The views and opinions expressed on this site and blog posts (excluding comments on blog posts left by others) are entirely my own and do not represent those of any employer or organization with whom I am currently or previously have been associated.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The George Mason University, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Institute for Immigration Research (IIR) invites applications for a one-year, renewable position as a Postdoctoral Fellow with a background in sociology, economics, demography, or a related field beginning August 25, 2012. The IIR is a newly formed, privately funded initiative to explore the contributions of immigrants to the U.S. economy.
The successful candidate’s areas of specialization will include immigration, economic, social and political consequences of migration, quality of life, and the overall issues related to immigration policy. Successful applicants must have a working knowledge and background in demography and GIS, as well as knowledge of statistical software—in particular SPSS or Stata.
This position is critical to the success of the IIR and requires the full understanding and active participation in fulfilling the Mission of IIR. Must be able to work collaboratively with IIR faculty/staff and communicate results clearly in oral and written form. For more information contact Jim Witte, Professor of Sociology and IIR Research Director email@example.com or https://jobs.gmu.edu/postings/28324
Skidmore College invites applications for a tenure-track position in Sociology at the Assistant Professor level, to begin September 2013. We seek a sociologist to teach our required statistics course who can also contribute offerings in race and ethnicity. Other areas of teaching expertise are open.
Skidmore’s student population is 25 percent of color or international, and applicants should include in their letter of interest information about how they will effectively engage with issues of diversity in the classroom as well as on campus or in the broader community. Applicants should also demonstrate excellence in teaching, active scholarship, and a strong commitment to undergraduate education at a liberal arts college. Ph.D. required at time of appointment.
Skidmore is on a semester system with a teaching load of five courses per year. Skidmore offers a comprehensive benefits package to employees and their qualified dependents including domestic partners and same sex spouses. In keeping with Skidmore’s strategic initiatives to enhance the diversity of our campus community, we particularly encourage applications from members of historically under-represented groups.
To ensure full consideration, applications should be received by October 1, 2012. Preliminary interviews will be conducted at the ASA meetings in August.
Faculty Position: Sociology, Tufts Univ.
The Department of Sociology at Tufts University invites applications for the position of Assistant Professor, to begin Fall 2013. The successful candidate will have a Ph.D. in sociology or a related discipline, a demonstrated record of academic research and publication, an active research agenda, relevant teaching experience, excellent teaching skills, and a commitment to teaching a highly motivated and diverse student body.
Candidates’ research and teaching will focus on race, racialization, and racial inequality in regard to areas such as media and culture, health and medicine, crime and justice, or work and the economy. Candidates with expertise in quantitative methods are especially encouraged to apply. The successful applicant will be the tenth member of the department. While the appointment will be in the Sociology Department, the candidate hired will have an explicit teaching, advising, and service commitment to an interdisciplinary program being developed in Race and Ethnicity Studies.
Tufts University is a category I research university ranked in the top thirty universities in the country by U.S. News and World Report and is located in the vibrant intellectual community of Boston. The department’s three main areas of specialty are (1) media, culture, and society; (2) social inequalities and social change; and 3) globalization, transnationalism, and immigration. The typical teaching load is 2-2.
Candidates should submit an application letter, CV, three letters of reference, a writing sample, teaching evaluation summaries, and other evidence of teaching and scholarly excellence to: Joan Kean, Department Administrator; Department of Sociology; Eaton Hall 102A; 5 The Green; Tufts University; Medford, MA 02155. Review of applications will begin October 1, 2012 and continue until the position is filled.
The Department of American Studies at California State University, Fullerton invites applications for a tenure-track position at the rank of Assistant Professor to begin August 2013. Desirable specializations include immigration and/or ethnicity in California and the West. The new faculty member will teach undergraduate courses in American Studies as well as upper-division and graduate courses in areas of specialization; advise students; engage in scholarly activities; serve on academic committees and contribute to department and university governance. Positive decisions on tenure and promotion require excellent teaching as well as research, peer-reviewed publications, and participation in the university and the profession.
Ph.D. in American Studies or in American social/cultural history
University teaching experience
Ability to teach Introduction to American Studies, American Studies Theories and Methods, California Cultures, and advanced courses dealing with immigration and/or ethnicity in California and the West
Evidence of effective teaching and potential for successful research and scholarly publication
Ability to interact successfully with a diverse student body and to work effectively within a multicultural environment
Ability to balance excellent teaching with outstanding scholarship and professional service
Rank and Salary
This is a tenure-track position at the rank of Assistant Professor. Salary is competitive and commensurate with rank, experience, and qualifications. Additional teaching in summer and intersession is often available. An excellent comprehensive benefits package is available, which includes health/vision/dental plans; spouse, domestic partner and/or dependent fee-waiver; access to campus child-care as well as affordable housing program; and a defined-benefit retirement through the state system, along with optional tax-sheltering opportunities. For a detailed description of benefits, go to http://hr.fullerton.edu/Benefits/Faculty_Unit_3.pdf.
Application Procedure: To apply, please send (1) a letter of interest; (2) a curriculum vitae; (3) three letters of recommendation; and (4) a writing sample to:
Department of American Studies
California State University, Fullerton
P.O. Box 6868
Fullerton, CA 92834-6868
Fax: (657) 278-5820
Application Deadline: To assure full consideration, application materials must be postmarked by October 1, 2012.
University of Hawai’i at Mānoa, Department of American Studies, Assistant Professor (Pos. #0082176).
