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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.

July 17, 2012

Written by C.N.

Links, Jobs, & Announcements #65

Here are some more announcements, links, and job postings about academic-related jobs, fellowships, and other opportunities for those interested in racial/ethnic/diversity issues, with a particular focus on Asian Americans. As always, the announcements and links are provided for informational purposes and do not necessarily imply an endorsement of the organization or college involved.

Dorchester (MA) Organizing and Training Initiative

© Corbis

Vietnamese American Community Center, 42 Charles Street Boston MA (near Fields Corner T-stop)

Interested in Asian American activism within Dorchester? Want to develop your leadership skills? Want to organize for social justice?

Join Asian American Resource Workshop (AARW) and the Asian American activist community on July 28, from 11-2:30pm, for the community launch of the exciting and new Dorchester Organizing and Training (DOT) Initiative. We will find free lunch, new friends, and lots of fun!

AARW is launching the “DOT Initiative” to provide a space for young Asian Americans in Fields Corner to build community and organize for social change. After meeting with residents and community leaders, AARW identified and seeks to fill the need for leadership development within young, working-class Asian Americans in Dorchester, in order to increase civic engagement and organize the community to fight against injustices.

Please join us! Don’t miss out on a day that will include:

Food and Socializing – free lunch and good people to talk with.

Activist Training – led by a prominent community organizer, to build your activist skills with a voter registration training Door-knocking session – take action in Fields Corner, putting your training to use right away.

Report on civic engagement within the Asian American community – conducted by the UMass Boston Institute of Asian American Studies.

AARW is a pan-Asian organization that seeks to empower the APA community to work for full participation in US society. Join us for what is shaping up to be an exciting event!

Email info@aarw.org for more information.

Fellowship: Intl. Multidisciplinary Research

2012 Abe Fellowship Competition
Deadline: September 1, 2012

The Social Science Research Council (SSRC), the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership (CGP), and the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) announce the annual Abe Fellowship competition. The Abe Fellowship is designed to encourage international multidisciplinary research on topics of pressing global concern. The Abe Fellowship Program seeks to foster the development of a new generation of researchers who are interested in policy-relevant topics of long-range importance and who are willing to become key members of a bilateral and global research network built around such topics.

The Abe Fellowship Research Agenda
Applicants are invited to submit proposals for research in the social sciences and related fields relevant to any of the following three themes:

Traditional and Non-Traditional Approaches to Security and Diplomacy
Topic areas include transnational terrorism, internal ethnic and religious strife, infectious diseases, food safety, climate change, and non-proliferation, as well as the role of cultural initiatives in peace building.

Global and Regional Economic Issues
Topic areas include regional and bilateral trade arrangements, international financial stability, globalization and the mitigation of its adverse consequences, sustainable urbanization, and environmental degradation.

Social and Cultural Issues
Topic areas include demographic change, immigration, the role of civil society and media as champions of the public interest, social enterprise, corporate social responsibility, and revitalization of multicultural urban areas.

Research projects should be policy relevant, contemporary, and comparative or transnational.

Fellowship Terms
Terms of the fellowship are flexible and are designed to meet the needs of Japanese and American researchers at different stages in their careers. The program provides Abe Fellows with a minimum of three and maximum of 12 months of full-time support over a 24 month period. Part-time residence abroad in the United States or Japan is required.

Eligibility
This competition is open to citizens of the United States and Japan as well as to nationals of other countries who can demonstrate a serious, long-term affiliation with research communities in the United States or Japan. Applicants must hold a Ph.D. or the terminal degree in their field, or equivalent professional experience at the time of application. Applications from researchers in professions other than academia are encouraged.

Contact Details
For further information and to apply, go to http://www.ssrc.org/fellowships/abe-fellowship/ or contact SSRC staff at abe@ssrc.org.

Call for Submissions: San Francisco Intl. Asian American Film Festival

Hello Asian-Nation!

My name is Cindy, and I’m writing to let you know that the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM) has announced that its Call for Entries for the 31st San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival, held on March 14-24 2013, is now OPEN!

