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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.

June 4, 2014

Written by C.N.

New Books: Asian Americans and Global Communities

Among Asians and Asian Americans, “community” can take many different forms, whether it refers to the historical and contemporary dynamics of enclaves or diasporic and imagined frameworks of identity. As a reflection of this, the following books examine different examples and aspects of this emerging trend.


Making a Global Immigrant Neighborhood: Brooklyn’s Sunset Park
, by Tarry Hum (Temple University Press)

'Making a Global Immigrant Neighborhood' by Tarry Hum

Based on more than a decade of research, Making a Global Immigrant Neighborhood charts the evolution of Sunset Park–with a densely concentrated working-poor and racially diverse immigrant population–from the late 1960s to its current status as one of New York City’s most vibrant neighborhoods.

Tarry Hum shows how processes of globalization, such as shifts in low-wage labor markets and immigration patterns, shaped the neighborhood. She explains why Sunset Park’s future now depends on Asian and Latino immigrant collaborations in advancing common interests in community building, civic engagement, entrepreneurialism, and sustainability planning. She shows, too, how residents’ responses to urban development policies and projects and the capital represented by local institutions and banks foster community activism.

Hum pays close attention to the complex social, political, and spatial dynamics that forge a community and create new models of leadership as well as coalitions. The evolution of Sunset Park so astutely depicted in this book suggests new avenues for studying urban change and community development.

Little Manila Is in the Heart: The Making of the Filipina/o American Community in Stockton, California, by Dawn Bohulano Mabalon (Duke University Press)

'Little Manila is in the Heart' by Dawn Bohulano Mabalon

In the early twentieth century—not long after 1898, when the United States claimed the Philippines as an American colony—Filipinas/os became a vital part of the agricultural economy of California’s fertile San Joaquin Delta. In downtown Stockton, they created Little Manila, a vibrant community of hotels, pool halls, dance halls, restaurants, grocery stores, churches, union halls, and barbershops.

Little Manila was home to the largest community of Filipinas/os outside of the Philippines until the neighborhood was decimated by urban redevelopment in the 1960s. Narrating a history spanning much of the twentieth century, Dawn Bohulano Mabalon traces the growth of Stockton’s Filipina/o American community, the birth and eventual destruction of Little Manila, and recent efforts to remember and preserve it.

Mabalon draws on oral histories, newspapers, photographs, personal archives, and her own family’s history in Stockton. She reveals how Filipina/o immigrants created a community and ethnic culture shaped by their identities as colonial subjects of the United States, their racialization in Stockton as brown people, and their collective experiences in the fields and in the Little Manila neighborhood. In the process, Mabalon places Filipinas/os at the center of the development of California agriculture and the urban West.

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

'Bengali Harlem' by Vivek Bald

In the final years of the nineteenth century, small groups of Muslim peddlers arrived at Ellis Island every summer, bags heavy with embroidered silks from their home villages in Bengal. The American demand for “Oriental goods” took these migrants on a curious path, from New Jersey’s beach boardwalks into the heart of the segregated South. Two decades later, hundreds of Indian Muslim seamen began jumping ship in New York and Baltimore, escaping the engine rooms of British steamers to find less brutal work onshore.

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

Korean Immigrants in Canada: Perspectives on Migration, Integration, and the Family, edited by Samuel Noh, Ann Kim, and Marianne Noh (University of Toronto Press)

'Korean Immigrants in Canada' edited by Noh, Kim, and Noh

Koreans are one of the fastest-growing visible minority groups in Canada today. However, very few studies of their experiences in Canada or their paths of integration are available to public and academic communities. Korean Immigrants in Canada provides the first scholarly collection of papers on Korean immigrants and their offspring from interdisciplinary, social scientific perspectives.

The contributors explore the historical, psychological, social, and economic dimensions of Korean migration, settlement, and integration across the country. A variety of important topics are covered, including the demographic profile of Korean-Canadians, immigrant entrepreneurship, mental health and stress, elder care, language maintenance, and the experiences of students and the second generation. Readers will find interconnecting themes and synthesized findings throughout the chapters. Most importantly, this collection serves as a platform for future research on Koreans in Canada.