Teach American Studies undergraduate and graduate courses
Teach/conduct research in Asian/Pacific American studies with an emphasis on Filipino American studies
Other duties as assigned by chair
Ph.D. in American Studies or related area (ABDs will be considered)
Ability to teach American Studies undergraduate and graduate courses
Teach/conduct research in Asian/Pacific American studies with an emphasis on Filipino American studies
To Apply: Send letter of application indicating how you satisfy the minimum qualifications, curriculum vitae, 3 letters of recommendation and graduate school transcripts (copies are acceptable, however official transcripts will be required at time of hire) to the address below. Departmental representatives plan to conduct invited interviews at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association (November 15-18, 2012) in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Search Committee, American Studies Department
University of Hawaii at Manoa
1890 East West Road, Moore Hall 324
Honolulu, HI 96822
Inquiries: Prof. Vernadette Gonzalez, Search Committee Chair; 808-956-8587; firstname.lastname@example.org. Closing Date: October 12, 2012.
The University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) invites nominations and applications for the UMBC Postdoctoral Fellows Program for Faculty Diversity. UMBC is dedicated to ensuring a diverse, scholarly environment and encouraging outstanding individuals to enter the academic profession. The purpose of the Program is to support promising scholars who are committed to diversity in the academy and to prepare those scholars for possible tenure track appointments at UMBC. We are particularly interested in receiving applications from individuals who are members of groups that historically have been underrepresented in the professoriate.
UMBC will appoint recent recipients of the Ph.D. as Postdoctoral Fellows for a two-year term beginning July 1, 2013. The fellow will receive a starting stipend of $40,000, health benefits, $3,000 for conference travel and preparation of scholarly work, office space with computer, library and other privileges at the university. During the two-year term of appointment, the fellow will teach one course a year in the host department. All fellows are expected to be in residence during the academic year and participate in departmental seminars and related activities. Each fellow will be provided teaching and research mentors and specialized professional development opportunities across the campus. The remainder of the fellow’s time will be devoted to pursuing research.
Successful candidates for the Program will be selected on the basis of scholarly promise and potential to add to the diversity of the UMBC community. Applicants must have completed their doctoral degree when the term of appointment commences and must be no more than three years beyond receiving the Ph.D. Individuals currently holding a postdoctoral or faculty position at UMBC are not eligible.
Applications for study in any discipline represented on the campus are welcome. Please specify your discipline of interest.
$40,000 a year.
Applicants who will have completed the doctoral degree no later than July 1, 2013 and no earlier than July 1, 2010 are eligible to apply. Preference will be given to U.S. citizens and permanent residents.
Cover letter addressed to Ms. Autumn Reed, Program Coordinator for Faculty Diversity Initiatives
Names and contact information for three references
A statement of research agenda (2-3 pages)
A personal statement that includes why you should be selected for this program and which department/programs should review your application (1–3 pages)
A list of UMBC department(s)/program(s) of interest
Full consideration will be given to those applicants that submit all materials to Ms. Autumn Reed (email@example.com) by November 16, 2012. A complete submission will consist of a cover letter, curriculum vitae, writing samples, names of three references, a statement of research plans, and a personal statement. Incomplete submissions will not be accepted.
Review and Selection
Applications will be reviewed by the appropriate department(s)/program(s), Dean(s) and the Provost’s Selection Committee. Semi-finalists will be announced in mid-January and finalists will be invited to campus for interviews in mid-February. Awardees will be notified by the first week of March.
Questions regarding the program may be addressed to:
Ms. Autumn Reed, Program Coordinator for Faculty Diversity
Office of the Provost
University of Maryland Baltimore County
Baltimore, MD 21250
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The latest issue of the Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies focuses on issues and dynamics of racial/ethnic diversity and multiculturalism in East Asian countries. As I’m sure you know, countries such as Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan tend to be rather racially/ethnically/culturally homogeneous. At the same, as a reflection of the ongoing evolution of globalization around the world, these societies have also become more multicultural in recent decades. In recognition of this, these articles looks at the political, economic, and cultural consequences of such societal changes.
Salazar Parreñas, Rhacel and Joon K. Kim. 2011. “Multicultural East Asia: An Introduction.” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 37:10:1555-1561.
Abstract: This introduction to the special issue of JEMS on multicultural East Asia underscores the nexus between national identity and multiculturalism in Korea, Japan and Taiwan. Demographic and structural changes are assumed to serve as levers of change toward multiculturalism. However, the articles in this issue demonstrate the cultural and social challenges engendered by multiculturalism, and the salience of race, gender, ethnicity and class in the structuring of immigration policies and the social integration of international migrants.
Kim, Hyuk-Rae and Ingyu Oh. 2011. “Migration and Multicultural Contention in East Asia.” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 37:10:1563-1581.
Abstract: Japan, Korea and Taiwan have experienced rapid and dramatic demographic changes during the last three decades. In all three countries, changes of fertility decline, aging and sex imbalances preceded massive increases in international marriages and labor migration. In this article, we analyze how these demographic and social transformations affect policies of migration and integration in this region. Demographics are changing with the integration of foreign brides and professional migrants and with declining fertility rates. Despite this, the magnitude and speed of change within the policy provisions for migration and integration are still very limited and slow—Japan, Korea and Taiwan, for instance, all maintain ‘assimilationist’ or ‘passive multicultural’ migration and integration policies.
Kim, Joon. 2011. “The Politics of Culture in Multicultural Korea.” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 37:10:1583-1604.
Abstract: The South Korean government has demonstrated a strong commitment towards the social integration of international brides and the children of mixed ethnic heritage by establishing 100 ‘multicultural family support centres’ throughout the country. Given its record of opposing the long-term settlement of foreigners in Korea, this recent government announcement signals a very significant change in its policies concerning international migrants. Consequently, the proliferation of migrant support programs bearing the title ‘multiculturalism’ unwittingly suggests that Korean society is receptive toward the internationalization of families.