It is a terrific opportunity for filmmakers to be a part of the largest film festival in North America dedicated to showcasing films by or about Asian Americans and Asians around the world and have the chance to have their film viewed by one of the most sophisticated and enthusiastic audiences in the nation, as well as by many festival programmers, including delegates from nearly every Asian American film festival in North America.

31st SF International Asian American Film Festival
March 14-24, 2013

Eligibility
The San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival accepts films, videos and digital and interactive projects that are made by or about Asian Americans and Asians of any nationality. All lengths and genres will be considered.

Deadlines
Your signed entry form, entry fee, screener and press kit must be postmarked by one of these two dates:
* Early Deadline – Sept 3, 2012
* Late Deadline – Oct 1, 2012
* Withoutabox.com Extended deadline –Oct 8, 2012

A presentation of:
Center for Asian American Media
145 Ninth Street, Suite 350
San Francisco, CA 94103-2641
www.caamedia.org

Call for Submissions: Race and the Life Course

“Racing through Life: Readings on Race and the Lifespan” is a collection of readings about race and the life course edited by Drs. Diditi Mitra and Joyce Weil. Holding race and aging constant, the book will incorporate readings that reflect how both these concepts intersect with other elements of social differentiation, such as gender, social class, sexual orientation, and immigrant status to name a few.

Additionally, the project will include works that echo the broad range of social methodologies used in studying the intersecting experiences of race and the life course. Thus, on the whole, the collection of works will include varieties of qualitative and quantitative methodologies. The book will also provide space for personal histories pertaining to the topics of race and the life course perspective that contextualizes those histories within a social scientific framework.

We welcome works on all race and ethnic groups, including whites. Our goal is not to focus on the “other” races, but to include whites, as well, in order to offer meaningful insights into the topics of race and the aging. The readings will be divided among the book’s three parts: the journey to adulthood (Part I), adulthood and midlife (Part II), and aging and latter years (Part III).

Please let us know of your interest and contact us if you would like to discuss a topic. The recommended length of the manuscript is between20 and 25 pages. The deadline for submission is November 1, 2012. Your expert contribution to this edited collection is greatly valued. Dr. Joyce Weil and Dr. Diditi Mitra can be reached at joyce.weil@unco.edu (970.351.1583) and dmitra@brookdalecc.edu (732.224.2537), respectively.


May 16, 2012

Written by C.N.

Academic Research: Asian Americans

The following is a list of recent academic journal articles and doctoral dissertations from scholars in the social sciences and humanities that focus on race/ethnicity and/or immigration, with a particular emphasis on Asian Americans. The academic journal articles are generally available in the libraries of most colleges and universities and/or through online research databases. As always, works included in this list are for informational purposes only and do not imply an endorsement of their contents.

Special Issue: “Generations.” Asian American Literary Review. (Volume 3, Issue 1, Spring 2012).

“Are there any continuities,” wonders scholar Min Hyoung Song, “between the earlier generation of writers which first raised the banner of an Asian American literature and a later generation of writers which inherited it?”

This is the question AALR’s Spring 2012 issue on “Generations” poses to 29 writers, poets, playwrights, spoken word performers, scholars, and publishers of various generations, regions, and ethnic and artistic communities. What emerges is a vital survey of generational continuities and divergences-not to mention some necessary reevaluation of how “generations,” “Asian American,” and “Asian American literature” might be understood. Respondents include Genny Lim, David Mura, Velina Hasu Houston, Giles Li, Gary Pak, Neelanjana Banerjee, Fred Wah, Anna Kazumi Stahl, Sunyoung Lee of Kaya Press, and Allan Kornblum of Coffee House Press, among others.

Other issue features include: Maxine Hong Kingston interviewed by Min Hyoung Song; Miguel Syjuco interviewed by Brian Ascalon Roley; Afaa Michael Weaver interviewed by Gerald Maa; a dialogue on “Asian American form” between Karen Tei Yamashita, Sesshu Foster, R. Zamora Linmark, Ray Hsu, Timothy Yu, Larissa Lai, Lawrence-Minh Bùi Davis, and Srikanth Reddy; new poetry by Dilruba Ahmed, Ed Bok Lee, R. Zamora Linmark, Wing Tek Lum, and Afaa Michael Weaver; an email to Monique Truong from The New York Times; new writing by Ed Park; translations of work by Hiromi Itō and Carlos Yushimito del Valle; reviews of Tao Lin’s Shoplifting from American Apparel and Richard Yates, the new edition of Sui Sin Far’s Mrs. Spring Fragrance, Srikanth Reddy’s Voyager, and Monique Truong’s Bitter in the Mouth.