Cultivating Connections: The Making of Chinese Prairie Canada, by Alison R. Marshall (University of British Columbia Press)

'Cultivating Connections' by Alison R. Marshall

In the late 1870s, thousands of Chinese men left coastal British Columbia and the western United States and headed east. For these men, the Prairies were a land of opportunity: there, they could open shops, and potentially earn enough money to marry. The result of almost a decade’s research and more than three hundred interviews, Cultivating Connections tells the stories of some of prairie Canada’s Chinese settlers – across the generations, between the genders, and through cultural difference. These stories reveal the critical importance of networks of belonging within these communities in coping with experiences of racism and establishing a successful life on the Prairies.


March 22, 2012

Written by C.N.

New Books: Asian American Identity, Power, and Community

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

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

'Chinese Chicago' by Huping Ling

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

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

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

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

'Uncle Swami' by Vijay Prashad

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

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

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

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

'Samurai Among Panthers' by Diane C. Fujino

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

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

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

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

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

'Chinese Mexicans' by Julia Maria Schiavone Camacho

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'The House on Lemon Street' Mark Rawitch

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

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

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

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

'Vanishing Filipino Americans' by Peter Jamero

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

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

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

'Asian American Racial Realities' by Bruce Calvin Hoskins

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

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


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.


March 27, 2011

Written by C.N.

Links, Jobs, & Announcements #41

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

Call for Participants: BBC Documentary on Viet Nam War

Dear Sir,

I am a BBC journalist writing from London. I work on a history programme called “Witness”, which focuses on significant events in the recent past. The hundreds of subjects that we have looked at have included the trial of Nelson Mandela, the bombing of Hiroshima and the beginnings of the civil rights movement in America — to name just a few. Our programme is broadcast to a large audience around the world.

And in the weeks ahead we very much hope to focus on the stories of those who fled Vietnam by boat at the end of the war there in the 1970s. We are simply looking for interviewees who might be willing to tell us — in quite strong English — what they went through. I realise that, for some, remembering such traumatic events this will not be at all easy. But we would like to be able to remind our listeners around the world what the Vietnamese boat people endured. We want to record their story for our archive.

Would you, I wonder, be able to put me in touch figures in the Vietnamese refugee community who might be able to help in our search for interviewees? They can contact me through my email below.

Yours,
Alan Johnston
alan.johnston@bbc.co.uk

JACL Scholarships: Deadlines Approaching

The Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) is kicking off its Scholarship Program for the 2011 academic year. At the national level, JACL offers over 30 awards, with an annual total of over $60,000 in scholarships.

JACL Membership, which is required for applications, is open to anyone of any ethnic group. Membership dues can be paid online or with the application. The 2011 National JACL Scholarship Program informational brochure and applications are posted on the JACL website.

JACL Scholarship applications for Undergraduate, Graduate, Law, Creative & Performing Arts, and Financial Aid. The deadline for these applications is April 1, 2011. These are to be sent directly by the applicants to: National JACL Scholarship Program, c/o Portland JACL, P.O. Box 86310, Portland, OR 97286.

For additional information regarding the JACL National Scholarship Program, please contact Patty Wada at (415) 345-1075 or ncwnp@jacl.org.

Youth Justice Leadership Program

Youth Justice Leadership Institute Seeks Applicants for 2011-2012 Program Year

The National Juvenile Justice Network seeks applicants for the pilot year of its Youth Justice Leadership Institute. The Institute’s mission is to create the foundation for a more effective juvenile justice reform movement by developing a strong base of well prepared and well trained advocates and organizers who reflect the communities most affected by juvenile justice system practices and policies.

The Institute’s inaugural year will focus on cultivating and supporting professionals of color. The Institute is a robust, year long program that includes leadership development, training in juvenile justice system policies and practices, and advocacy skills development. The Institute will bring fellows together twice during the year, attach each fellow to a mentor and envelope fellows within the larger juvenile justice reform community.