In this article I show that the establishment of these support centers represents a governmental response to the accumulated societal pressure from below that sought to improve the precarious social conditions of international migrants and to embrace multiculturalism as an inevitable, but positive, social force. Despite their impressive scope and resource allocation, the contents and approaches of the newly emerging multicultural programs reproduce, rather than minimize, the cultural hierarchy between Koreans and non-Koreans. I utilize the concepts of ‘cultural paternalism’ and ‘cultural fetishism’ in order to capture the manner in which the dominant members of Korean society define the terms of and approaches to dealing with cultural diversity, reduce the complex issues of social equality to cultural differences, and treat culture as a fetish by uniformly emphasizing the expressive dimensions of culture.
Ishiwata, Eric. 2011. “‘Probably Impossible': Multiculturalism and Pluralisation in Present-Day Japan.” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 37:10:1605-1626.
Abstract: This article offers a critical engagement with multiculturalism and pluralisation in Japan. While recent efforts to introduce multicultural policies such as ‘domestic internationalisation’ policies and the textbook reform movement are encouraging, I suggest that they are limited as they fail to address notions of exclusivity—those founded on the ideology of nihonjinron—that shape Japanese identity. Moreover, mere recognition of minority populations works to entrench rather than undermine ethno-cultural hierarchies. That is, if official engagements with the ethno-cultural ‘Other’ simply reinscribe notions of exclusivity, exceptionality and even superiority, the hierarchalised distinctions drawn between inside/outside and ‘Japanese’/foreigner will continue to persist and minority populations will be relegated permanently to a second-class citizenry.
Therefore, this contribution turns to the recently opened Kyushu National Museum as a means of addressing multiculturalism and pluralisation in Japan. Themed ‘Ocean Ways, Asian Paths’, the Kyushu National Museum is actually a transnational museum as it focuses not on artefacts specific to Japanese identity, but instead on the variegated ways in which Japan is inextricably connected with and indebted to its Asian neighbours. Thus, by exhibiting the miscegenated character of Japan’s national origins, the Kyushu National Museum stands as a concrete example whereby notions of exclusivity are refashioned into a more accommodating, and perhaps ethical, engagement with alterity.
Cheng, Sealing. 2011. “Sexual Protection, Citizenship and Nationhood: Prostituted Women and Migrant Wives in South Korea.” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 37:10:1627-1648.
Abstract: This article examines the making of two distinct groups of women—‘prostituted women’ and migrant wives—into citizen-subjects in South Korea at the turn of the twenty-first century. Though the lives of these women barely intersect, they become visible in the public sphere as victims of sexual violence and therefore in urgent need of state protection. Defined as such, prostitutes and migrant wives come under the gaze of the state and civil society through anti-prostitution policy and multiculturalism policy respectively.
I suggest that, through the language of protection, the South Korean state and civil society seek to redefine moral order and national borders through the regulation of a woman’s body and sexuality. For prostituted women, leaving prostitution restores them to the embrace of the nation as good Korean daughters. For immigrant wives, reproduction is their gendered path to citizenship as good Korean mothers. Through an analysis of the gender ideals reproduced in these policies, and their repercussions on the lives of women, I tease out the gendering of citizenship and nationhood and its tensions with the universalist ideals of gender equality and human rights in the modernising project in South Korea.
Kim, Denis. 2011. “Catalysers in the Promotion of Migrants’ Rights: Church-Based NGOs in South Korea.” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 37:10:1649-1667.
Abstract: The scholarship on Korean migration indicates that pro-immigrant NGOs are significant social actors who have influenced the formation and transformation of Korean immigration policy. Nevertheless, it has neglected the conspicuous impact of both church-based NGOs and the leadership of activist-clergy upon the promotion of immigrant rights and status. This article explores the origins of advocacy, its contribution and the unintended consequences. It argues that both the transnational characteristics of the church and the historical experience of church-based activism for democratisation have stimulated activist-clergy into spearheading the immigrant advocacy effort. Korea offers an exemplary case in which transnational religion has played a profound role in enhancing the social and political inclusion of immigrants.
Lan, Pei-Chia. 2011. “White Privilege, Language Capital and Cultural Ghettoisation: Western High-Skilled Migrants in Taiwan.” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 37:10:1669-1693.
Abstract: Drawing on the case of Taiwan, this article looks at high-skilled migration from the West to Asia. I explore how Western high-skilled migrants exert agency to negotiate their positions as non-citizens, privileged others and professional workers. I have coined the term ‘flexible cultural capital conversion’ to describe how English-speaking Westerners convert their native-language skills, as a form of global linguistic capital, into economic, social and symbolic capitals.
Their privileged positions are nevertheless mediated and constrained by their class, nationality, race/ethnicity and gender. In the global context, whiteness is marked as a visible identity and the ‘superior other’. Such cultural essentialism functions as a double-edged sword that places white foreigners in privileged yet segregated job niches. Their flexibility in capital conversion and transnational mobility is territory-bound. Many experience the predicament of ‘cultural ghettoisation’ in the global South, and they often face grim job prospects on returning home to the North.
The following are announcements about jobs for those interested in racial/ethnic/diversity issues. As always, the announcements and links are provided for informational purposes only and do not necessarily imply an endorsement of the organization or college involved.
The Intercollegiate Department of Asian American Studies at the Claremont Colleges and the Asian American Studies field group at Pitzer College invite applications for a tenure-track Assistant Professor position in Asian American Studies, to begin 1 July 2011.