Asian American woman © Hero/Corbis

Special Issue: “Asian Americans in Global Cities: Los Angeles – New York Connections and Comparisons.” AAPI Nexus: Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders — Policy, Practice and Community. (Volume 10, Number 2, Fall 2012).

This special AAPI Nexus issue examines Asian American experiences in global cities through comparative studies of Los Angeles and New York. The demographic facts are astonishing — more than a quarter of the sixteen million Asian Americans reside in either of the two greater metropolises where they comprise more than a tenth of the total population in each region. Consequently, it is difficult to fully understand and appreciate Asian American experiences without studying these two global cities.

The comparative approach offers great analytical potential because it can generate insights into what phenomena transcend regions and patterns that are produced by factors and forces common to Asian Americans regardless of location and fundamental global-city processes. The comparative approach can also identify phenomena that are unique to each region, such as outcomes of specific local and regional structures and dynamics. . . .

Our hope is that this issue will be a stimulus to further theorizing and empirical analyses of Asian Americans in global cities including those beyond Los Angeles and New York. . . . Scholarly research, however, is not sufficient. Our goal was to compile a set of articles that contributes to engaged practices. . . . We believe that this principle should be integral to future comparative work.

List of articles:

  • Shih, Howard and Melany De La Cruz-Viesca. “A Tale of Two Global Cities: The State of Asian Americans in Los Angeles and New York.”
  • Nakaoka, Susan. “Cultivating a Cultural Home Space: The Case of Little Tokyo’s Budokan of Los Angeles Project.”
  • Sze, Lena. “This is Part of Our History: Preserving Garment Manufacturing and a Sense of Home in Manhattan’s Chinatown.”
  • Le, C.N. “New Dimensions of Self-Employment among Asian Americans in Los Angeles and New York.”
  • Rotramel, Ariella. “We Make the Spring Rolls, They Make Their Own Rules: Filipina Domestic Workers’ Fight for Labor Rights in New York City and Los Angeles.”
  • Chang, Benji and Juhyung Harold Lee. “Community-Based? Asian American Students, Parents, and Teachers in Shifting Chinatowns of New York and Los Angeles.”

Yep, Kathleen S. 2012. “Peddling Sport: Liberal Multiculturalism and the Racial Triangulation of Blackness, Chineseness and Native American-ness in Professional Basketball.” Ethnic and Racial Studies. 35(6):971–987.

  • Abstract: Abstract Deploying liberal multiculturalist discourse, the media depicts professional basketball as a post-racial space where all talented players, regardless of their race, can thrive if they work hard. An analysis of the construction of non-white players in the 1930s and in 2010 demonstrates sport as modulated by racially charged discourse. As part of a liberal multiculturalist frame, the coding of basketball players as hero, threat and novelty serve to privilege whiteness and replicate racialized and gendered images that can be traced to the 1930s. In doing so, the article highlights how liberal multiculturalism involves racial triangulation and the simultaneous processes of hyper-racialization and de-racialization.

Kiang, Lisa, Jamie Lee Peterson, and Taylor L Thompson. 2011. “Ethnic Peer Preferences Among Asian American Adolescents in Emerging Immigrant Communities.” Journal of Research on Adolescence. 21(4):754–761.

  • Abstract: Growing diversity and evidence that diverse friendships enhance psychosocial success highlight the importance of understanding adolescents’ ethnic peer preferences. Using social identity and social contact frameworks, the ethnic preferences of 169 Asian American adolescents (60% female) were examined in relation to ethnic identity, perceived discrimination, and language proficiency. Adolescents with same- and mixed-ethnic friends reported significantly greater ethnic centrality than those with mostly different-ethnic friends. Adolescents with same-ethnic friends reported significantly higher perceived discrimination and lower English proficiency than those with mixed- and different-ethnic friends. Open-ended responses were linked to quantitative data and provided further insight into specific influences on peer preferences (e.g., shared traditions, homophily). Results speak to the importance of cultural experiences in structuring the friendships and everyday lives of adolescents.