If you are a professional of color and are interested in applying for the Institute, please visit our web site to download our application packet or contact the Institute’s Coordinator, Diana Onley-Campbell, at diana@juvjustice.org. Applications are due on April 26, 2011.

Call for Papers: ‘The Chinese Shop’ Conference

The “Chinese shop” in all its manifestations (laundry, bakery, restaurant, general store, etc.) has been integrally connected to Chinese migration and the experience of overseas Chinese. Indeed, the Chinese shop has been both a site of economic and symbolic exchange – a complex locus of power and performative societal tensions and identifications. As such, the consideration of Chinese shop space provides an intriguing staring point from which to investigate many key socio-political issues for Chinese diasporic communities.

Hosted at Ryerson University in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, this conference aims to bring together an interdisciplinary group of scholars to investigate how the space and place of the Chinese shop (broadly defined) has been conceived of and experienced for overseas Chinese. In particular, it seeks to explore the transformative socio-cultural, economic and political processes that create the space and place of the Chinese shop both within Chinese diasporic communities and in terms of encounters between the Chinese and their host societies.

We encourage panels and papers with diverse disciplinary approaches to this theme, including those that consider the Chinese shop within transnational, hemispheric and/or comparative contexts. Topics might include, but are not limited to the following:

  • The representation and imagination of shop space
  • The political contestations and designations of shop space
  • Theoretical deliberations on the spatial dimensions of the Chinese shop
  • The shop as gendered space
  • The shop as racialized space
  • The historical, social and economic implications of the Chinese shop
  • The impact of nationalism, globalization, colonialism, and/or imperialism on Chinese shop space

The deadline for abstracts is Friday, April 29th, 2011. Abstracts and CVs can be submitted online by clicking on the “Submit Abstracts” link in the menu on the right-hand side of the page. Additional questions can be addressed to Dr. Anne-Marie Lee-Loy at: aleeloy@ryerson.ca.

Scholarship, ICPSR Quantitative Methods Summer Program

A scholarship fund has been established in honor of Warren E. Miller for participation in the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) 2011 Summer Program in Quantitative Methods of Social Research. Professor Miller was not only one of the most prominent figures in modern social science research. He was also the founder of both ICPSR and the ICPSR Summer Program.

The Warren E. Miller Scholarship Fund will provide financial support to outstanding pre-tenure scholars (assistant professors and advanced graduate students) in the social and behavioral sciences so they may attend one or both of the four-week sessions in the 2011 ICPSR Summer Program. Recipients of the Miller Scholarship will receive a fee waiver to cover Program enrollment and a stipend to help with expenses while staying in Ann Arbor. Applicants to the Warren E. Miller Scholarship should have professional interests in one or more of the following areas of research (or in related fields):

  • Developing a common approach to understanding electoral behavior within or across nations
  • Understanding the process of democratization in electoral systems
  • Understanding the link between global politics and local electoral behavior
  • Understanding how context influences political behavior
  • Understanding how globalization causes change in political behavior

Application materials for the Miller Scholarship should be submitted electronically, through the ICPSR Summer Program’s online Portal on the Summer Program’s website. Applicants should register for the 2011 Summer Program using the online form and select classes in one or both of the four-week sessions. Note that course selections may be modified and changed later. But, the Miller Scholarship Committee may use an applicant’s preferred courses as a criterion in the selection process for the scholarship. Along with a completed registration, an application must include:

  1. A current vita
  2. A cover letter from the student, explaining how participation in the ICPSR Summer Program will contribute toward completion of the Ph.D.
  3. Two letters of recommendation. For applicants who are faculty members, one of these letters should come from his or her Department Chair. For graduate student applicants, one of the letters should come from his or her faculty advisor or dissertation chairperson. Letters of recommendation should be e-mailed directly to sumprog@icpsr.umich.edu. Letter writers should include “MILLER SCHOLARSHIP RECOMMENDATION” and the applicant’s name in the subject line of the e-mail message.