The successful candidate should, by the beginning of the Fall 2011 semester, have a Ph.D. in ethnic studies, American Studies, or other disciplines or interdisciplinary studies appropriate to this subject. Candidates should have the ability to teach a community-based learning course and Asian American History. The department has identified a need for research and teaching expertise in Filipino, Muslim, Pacific Islander, South Asian, or Southeast Asian communities. We especially encourage candidates whose work takes place within frameworks of transnationalism and globalization.
Pitzer College, a member of the Claremont Colleges, has a strong institutional commitment to the principles of diversity in all areas and strongly encourages candidates from underrepresented social groups. We favor candidates who can contribute to the College’s distinctive educational objectives, which promote interdisciplinary perspectives, intercultural understanding, and concern with social responsibility and the ethical implications of knowledge and action. Pitzer College is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer. For the successful applicant with the relevant interests, affiliations are possible with the intercollegiate departments of Africana Studies, Chicano/Latino Studies, and/or Women’s Studies.
To apply, send letter of application, curriculum vitae, selected evidence of excellence in teaching and research, statement of teaching philosophy, statement on social responsibility, a statement of research, and three letters of recommendation (at least one (1) of which addresses your teaching effectiveness) via email to “firstname.lastname@example.org.” Electronic documents should be sent in PDF format. Applications will be considered beginning September 17, 2010, until the position is filled.
This position is responsible for teaching sociology courses in the Bachelor of Arts in Social Sciences program. The teaching assignment is three courses per semester, including day, evening, and distance education courses. Responsibilities include, but are not limited to teaching a variety of sociology courses in areas consistent with personal interests and program needs. The successful candidate is also expected to engage in scholarly research and publication, committee service, student academic advising, and to participate in faculty governance.
Minimum qualifications: PhD from an accredited college or university in Sociology. (ABD candidates are eligible to apply, but must complete all degree requirements prior to the appointment.) Candidates must have a broad knowledge of sociology and a commitment to teaching excellence.
Desirable qualifications: Areas of specialization are open, but preference will be given to applicants prepared to teach at least two of the following: introductory sociology, social stratification, sociology of aging, medical sociology, sociological theory, writing-intensive courses, and demonstrated ability to teach using distance education technology.
To apply: Send a letter of application, curriculum vita, copies of transcripts (originals required at time of hire) and the names, addresses, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses of at least three professional references. All items become the property of the University of Hawai’i – West O’ahu. Application materials may also be e-mailed as an MS Word file attachment to email@example.com. Closing date: Continuous – application review begins October 15, 2010.
University of Hawaii – West Oahu
Sociology Search Committee
96-129 Ala Ike
Pearl City, HI 96782
Inquiries: Dr. Michael Delucchi (phone: 808-454-4718, email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
The Department of Asian American Studies at the University of California Irvine invites applications for a part-time Non Senate Faculty position with primary responsibility in teaching an upper division interdisciplinary course in Asian American Studies for 2010-11. Minimum base salary per course is $5579. The appointment dates would be as follows: Winter Quarter 2011 1/01/11-03/31/11 or Spring Quarter 2011 4/1/11 to 6/30/11.
We are looking for applicants who can teach the “Vietnamese American Experience” course.
Applicants with a Ph.D. preferred. Applicants who are ABD or have a M.A.; M.F.A. or equivalent will be considered. UC graduate students must have filed their dissertation or have a degree in hand by mid- December 2011 to be eligible to teach in Winter Quarter 2011 and by mid-March 2011 to be eligible to teach in Spring Quarter 2011.
Send materials via e-mail attachment to Jim Lee at email@example.com, followed by a hard copy of your application materials:
Teaching evaluation summaries (no raw data needed)
Two letters of recommendations sent directly from the recommender
Complete sample syllabus of the course you are proposing
Indicate quarters available (Winter/Spring)
Applications will be accepted until positions are filled. However, to ensure fullest consideration, all applications materials should be submitted by August 31, 2010 to:
Jim Lee, Chair
Department of Asian American Studies
3000 Humanities Gateway
University of California Irvine
Irvine, CA 92697-6900
The Duke Center for Multicultural Affairs has launched a search for two Program Coordinator positions for our office. Each Program Coordinator will be expected to be knowledgeable of the histories, cultural and developmental issues of Native American, African American, Latino-American, South Asian American, East Asian American and South East Asian American ethnic communities.
In addition the Program Coordinator will be expected to provide a comprehensive program of services in the areas of community engagement, multicultural education and leadership development to empower students and their organizations to create an inclusive multicultural student community. This individual will also offer student club/organization advising, design experiential training in diversity education and multicultural competency to prepare students to participate in a complex global community.
Interested applicants should apply online through the Duke Human Resources website and find job requisition # 400413331. Please also find the position description below.
Specific Duties: Program Development
Develop and implement programs that support academic persistence
Create and implement programs that promote skill development in diversity education and multicultural competency
Design programs that enhance knowledge and understanding of principles of social justice, activism and advocacy
Deliver educational presentations and other co-curricular programming such as informal and formal discussions in and outside of the classroom, house courses, film series, etc. on the issues pertaining to multicultural competency and social justice education
Evaluate and assess programmatic effectiveness through regular qualitative and quantitative data collection and analysis such as focus groups, pre- and post-surveys, benchmark tracking, or other performance or outcome data
Student and Student Organization Advising
Hire, train and supervise undergraduate, graduate and professional student staff, interns and volunteers who work in the CMA
Advise multicultural student clubs and organizations
Develop a leadership curriculum that prepares students to lead their multicultural student organizations
Promote student group cross-cultural communication, inter/intra-group interaction and program collaboration
Complete all administrative duties including but not limited to financial paperwork in accordance with University policy and reports as assigned by the Assistant Director
Participate on the Campus Life Program Coordinator Group
Develop and maintain relationships with campus, community and alumni organizations that support the mission of the Center for Multicultural Affairs
Attend appropriate department, Division, and University meetings that support the goals of the Center for Multicultural Affairs
Participate in the design and implementation of short and long-term strategic planning and annual budgeting for the Center for Multicultural Affairs
Minimum educational requirement: Master’s Degree in relevant field. Strongly prefer 2-3 years experience as multicultural educator in a higher education setting.