Narui, Mitsu. 2011. “Understanding Asian/American Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Experiences from a Poststructural Perspective.” Journal of Homosexuality. 58(9):1211–1234.

  • Abstract: This study explores the college experiences of nine Asian/American gay, lesbian, and bisexual students and, specifically, the impact of concealing or revealing their sexual orientation on their emerging sense of self. By utilizing a Foucauldian, poststructural theoretical perspective, the researcher found that the students navigated multiple discourses, and their decisions about revealing their sexual orientation were based on relationships formed within those discourses. These decisions, in turn, helped many of the students grasp their emerging agency within the dominant discourse. To conclude, the researcher discusses the implications of these findings for higher education as a whole.

Diaz, Maria-elena D. 2012. “Asian Embeddedness and Political Participation: Social Integration and Asian-American Voting Behavior in the 2000 Presidential Election.” Sociological Perspectives. 55(1):141–166.

  • Abstract: Despite the abundance of electoral research, a recurring finding is that Asian-Americans in multivariate analyses are less likely to vote compared to all other Americans. Yet Asians have high levels of education and income, the strongest predictors of voting behavior. This article goes beyond individual-level characteristics and examines how the ways in which Asian-Americans are connected to communities moderate individual-level characteristics and influence their electoral participation. Using hierarchical generalized linear modeling, variability in Asian-American voting behavior is studied with 2000 Current Population Survey voting data and county data primarily from the 2000 U.S. Census. The main findings are that social integration, either by highly assimilating communities or through ethnic organizing, facilitates political incorporation and electoral participation. Where neither condition exists, Asian-Americans are less likely to vote.

Pih, Kay Kei‐ho, Akihiko Hirose, and KuoRay Mao. 2012. “The Invisible Unattended: Low‐wage Chinese Immigrant Workers, Health Care, and Social Capital in Southern California’s San Gabriel Valley.” Sociological Inquiry. 82(2):236–256.

  • Abstract: This study investigates the factors affecting the availability of health insurance, the accessibility of health care, and the dissemination of the relevant information among low-wage Chinese immigrants in Southern California by relying on the concepts of social and cultural capital. Using community-based research and in-depth interviews, our study suggests that a severe shortage in health care coverage among low-wage Chinese immigrants is influenced by the lack of employment with employer-provided health insurance within the Chinese “ethnoburb” community. Although the valuable social capital generated by Chinese immigrant networks seems to be sufficient enough to provide them with certain practical resources, the lack of cultural capital renders the social network rather ineffective in providing critical health care information from mainstream American society.

Zonta, Michela M. 2012. “The Continuing Significance of Ethnic Resources: Korean-Owned Banks in Los Angeles, New York and Washington DC.” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies. 38(3):463–484.

  • Abstract: Mirroring the geographic expansion of the Korean population and Korean-owned businesses beyond long-established enclaves, Korean-owned banks can increasingly be found in areas where the presence of mainstream banks is more visible and competition is potentially stronger. Yet, despite competition, Korean banks continue to expand and thrive. By focusing on the recent development of Korean banking in Los Angeles, New York and Washington DC, this article explores the role of ethnic resources in the expansion of Korean banking outside their protected market. Findings suggest that ethnic resources and ties to ethnic enclaves are still important in supporting the ethnic economy in environments characterised by weaker ties and increasing competition by mainstream businesses.

Spencer, James H., Petrice R. Flowers, and Jungmin Seo. 2012. “Post-1980s Multicultural Immigrant Neighbourhoods: Koreatowns, Spatial Identities and Host Regions in the Pacific Rim.” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies. 38(3):437–461.