The application deadline for the Warren E. Miller Scholarship is April 29, 2011. Further information about the ICPSR Summer Program, including course descriptions and the 2011 schedule, is available on the Program website. Also, you should feel free to contact the ICPSR Summer Program by e-mail (sumprog@icpsr.umich.edu) or by telephone (734-763-7400) if you have any questions.

Call for Papers: Critical Refugee Studies

Conference on Critical Refugee Studies
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
November 3-4, 2011

Displacement of populations affects the uprooted as well as communities that receive them. Recognized by international proxy after World War II, the identity category of refugee has a history as long as the incidence of warfare and other crises that result in displacement. This conference uses the 20th century invention of the category of refugee as a means to compare the experiences of displaced persons across time and space.

We invite papers that chronicle and reflect on the experiences and representations of refugee populations. In particular, we are interested in work that expands the idea of the refugee to create comparisons and parallels with the experiences of other groups. Papers that define the term refugee broadly and creatively are most welcome. Among the questions we invite:

  • How do refugee identities compare to those of other migrants?
  • As local and global political contexts change, how do refugees conceptualize notions of citizenship and home?
  • How are refugee identities in dialogue with concepts of place/displacement?
  • What is the role of memory and the creation of refugee texts?
  • How is the refugee experience mediated/mass mediated?

Abstracts by May 15, 2011 to: criticalrefugee-studies@uwm.edu.

Speakers:

  • Michael Rios, Director, Sacramento Diasporas Project, University of California-Davis
  • Romola Sanyal, Lecturer in Global Urbanism, Newcastle University
  • Ghita Schwarz, New York Legal Aid, Author, Displaced Persons
  • Shirley Tang, Asian American/American Studies University of Massachusetts, Boston
  • Dinaw Mengestu, Author, The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears; How to Read the Air (To Be Confirmed)

Call for Papers: Disability in Asian America

Amerasia Journal Special Issue Call for Papers: The State of Illness and Disability in Asian America
Guest Editors: Professor Jennifer Ho (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill) and Professor James Kyung-Jin Lee (University of California, Irvine)

We seek critical essays and articles as well as creative non-fiction and first-person accounts that engage with the intersections of Asian American discourse and illness/disability studies, for a special issue of Amerasia Journal, scheduled for publication in 2012.

Since, as scholar Michael Berube observes, “the definition of disability, like the definition of illness, is inevitably a matter of social debate and social construction,” we are interested in how these social constructions of disability and illness coincide, collide, and converge with those of ethnicity and race, along with other axes of intersectionality such as gender, sexuality, class, region, religion, age, and education.

Critiquing the narrow perspective of the discipline, scholar Chris Bell has noted “the failure of Disability Studies to engage issues of race and ethnicity in a substantive capacity, thereby entrenching whiteness as its constitutive underpinning.” One goal of this special issue is to provide another forum in which to challenge entrenched whiteness within Disability and Illness Studies as well as to bring to the foreground the state of illness and disability within the Asian American community. Contributors to this special issue may consider the following questions:

  • What is the role of illness and disability within Asian American narratives—be they in fiction, non-fiction, or cinematic form—and/or how is the ill or disabled Asian American body represented within these narratives?
  • How are illness and disability regarded within Asian American communities and cultural productions?
  • What are the special needs of Asian Americans who face life threatening and chronic illnesses?
  • What kinds of accommodations do Asian Americans with disabilities find most challenging in light of their ethnic and cultural backgrounds and/or as a result of their racialization as non-white Americans?
  • How might Asian American experiences of disability and/or illness invite a reimagination of what constitutes a “good” life practice or way of living, and what kinds of social transformations would be necessary to make this so?

Submission Guidelines and Deadlines:
Due Date for one-page abstracts: June 15, 2011. Due Date for solicited final papers: January 2012. Publication Date: Fall 2012. The editorial procedure involves a three-step process: The guest editors, in consultation with the Amerasia Journal editors and peer reviewers, make decisions on the final essays:

1. Approval of abstracts
2. Submission of papers solicited from accepted abstracts
3. Revision of accepted peer-reviewed papers and final submission

Please send correspondence regarding the special issue on illness and disabilities studies in Asian American Studies to the following addresses. All correspondence should refer to “Amerasia Journal Disabilities Studies Issue” in the subject line.