Specific Skills and Competencies:
Position requires knowledge and understanding of American ethnic student communities in higher educational settings and ability to work with a diverse group of faculty, staff, students, alumni, and community members. Candidate must have excellent written, verbal and interpersonal skills, with a proven ability to work in a team environment. Outstanding organizational skills with ability to handle multiple projects/priorities and meet deadlines are required.
Position: Policy Analyst (Research & Evaluation Division)
Department: Department Of Homeland Security
Agency: Citizenship and Immigration Services
Job Announcement Number: CIS-PJN-359063-OPP
Salary Range: $89,033.00 – $136,771.00 /year
Open Period: Wednesday, July 07, 2010 to Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Series & Grade: GS-0301-13/14
Position Information: Full Time Career/Career Conditional
Promotion Potential: 14
Duty Location: Washington DC
Who May Be Considered: United States Citizens
Job Summary: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services secures America’s promise as a nation of immigrants by providing accurate and useful information to our customers, granting immigration and citizenship benefits, promoting an awareness and understanding of citizenship, and ensuring the integrity of our immigration.
General Responsibilities of Policy Analysts:
Analyze, develop and review a variety of technical reports
Draft and review proposed legislation
Ensure effective coordination and integration of recommended policy
You will provide expert advice, analysis, and services on complex and sensitive issues related to the agency’s immigration policies and programs. Your duties will include the following:
Developing and managing quantitative and qualitative studies related to various immigration programs, policies, and petition types.
Analyzing, developing and reviewing a variety of technical reports and assessment instruments for use within the Agency.
Conducting and leading comprehensive studies on new and proposed policy initiatives, providing balanced information and analyses of the issues.
Preparing written analyses based on quantitative or qualitative findings of immigration program/policy studies.
Isolating and defining Agency conditions; developing study approaches, methods, techniques and hypotheses. Conducting and managing projects that may impact existing Agency processes, practices, or policy.
Identifying and evaluating the advantages and disadvantages, risks and benefits, or strengths and weaknesses of particular policy proposals.
Assessing the political and institutional environment in which decisions are made and implemented.
Ensuring effective coordination and integration of study findings in support of recommended policy changes or agency strategic plans.
Reviewing proposed legislation and drafting research reports and policy papers on research needs and study findings.
Representing the agency in dealings with interested groups and organizations regarding sponsored research and evaluations.
Participating with top agency officials and stakeholders in meetings, conferences, and symposia.
The College of William & Mary invites applicants for a tenure-eligible position to begin August 2011. Ph.D. in sociology or related field required. We seek a candidate with research and teaching expertise in the fields of race, ethnicity, or immigration studies. The successful candidate will assist in strengthening the department’s links with other programs in the College such as Africana Studies (including Black Studies) or Latin American/Latino Studies. Candidates with a comparative or international focus are encouraged to apply.
Application materials must be submitted electronically at the College’s online site at https://jobs.wm.edu. The following items are required, preferably in a PDF format: a curriculum vitae, a cover letter describing the candidate’s scholarship, teaching, and how these would enhance campus diversity, and three letters of reference (Applicants should submit the email addresses of recommenders via the online system). Review will begin October 1, 2010 and will continue until the position is filled.
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. A book’s inclusion is for informational purposes only and does not necessarily mean a full endorsement of its complete contents.
This is the first week of classes for many colleges and universities around the country, including here at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. This semester I am teaching a new course: “The Sociology of Immigration” (in case you’re curious, you can download a PDF of the syllabus). It’s a topic that is central and directly relevant to many issues that I cover in this blog, and a course that I have always wanted to teach but haven’t had the opportunity to do so until now.
President Obama has also recently suggested that immigration reform is one of the next major policy issues that he and his administration want to address next (although he said this before the upset victory of Republican Scott Brown in MA). Presuming that he follows through on this promise, immigration is set to again move to the front burner of American discussion and controversy.
With these things in mind, I plan on writing a more detailed post about immigration reform soon but in the meantime, I would like to highlight some new books on different aspects of the immigration issue that I will be using as source material for my “Sociology of Immigration” course and that will hopefully provide some sociological data and analysis to help us tackle the question of immigration reform.
The first book, Reinventing the Melting Pot, is the textbook that I have assigned to my students in my “Sociology of Immigration” course.
In Reinventing the Melting Pot, twenty-one of the writers who have thought longest and hardest about immigration come together around a surprising consensus: yes, immigrant absorption still works-and given the number of newcomers arriving today, the nation’s future depends on it. But it need not be incompatible with ethnic identity-and we as a nation need to find new ways to talk about and encourage becoming American.
In the wake of 9/11 it couldn’t be more important to help these newcomers find a way to fit in. Running through these essays is a single common theme: Although ethnicity plays a more important role now than ever before, today’s newcomers can and will become Americans and enrich our national life-reinventing the melting pot and reminding us all what we have in common.
