during a time of national crisis.

Behind the Backlash seeks to explain why blame and scapegoating occur after a catastrophe. Peek sets the twenty-first century experience of Muslim Americans, who were vilified and victimized, in the context of larger sociological and psychological processes. Peek’s book will be of interest to those in disaster research studies, sociology of religion, and race and ethnic relations.

Muslims in Motion: Islam and National Identity in the Bangladeshi Diaspora, by Nazli Kibria (Rutgers University Press)

'Muslims in Motion' by Kibria

In Muslims in Motion, Nazli Kibria provides a comparative look at Bangladeshi Muslims in different global contexts-including Britain, the U.S., the Middle East, and Malaysia. Kibria examines international migrant flows from Bangladesh, and considers how such migrations continue to shape Islamization in these areas. Having conducted more than 200 in-depth interviews, she explores how, in societies as different as these, migrant Muslims, in their everyday lives, strive to achieve economic gains, sustain community and family life, and realize a sense of dignity and honor.

Muslims in Motion offers fresh insights into the prominence of Islam in these communities, especially an Islam defined by fundamentalist movements and ideologies. Kibria also focuses on the complex significance of nationality-with rich analyses of the diaspora, the role of gender and class, and the multiple identities of the migrants, she shows how nationality can be both a critical source of support and also of difficulty for many in their efforts to attain lives of dignity. By bringing to life a vast range of experiences, this book challenges prevailing stereotypes of Muslims.

Framing Muslims: Stereotyping and Representation after 9/11, by Peter Morey and Amina Yaqin (Harvard University Press)

'Framing Muslims' by Morey and Yagin

Can Muslims ever fully be citizens of the West? Can the values of Islam ever be brought into accord with the individual freedoms central to the civic identity of Western nations? Not if you believe what you see on TV. Whether the bearded fanatic, the veiled, oppressed female, or the shadowy terrorist plotting our destruction, crude stereotypes permeate public representations of Muslims in the United States and western Europe. But these “Muslims” are caricatures—distorted abstractions, wrought in the most garish colors, that serve to reduce the diversity and complexity of the Muslim world to a set of fixed objects suitable for sound bites and not much else.

In Framing Muslims: Stereotyping and Representation after 9/11, Peter Morey and Amina Yaqin dissect the ways in which stereotypes depicting Muslims as an inherently problematic presence in the West are constructed, deployed, and circulated in the public imagination, producing an immense gulf between representation and a considerably more complex reality. Crucially, they show that these stereotypes are not solely the province of crude-minded demagogues and their tabloid megaphones, but multiply as well from the lips of supposedly progressive elites, even those who presume to speak “from within,” on Muslims’ behalf.

Based on nuanced analyses of cultural representations in both the United States and the UK, the authors draw our attention to a circulation of stereotypes about Muslims that sometimes globalizes local biases and, at other times, brings national differences into sharper relief.

Patriot Acts: Narratives of Post-9/11 Injustice, by Alia Malek (McSweeneys Publishing)

'Patriot Acts' by Malek

This book seeks to tell the life stories of the innocent men and women who have been needlessly swept up in the “war on terror.” As we approach the ten-year anniversary of 9/11, this collection of narratives gives voice to the people who have had their human rights violated here in the U.S. by post-9/11 policies and actions.

Among the narrators:
Young men of Arab, Muslim, South Asian, and Middle Eastern descent, who were arrested and detained or singled out for voluntary interviews because of their national origin or religion. Scholars who have been blacklisted or subjected to interrogation for their research or writings on Islam and related topics. Muslim women who have suffered from job discrimination, harassment, and assault for wearing a veil or similar head covering.

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UPDATE

After this post was published, I came across a few more noteworthy articles on Islam and Muslim Americans:

More Muslim Americans Believe They Are Thriving

Muslim Americans are now more optimistic about their lives than any other major American faith group as their economic well-being improves and they feel more politically enfranchised. A Gallup study released on Tuesday found 60 percent of Muslim Americans surveyed reported they were “thriving”, slightly higher than for Americans of any other religion except for Jews, who edged them out of the top spot by one percentage point.

Pollsters noted in particular the rapid surge in positive sentiment among Muslim Americans. The percentage of Muslims who were “thriving” grew by 19 points since 2008, double that of any other major faith group. . . .

Authors of the study said they attributed the change in outlook to improved economic conditions and a sense of more political enfranchisement since the election of President Barack Obama, a Christian with Muslim family roots who has reached out to Muslim communities worldwide. The report said Obama’s approval rating among Muslim Americans was 80 percent, and that 46 percent, or a plurality, of Muslim Americans identified as Democrats, compared to only 9 percent who identified as Republicans.

[I]mprovements in Muslim sentiment came despite continuing controversies. Those included a controversy surrounding a plan to build a Muslim cultural center and mosque near the site of New York’s September 11 al-Qaida attack, and hearings on Islamic extremism called by U.S. Representative Peter King, which critics viewed as a witch-hunt.

Muslim Americans Are Most Likely to Reject Violence

The same Gallup Organization study mentioned in the above article also notes that among major U.S. religious groups, Muslim Americans are the most likely to oppose individual or military violence against civilians. This particular report would be a very useful resource to contradict ongoing stereotypes that Muslims are more prone to support violence than other religious groups.

Muslim Americans are the staunchest opponents of military attacks on civilians, compared with members of other major religious groups Gallup has studied in the United States. Seventy-eight percent of Muslim Americans say military attacks on civilians are never justified. . . . Respondents from other faith groups, particularly Mormon Americans, are more likely to say military attacks are sometimes justified than never justified.