Professor Jennifer Ho: jho@email.unc.edu
Professor James Kyung-Jin Lee: jkl@uci.edu
Arnold Pan, Amerasia Journal: arnoldpan@ucla.edu

Call for Papers: Mixed-Status Immigrant Families

“In Between the Shadows of Citizenship: Mixed Status Families”

Guest Editors: Mary Romero, Professor, Arizona State University, Justice and Social Inquiry and Jodie Lawston, Assistant Professor, California State University San Marcos, Women’s Studies

Despite the fact that immigration stories are increasingly featured in U.S. popular media discourse and an immigrant justice movement continues to strengthen, little scholarship has focused on the experiences of immigrants and their families, and especially, families who are mixed status in that they are comprised of both citizens and noncitizens. This edited volume aims to examine the experiences of immigrants and mixed status families in terms of work and education, raids, deportations, and detention, and resistance toward anti-immigrant sentiment. We welcome and encourage work that examines not just the experiences of immigrants in the U.S., but the experiences of immigrants around the globe.

The questions we are interested in exploring include but are not restricted to the following: What forms of work do immigrant women engage in to support their families? What are the struggles of undocumented students? How do raids, deportations, and detention affect families? How do such phenomena affect mixed status families? What are the experiences of immigrants, particularly women and children, in detention? How have changes in laws affected undocumented immigrants and their children? What strategies have justice movements used to protect undocumented men, women, and children? How are countries around the world approaching immigration and undocumented immigration, and how does that compare to U.S. policies? We seek explorations and answers to these questions that engage notions of gender, race and ethnicity, place, and culture as well as documentation and analysis of leadership and activism.

The following topical areas broadly outline the subject matter that we see as most relevant to this volume. These can be used as starting points for papers, but authors are not restricted to them:

  • The effects of detention on immigrant families, particularly in separating those families
  • The impact of family reunification
  • The intersection of work and immigration status
  • The effects of immigration status on students
  • The effects of raids and/or deportations on families
  • Changes in laws and resulting effects on immigrants’ lives
  • Immigrant justice work
  • Comparative studies of issues related to immigration in different parts of the world
  • The intersections of race, class, gender, and with immigration status

We are interested in both academic papers and testimonies from immigrant women on the above topics.

Submission Process: Proposals for academic papers or testimonies, no longer than three pages, should be emailed to Jodie Lawston at jlawston@csusm.edu by Wed. June 15, 2011. Author(s) must include all identifying information on the proposal, including name, title, institutional affiliation, address, phone numbers, and email. After the deadline, we will review proposals and contact authors as to which manuscripts we are interested in reviewing for the book. Proposals must include the subject matter of the paper, methods used for your analysis, and the argument you plan to make based on your data.


March 8, 2011

Written by C.N.

Academic Research: Globalized & Transnational Asian Communities

As part of this blog’s ongoing mission of making academic research and data more easily accessible, understandable, and applicable to a wider audience, and for readers who like to keep on top of the latest sociological research, I highlight new research and studies in academic journals about Asian Americans and other racial/ethnic groups as I hear about them. An article’s inclusion is for informational purposes only and does not necessarily mean a full endorsement of its complete contents.

The widely-respected Amerasia Journal has just released a special issue that focuses on globalized and diasporic Asian communities around the world:

GlobaLinks: Community Institutions & Practices Across Nations

GlobaLinks: Community Institutions & Practices Across Nations

The UCLA Asian American Studies Center Press announces Amerasia Journal’s latest issue: “GlobaLinks: Community Institutions & Practices across Nations.” Guest edited by Michel Laguerre and Joe Chung Fong, both of the Berkeley Center for Globalization and Information Technology, the special issue brings together research on globalized diasporic communities in the U.S. and Asia from scholars based throughout the Pacific Rim. The contributions to “GlobaLinks” provide new insights on Asian American spaces and places from a wide array of intellectual perspectives, including history, cultural anthropology, urban studies, sociology, ethnic studies, and political science.