African Americans grappled with Jim Crow segregation until it was legally overturned in the 1960s. In subsequent decades, the country witnessed a new wave of immigration from Asia and Latin America—forever changing the face of American society. In The Diversity Paradox, Jennifer Lee and Frank Bean take these two poles of American collective identity—the legacy of slavery and immigration—and ask if today’s immigrants are destined to become racialized minorities akin to African Americans or if their incorporation into U.S. society will more closely resemble that of their European predecessors.
The Diversity Paradox uses population-based analyses and in-depth interviews to examine patterns of intermarriage and multiracial identification among Asians, Latinos, and African Americans. Lee and Bean . . . show that Asians and Latinos with mixed ancestry are not constrained by strict racial categories. Racial status often shifts according to situation. Individuals can choose to identify along ethnic lines or as white, and their decisions are rarely questioned by outsiders or institutions. These groups also intermarry at higher rates, which is viewed as part of the process of becoming “American” and a form of upward social mobility.
African Americans, in contrast, intermarry at significantly lower rates than Asians and Latinos. Further, multiracial blacks often choose not to identify as such and are typically perceived as being black only—underscoring the stigma attached to being African American and the entrenchment of the “one-drop” rule. Asians and Latinos are successfully disengaging their national origins from the concept of race—like European immigrants before them.
The Diversity Paradox is an extensive and eloquent examination of how contemporary immigration and the country’s new diversity are redefining the boundaries of race. The book also lays bare the powerful reality that as the old black/white color line fades a new one may well be emerging—with many African Americans still on the other side.
As the authors state in Chapter 1, “[T]he movement of people across national borders represents one of the most vivid dramas of social reality in the contemporary world.” This comparative text examines contemporary immigration across the globe, focusing on 20 major nations.
Noted scholars Peter Kivisto and Thomas Faist introduce students to important topics of inquiry at the heart of the field, including: (a) Movement: explores the theories of migration using a historical perspective of the modern world; (b) Settlement: provides clarity concerning the controversial matter of immigrant incorporation and refers to the varied ways immigrants come to be a part of a new society; and (c) Control: focuses on the politics of immigration and examines the role of states in shaping how people choose to migrate.
Immigrants and their children comprise nearly three-fifths of New York City’s population and even more of Miami and Los Angeles. But the United States is also a nation with entrenched racial divisions that are being complicated by the arrival of newcomers. While immigrant parents may often fear that their children will “disappear” into American mainstream society, leaving behind their ethnic ties, many experts fear that they won’t—evolving instead into a permanent unassimilated and underemployed underclass.
Inheriting the City confronts these fears with evidence, reporting the results of a major study examining the social, cultural, political, and economic lives of today’s second generation in metropolitan New York, and showing how they fare relative to their first-generation parents and native-stock counterparts. The authors studied the young adult offspring of West Indian, Chinese, Dominican, South American, and Russian Jewish immigrants and compared them to blacks, whites, and Puerto Ricans with native-born parents.
They find that today’s second generation is generally faring better than their parents, with Chinese and Russian Jewish young adults achieving the greatest education and economic advancement, beyond their first-generation parents and even beyond their native-white peers. Every second-generation group is doing at least marginally—and, in many cases, significantly—better than natives of the same racial group across several domains of life. Economically, each second-generation group earns as much or more than its native-born comparison group, especially African Americans and Puerto Ricans, who experience the most persistent disadvantage.
Inheriting the City shows the children of immigrants can often take advantage of policies and programs that were designed for native-born minorities in the wake of the civil rights era. Indeed, the ability to choose elements from both immigrant and native-born cultures has produced, the authors argue, a second-generation advantage that catalyzes both upward mobility and an evolution of mainstream American culture. . . . Adapting elements from their parents’ cultures as well as from their native-born peers, the children of immigrants are not only transforming the American city but also what it means to be American.
2007: The Downside of Diversity A new study questions whether racial/ethnic and cultural diversity actually produces a net benefit for American society.
2006: Latest ACT Scores by Racial Group The latest statistical breakdown of ACT scores across different racial/ethnic groups sheds some light on one aspect of the model minority image for Asian Americans.
2005: Asian Names: Americanize or Not? Examining a common dilemma among Asian Americans: whether to keep using their given Asian name, or switch to an “easier-to-pronounce” Americanized name.
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. As always, please remember that I highlight them for informational purposes only and do not necessarily endorse their entire content or arguments.
The result of work initiated by the Harvard Civil Rights Project, this collection provides an excellent overview of the contemporary racial and ethnic terrain in the United States. The well-respected contributors to “Twenty-First Century Color Lines” combine theoretical and empirical perspectives, answering fundamental questions about the present and future of multiracialism in the United States:
How are racial and ethnic identities promoted and defended across a spectrum of social, geopolitical and cultural contexts?
What do two generations of demographic and social shifts around issues of race look like ‘on the ground?’
What are the socio-cultural implications of changing demographics in the U.S.?
And what do the answers to these questions portend for our multiracial future?
This illuminating book addresses issues of work, education, family life and nationality for different ethnic groups, including Asians and Latinos as well as African Americans and Whites. Such diversity, gathered here in one volume, provides new perspectives on ethnicity in a society marked by profound racial transformations.
The contributors include: Luis A. Aviles, Juan Carlos Martinez-Cruzado, Nilanjana Dasgupta, Christina Gomez, Gerald Gurin, Patricia Gurin, Anthony Kwame Harrison, Maria-Rosario Jackson, John Matlock, Nancy McArdle, John Mollenkopf, John A. Powell, Doris Ramirez, David Roediger, Anayra Santory-Jorge, Jiannbin Lee Shiao, Mia H. Tuan, Katrina Wade-Golden and the editors.