  • Abstract: Recent trends in migration across the Pacific Rim have suggested that neighbourhoods have become important sources of community identity, requiring a re-evaluation of the relationship between urban places and immigrants. Specifically, we argue that the notion of ethnic enclaves may not fit well with some of the newer, post-1980s immigrant populations in Pacific Rim cities. Using data from the cases of Los Angeles, Tokyo and Beijing, we argue that Korean settlement in these cities represents a new kind of immigrant neighbourhood that links Korean migrants with other migrant communities, consumers in the broader region and local government interests to produce places that mitigate increasingly multicultural and multi-ethnic urban hierarchies in their localities. This role has become particularly important regarding real estate and economic development strategies.

Yoon, In-Jin. 2012. “Migration and the Korean Diaspora: A Comparative Description of Five Cases.” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies. 38(3):413–435.

  • Abstract: The international migration and settlement of Koreans began in 1860 and there are now about 6.8 million overseas Koreans in 170 countries. Each wave of Korean migration was driven by different historical factors in the homeland and the host countries, and hence the motivations and characteristics of Korean immigrants in each period were different. The diverse conditions in and government policies of the host countries also affected the mode of entry and incorporation of Koreans. A contrast is drawn between the ?old? and the ?new? Korean migrations. The former consists of those who migrated to Russia, China, America and Japan from the mid-nineteenth to the early twentieth century. They were from the lower classes, pushed out by poverty, war and oppression in the homeland. Few returned to the homeland but preserved their collective identities and ethnic cultures in their host societies. The new migrants to America, Europe and Latin America since the 1960s, however, come from middle-class backgrounds, are pulled by better opportunities in the host countries, travel freely between the homeland and host countries, and maintain transnational families and communities. Despite these differences, overseas Koreans share common experiences and patterns of immigration, settlement and adaptation.

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.


August 28, 2009

Written by C.N.

New Books: Chinatowns & Little Saigons

As part of this blog’s mission of making academic research and data more easily accessible, understandable, and applicable to a wider audience and to practical, everyday social issues, I highlight new sociological books about Asian Americans and other racial/ethnic groups as I hear about them. This time around, two new books examine the history and contemporary dynamics of two sets of Asian American enclaves: Chinatowns and Little Saigons.

Little Saigons: Staying Vietnamese in America, by Karin Aguilar-San Juan (University of Minnesota Press)

Little Saigons by Karin-Aguilar-San Juan

Karin Aguilar-San Juan examines the contradictions of Vietnamese American community and identity in two emblematic yet different locales: Little Saigon in suburban Orange County, California (widely described as the capital of Vietnamese America) and the urban “Vietnamese town” of Fields Corner in Boston, Massachusetts. Their distinctive qualities challenge assumptions about identity and space, growth amid globalization, and processes of Americanization.

With a comparative and race-cognizant approach, Aguilar-San Juan shows how places like Little Saigon and Fields Corner are sites for the simultaneous preservation and redefinition of Vietnamese identity. Intervening in debates about race, ethnicity, multiculturalism, and suburbanization as a form of assimilation, this work elaborates on the significance of place as an integral element of community building and its role in defining Vietnamese American-ness.

Staying Vietnamese, according to Aguilar-San Juan, is not about replicating life in Viet Nam. Rather, it involves moving toward a state of equilibrium that, though always in flux, allows refugees, immigrants, and their U.S.-born offspring to recalibrate their sense of self in order to become Vietnamese anew in places far from their presumed geographic home.

American Chinatown: A People’s History of Five Neighborhoods, by Bonnie Tsui (Free Press)

American Chinatown by Bonnie Tsui

In American Chinatown, acclaimed travel writer Bonnie Tsui takes an affectionate, attentive look at the neighborhood that has bewitched her since childhood, when she eagerly awaited her grandfather’s return from the fortune cookie factory.

Tsui visits the country’s four most famous Chinatowns — San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, Honolulu — and makes her final, fascinating stop in Las Vegas; in her explorations, she focuses on the remarkable experiences of ordinary people. Tsui beautifully captures their vivid stories, giving readers a deeper look into what “Chinatown” means to its inhabitants, what each community takes on from its American home, and what their experience means to America at large. American Chinatown is an all-access pass.