“GlobaLinks” recognizes that Asian and Pacific American communities are no longer limited by their institutional identities within local boundaries or defined by their political, cultural, or economic activities within national borders alone. Amerasia has worked with our guest editors to put together a selection of studies which examine social phenomena such as the self-political identity of communities, trans-Pacific youth, banking, voting and political campaigns, and community cultural development.

At a conceptual and theoretical level, “GlobaLinks” urges scholars to rethink and reconsider what key terms such as globalization and transnationalism mean in light of rapidly changing Asian and Pacific American communities. In his introductory essay, for instance, Michel Laguerre coins the term “cosmonation” to make the case that the global and the local are mutually implicated in a complex network of relationships that is not “top-down” or hierarchical as a nation-oriented model of homeland and hostland is.

A number of the articles present thorough historical studies and painstaking fieldwork in local communities to explain how they are connected to larger global frameworks. Through a detailed account of the original Little Saigon in Orange County, Christian Collet and Hiroko Furuya examine the lived and imagined spaces of Little Saigons to reveal how these local diasporic sites have transformed conceptions of ethnic identity and nation. Shenglin Elijah Chang and Willow Lung Amam use the neologism “glocal” to address the global experiences and local placemaking that transnational Taiwanese youth participate in on both sides of the Pacific, in Silicon Valley and the high-tech suburb of Hsinchu in Taiwan. Elaborating on the relationship between economic matters of community development and ethnic cultural practices, Eric Estuar Reyes explores the cultural formations and spatial conceptions of Filipino American community in southern California.

Other selections describe how local immigrant communities must negotiate larger social structures, be they economic or local. Banking, for instance, is a particularly fruitful field of investigation for Joe Chung Fong, since it reflects the dynamics of global capital flows as well as the cultural practices of overseas ethnic populations at the local level of the neighborhood. James S. Lai brings politics front-and-center to the global-local concerns of Asian American Studies, focusing on Chinese American political strategies in two suburbs — Cupertino in Silicon Valley and Sugar Land in the Houston area — with populations that are transnational, multiethnic, and multiracial.

In addition, the issue features a tribute by Tritia Toyota to former UCLA Asian American Studies Center Director Lucie Cheng, a pioneering figure in transnational approaches to the field, and a commentary by Vinay Lal on the nuclear age and its global and individual scales. Film and book reviews discuss cultural representations of transnational Asian American experiences, including Lane Ryo Hirabayashi’s review of Shinpei Takeda’s documentary El México Más Cercano a Japon, Jinqi Ling’s review of Karen Tei Yamashita’s award-winning novel I Hotel, and Roshni Rustomji’s review of Saleem Peeradina’s poetry in Slow Dance. Together, the pieces collected in “GlobaLinks” challenge our thinking about the global and local in Asian American Studies.

This issue of Amerasia Journal costs $15.00 plus $5.00 for shipping and handling and 9.25 percent sales tax for California residents ($21.39). Make checks payable to “Regents of U.C.” Visa, MasterCard, and Discover are also accepted; include expiration date and phone number on correspondence. The mailing address is: UCLA Asian American Studies Center Press, 3230 Campbell Hall, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1546.


February 14, 2011

Written by C.N.

Best Immigration Documentaries: Part 3, Assimilation & Integration

This is the third of my three-part list of the best documentaries that focus on immigration and are great choices for showing in high school and college immigration classes. This third and final part will focus specifically on issues related to socioeconomic attainment, mobility, and assimilation — the individual-, community-, and institutional-level processes involved as immigrants (regardless of their legal status) become integrated into the rest of U.S. society.

Part 1 focused on the historical and global context of immigration and Part 2 looked at unauthorized immigration. The following list is organized by topic and corresponds to the chronological order in which I discuss each topic in my “Sociology of Immigration” course. For each topic, I highlight the documentary that I tend to show the most often, followed by other videos that are good choices for that topic as well.