If you’re keeping track, Sec. Locke is the third Asian American in President Obama’s cabinet, following Secretary of Veteran Affairs Eric Shinseki and Secretary of Energy Steven Chu. Three Asian American cabinet secretaries is unprecedented in American history and needless to say, I join many others in expressing my elation and gratitude at President Obama’s picks for his cabinet.
For those who haven’t heard of Sec. Locke before, as Governor of Washington between 1997-2005, he was the first Chinese American governor in American history and the first Asian American governor of a mainland state. He was seen as a rising star in the Democratic Party and a possible Vice Presidential candidate. However, he declined to run for Governor after his second term and returned to private life thereafter.
As illustrated in PBS’s excellent 2005 documentary Searching for Asian America, Sec. Locke is known for being very intelligent and detail-oriented and as such, in many ways personifies some common cultural assumptions about Asian Americans. That’s not to say it’s good or bad, just to say that he represents a “safe choice” for President Obama in that way and was an attractive option since Obama’s first two nominees for the position both dropped out.
But I think another reason that President Obama chose Gary Locke is because, as also pointed out in the PBS documentary, Sec. Locke has many ties to the land of his ancestors, China. Therefore, it’s probably safe to assume that President Obama felt those personal and professional ties to China would come in handy as our nation and its economy tries to navigate through this recession and the 21st century global economy in general, one in which China will play a major role.
As such, Sec. Locke is the latest example of a theme that I’ve been writing about for some time — how Asian Americans are forging a new identity for themselves, one in which our “foreignness” or more specifically our transnational cultural ties and networks back to Asia, are seen as assets, rather than liabilities as we assert our identities as legitimate Americans in the 21st century.
In other words, in this era where American society is inevitably becoming more racially, ethnically, and culturally diverse and where economic issues are likely to be a paramount concern for Americans individually and American society institutionally, we as Asian Americans now have the opportunity to make a significant contribution to American society. In the process of doing so, we can also help to reshape the image and definition of what it means to be an “American.”
This expanded definition of being an American includes not just emotional attachment and patriotic loyalty to an American identity, but also involves helping to achieve greater economic prosperity for American society. As we’re seeing right now, economic issues have emerged as significant factors and challenges to American society and its overall sense of national identity.
Within this contexts, Asian American are poised to make significant contributions to rebuilding the American economy and helping it become more competitive in the 21st century. These opportunities can involve many different examples. First, we know that at the aggregate level, Asian American households have the highest median income of all the major racial/ethnic groups.
Even when it comes to personal/per capita level, as data is beginning to show, US-born Asian American have matched or even exceeded the income level of Whites. Of course, we have to be careful and recognize that not all Asian Americans are economically successful, but overall, I think our community is doing well.
There was also the recent commentary in the NY Times which suggested, slightly tongue-in-cheek, that one way to stimulate the economy is to let in more Asian immigrants, who would buy up all he sub-prime homes, work 14 hour days to do it, improve the national savings rate, and start up businesses that will employ American workers.
More realistically, we’ve already seen examples of Asian enclaves proliferating around the country — in both urban and increasingly suburban areas — that have resulted in these areas becoming revitalized, with new businesses, jobs, homes, and other amenities being created.
The point is, the economic contributions of Asian Americans to the American economy is undeniable.
The second way that Asian American can contribute to a new and stronger American society relates more to the cultural level. As I mentioned earlier, it is clear that the world in general and American society in particular is becoming more diverse, globalized, and transnational. With that in mind, Asian Americans occupy a very central role in this evolving process.
As the U.S. seeks to maintain its influence around the world, it has no other choice but to embrace these global trends and to build more mutually-respectful connections with countries around the world, particular in Asia. In fact, Hillary Clinton has been doing just that as Secretary of State — in February she made high-profile visits to Japan, South Korea, China, and Indonesia.
So with this mind, Asian Americans can serve as a valuable facilitators in these connections because on the individual, community, and institutional levels, we still have strong ties and networks to Asian countries. This can take many different forms — maintaining relationships with friends and family and sending remittances back there, or using our bicultural skills and resources to do business back in Asia, or bringing our educational expertise to work on issues and projects focused on environmental sustainability, social equality, or human rights.
In the case of Secretary Locke, I think he represents this new form of Asian American identity — a “real” American of Asian ancestry but whose Asian ancestry can be a significant asset and advantage in terms of making significant contributions to strengthening our country, our economy, and our society.
Many Asian Americans (and for that matter, Americans from all kinds of backgrounds) are in a similar situation and as such, also have the same opportunity to become leaders in their community and in our society in the 21st century.
It doesn’t take a Ph.D. to recognize that Barack Obama is not like most of his predecessors. This can be applied not just to the obvious fact that he’s our nation’s first African American President, but also in regard to his “style” or more specifically, the way he expresses himself, verbally and non-verbally.
On his pre-inaugural visit to Ben’s Chili Bowl, a landmark for Washington’s African-American community, President Barack Obama was asked by a cashier if he wanted his change back. “Nah, we straight,” Obama replied. The phrase was so subtle some listeners missed it. The reporter on pool duty quoted Obama as saying, “No, we’re straight.”
But many other listeners did not miss it. A video of the exchange became an Internet hit, and there was a clear moment of recognition among many blacks, who got a kick out of their Harvard-educated president sounding, as one commenter wrote on a hip-hop site, “mad cool.”
On matters of racial identity, many observers in the African-American community say he benefits from what’s known as “dog-whistle politics.” His language, mannerisms and symbols resonate deeply with his black supporters, even as the references largely sail over the heads of white audiences. . . .
“The code words matter, how you dress matters, how you speak matters; it’s all subliminal messaging, and all politicians use it,” said Michael Fauntroy, professor at George Mason University. “Ronald Reagan used to talk about making America the shining city on a hill, which is about America as divinely inspired, and it has a deep vein in the evangelical conservative movement.” . . .
[George W.] Bush used phrases lifted from church hymns and the Bible to signal an affinity for like-minded Christians. The phrase “culture of life,” became part of the political lexicon when Bush used it weeks before the 2000 election — it was a less political, more evangelical version of “pro-life.” . . .
Beyond speech, blacks have picked up certain of Obama’s mannerisms, particularly his walk, that signal authenticity. Bush had his cowboy strut, and Obama has a swagger — a rhythmic lope that says cool and confident and undeniably black.
The article basically notes that virtually all Presidents have their own unique “style” of verbal and non-verbal expression and they use subtle words, phrases, or mannerisms that reflect and appeal to a particular group of constituents to let them know that he’s “one of them,” but without making it so obvious that it turns off more mainstream Americans.
What makes Barack Obama’s style different of course, is that it’s a “Black” style, something Americans have never seen before from our President (Bill Clinton came as close as any previous President could, but obviously he had his limitations).
So what should we make of Obama’s unique style, or should it even matter? As a fervent fan and supporter, I personally love his style and find it to be a welcome change and a breath of fresh air for Washington DC and our country as a whole. But does it risk alienating White Americans who aren’t used to it?
That’s a hard question to answer. On the one hand, we’ve already seen and I’ve written before about the ways in which some Whites are reacting negatively to his victory and the growing racial, ethnic, and cultural diversification of American society in general. So it’s possible that these particular White Americans will use such examples of Obama’s “blackness” to reinforce their extremist and racist views of him and non-Whites like him.
But on the other hand, I’m confident that most others will recognize that different doesn’t have to mean bad or inferior. That is, I hope that the vast majority of Whites in this country will understand that America is inevitably changing — politically, economically, and culturally. With that in mind, there is now more room for different forms of an American identity to emerge, one that expands on the “traditional” image of American as being White, middle class, and Protestant.
Rather than denying or resisting such an evolution of American society and our national identity, my hope is that we can embrace them and use them as a source of strength and unity to create an inclusive collective identity as Americans in the 21st century. Sure, we’ll still have our differences, but my point is that such differences are good for America and will make our society stronger, not weaker.
As I’ve discussed numerous times on this site and blog, there is no denying that American society is becoming increasingly racially, ethnically, and culturally diverse, despite the apprehension that some Americans have toward these demographic trends. With that in mind, it is also inevitable that the number of multiracial Americans is also increasing, with our own President Barack Obama being the most prominent example.
With that in mind, the question for many sociologists is, where will this burgeoning population of multiracial Americans fit into the American racial landscape? Many sociologists have documented — and others can surely attest — that American society tends to be structured around monoracial identities. That is, on the institutional and individual levels, our culture and our thinking has historically revolved around using distinct, “clear cut” racial categories (although of course, these categories exists only culturally, not biologically).
In the early years, research on these kids highlighted their difficulties: the disapproval they faced from neighbors and members of their extended families; the sense that they weren’t “full” members in any racial community; the insecurity and self-loathing that often resulted from feeling marginalized on all sides.
That simple but harsh playground question — “What are you?” — torments many multiracial kids. Psychologists call this a “forced-choice dilemma” that compels children to claim some kind of identity — even if only a half-identity — in return for social acceptance.
But the new Journal of Social Issues paper suggests this dilemma has become less burdensome in the age of Tiger Woods and Barack Obama. The paper’s authors . . . write that those kids who identified with multiple racial groups reported significantly less psychological stress than those who identified with a single group, whether a “low-status” group like African-Americans or a “high-status” group like whites. . . .
The writers theorize that multiracial kids who choose to associate with a single race are troubled by their attempts to “pass,” whereas those who choose to give voice to their own uniqueness find pride in that act. “Rather than being ‘caught’ between two worlds,” the authors write, “it might be that individuals who identify with multiple groups are better able to navigate both racially homogeneous and heterogeneous environments than individuals who primarily identify with one racial group.” . . .
In short, multiracial kids seem to create their own definitions for fitting in, and they show more psychological flexibility than those mixed-race kids who feel bound to one choice or another.
For me, the most important part of this study is the finding that multiracial Americans are able to “create their own definitions for fitting in.” In other words, they are actively shaping their own identity, rather than waiting around and letting others dictate to them what their identity should be.
For many of us, this idea may not sound new or significant. That is, isn’t it a given that we shape our own identity? Well, yes and no. Ultimately, we are responsible for choosing how we identify ourselves (“Am I Asian, Asian American, Vietnamese American, or just plain American?”). But, others around us and our society and culture in general exert a very strong influence on our choice, more than most of us realize.
So in that sense, it is somewhat innovative and significant when someone steps out of these conventional identity boundaries and instead, creates their own identity that actively includes elements of both or many cultures.
Having said that, I would like to point out that in fact, Asian Americans (and Latino Americans) have been doing something like this for many generations, as we reconcile our identities as both Asian and American. So actually, we might say that multiracial Americans are now doing through the same process that we as Asian American have been going through for years.
I point this out not to diminish or minimize the cultural significance of multiracial Americans or their increasing population size. Rather, it’s just the opposite — I hope that sharing this common process of actively shaping our own identities that combine elements from diverse cultures is a way for our communities to connect with each other.
This is especially important as the racial dynamics in American society continue to evolve and from time to time, lead to confusion and even conflict. In such times of cultural adjustment, it’s always helpful to have similarities that can bridge any such differences.