Assimilation © Corbis

Socioeconomic Mobility and Settlement Patterns

What are the historical and contemporary patterns of educational, occupational, and income attainment on the part of immigrants and how do such patterns compare across waves of immigration, nationality/ethnic group, and in relation to U.S.-born racial/ethnic groups? Also, what are some recent developments regarding where immigrants settle, how they create their own communities and enclaves, and role of these ethnic communities in their overall assimilation process?

Assimilation and Ethnic Identity

In this section, I focus on the assimilation and integration process on the individual level. Specifically, I look at the different forms of forms of assimilation that immigrants undergo, the factors that affect their own personal racial/ethnic/cultural identity, and how community- and institutional factors influence whether immigrants experience upward or downward assimilation through time.

Language, Religious, and Political Incorporation

This section explores assimilation and integration specifically related to native language retention vs. English acquisition among immigrants, their religious patterns and the roles that religious organizations play in their lives, and their patterns of participating in the political process at various levels and in particular, the prospects of immigrants leveraging their growing population size into greater political power.

Emerging Issues and a Changing National Identity

In this final section of my “Sociology of Immigration” course, I reflect back on where immigrants to the U.S. have been — politically, economically, and culturally — and just as important, take a look at where immigration and immigration policy are headed as we move forward into the 21st century and in particular, as we become more culturally diverse, globalized, and transnational.


September 2, 2010

Written by C.N.

Posts from Years Past: September

You might be interested to read the following posts from September of years past:


June 14, 2010

Written by C.N.

Looking Backward and Forward: The 35th Anniversary of the End of Viet Nam War

I’ve been a little remiss in mentioning that this year marks the 35th anniversary of the end of the Viet Nam War and the start of the eventual exodus of several million Vietnamese out of Viet Nam since South Viet Nam’s capital of Saigon fell to the communists on April 30, 1975. Around this time 35 years ago, my family and I were temporarily living in Fort Chaffee, Arkansas, one of the four major housing centers set up by the U.S. government to process and eventually resettle the first wave of Vietnamese refugees arriving from Viet Nam.

After living in Ft. Chaffee for a couple of months, we moved to Camp Pendleton, CA to take custody of my cousin who had been separated from her parents in the chaos of trying to leave Viet Nam (her parents never made it out) and she was eventually “adopted” into our family. From there, we were resettled into the Los Angeles area and began our lives as Vietnamese Americans.

For me and many Vietnamese Americans in general, this annual reflection on the end of the Viet Nam War is a bittersweet moment. On the one hand, this occasion is a time of sadness as many of us mourn the devastation of the war, how many of our friends, relatives, and family members suffered and even died as a result, and how we had to make the difficult choice to leave our homeland behind, perhaps forever.

On the other hand, this occasion is also a time of thankfulness as many of us reflect on being able to escape to the U.S. where we had the chance to begin a new, and in many ways a better life for ourselves and our successive generations. We reflect on our gratitude of living in a country where our material lives are undoubtedly better but just as important, where we have individual freedoms that our counterparts back in Viet Nam can only dream of.

As a reflection of the two sides of this anniversary of the fall of Saigon and end of the Viet Nam War, two sets of stories capture both the anguish and the elation of this occasion. The first two links present a visual montage of the chaos, suffering, and sadness of the war’s end (some of the photos are rather graphic and may not be suitable for children). The first photo collection is from the Boston Globe.

Vietnamese woman stares at a mass grave © Associated Press/Horst Faas

The second photo collection comes from the Denver Post.

U.S. Marines taking cover in the entrance of a pagoda in a village near the Ben Hai river © Associated Press/Kim Ki Sam

Reflecting the other side of this occasion, two stories represent how Vietnamese Americans have built their lives in the U.S. in the decades since while at the same time while still keeping in touch with the legacy of the Viet Nam War. The first article is by Andrew Lam and he profiles “Viet Kieu” (overseas Vietnamese) who have returned to the land they left and how they’re helping rebuild the country:

Nguyen Qui Duc, a Vietnamese refugee who became an American radio host and the author of the memoir Where the Ashes Are, has found yet another incarnation in his mid-50s: Bar owner and art curator in Hanoi, Vietnam. Why would he come back to the country from which he once fled? “Home is where there’s a sense of connection, of family, of community,” he said after struggling to find a single answer. “And I found it here.”

Duc is one of nearly 500,000 Viet Kieu — Vietnamese living overseas — who return to Vietnam yearly, many only to visit relatives, but others increasingly to work, invest and retire. The majority of the people who return are from the United States, where the largest Vietnamese population overseas resides. Indeed, 35 years after the Vietnam War ended, the Vietnamese diaspora is now falling slowly, but surely, back into Vietnam’s orbit. . . .

Vietnamese overseas are playing an important role in Vietnam’s economic life. According to Vietnam’s Chamber of Commerce, in 2008, despite the slowdown in the world economy, Vietnam received overseas aid of more than $7.4 billion. The Vietnamese government said that the diaspora is reducing poverty and spurring economic development. Official development assistance pledged to Vietnam in 2008 by international donors was $5 billion; the overseas population contributed $2.4 billion more.

The second article from the Denton Record Chronicle (TX) highlights similar experiences of “coming home” from the perspective of Vietnamese orphans who fled their country decades ago and are now looking to reconnect in a very personal way:

Thirty-five years ago, Ho and Cope left South Vietnam with the entire Cam Ranh City Christian Orphanage, a war-forced evacuation that would bring them all, improbably, to Buckner Children’s Home in Dallas.

Last week, Thomas Ho and Ty Cope each made their first trip back to Vietnam as part of a reunion of the Cam Ranh/Buckner orphans. Now, suddenly, they were in an identity drama, trying to determine whether a Vietnamese man who had been in touch via the Internet really might be Cope’s dad. Ho talked to the man in Vietnamese for a moment, then pulled away to translate. “He said, ‘I’m very happy. My son! My son!’ ” . . .

Life can take momentous turns, and no one knows that better than the Cam Ranh/Buckner orphans, who were together again last week in their homeland. There were 69 originally, and two dozen came to the reunion, nearly all traveling thousands of miles from Dallas or elsewhere in the United States.

They’re middle-aged now, and middle-class. Most have college degrees, and their professions include architect, banker, computer programmer, nurse, teacher and social worker. They represent a spectrum of assimilation. Many of the younger children were adopted out of Buckner and soon lost their language. The older kids would stick it out, attending Skyline High and speaking Vietnamese among themselves. But they all retained – and still do – a deep bond. . . .

They’ve been having reunions every five years in Dallas, but at the last one, they committed to going back to Vietnam. They raised money, created a website, established an archive of photographs from the Cam Ranh and Buckner days, and ordered reunion T-shirts and ball caps with the slogan “Get Love, Share Love.” After all the planning, the reunion got under way Wednesday, with a big contingent boarding a bus in Ho Chi Minh City (still popularly known as Saigon) heading north toward Nha Trang and Cam Ranh.

Thirty-five years ago, they were orphans on the run, headed the other way.

These two sets of stories and image illustrate not just the sadness and joy that many Vietnamese Americans experience as the reflect on their lives both in Viet Nam and the U.S., but they also represent the “duality” and transnational nature of our identities as Vietnamese Americans. That is, it does not have to be a contradiction to assert our identities as both Vietnamese and as American. As particularly exemplified in the two articles about Vietnamese Americans returning to their land of birth, our two sets of experiences actually complement each other.

In other words, Vietnamese Americans have benefited greatly from the generous opportunities available to us here in the U.S. to rebuild our lives and to enjoy freedoms that we otherwise would not have back in Viet Nam. Despite the past and ongoing struggles, our successes as Vietnamese Americans reinforces the best of what the U.S. can be — the “land of opportunity” for millions of people around the world. It is with these experiences as Americans that we can put our knowledge, skills, and resources to good use back in Viet Nam and around the world.

At the same time, our Vietnamese heritage has also enriched American society in many ways — culturally, as we share our food, traditions, and experiences with our neighbors and economically, as our “Little Saigon” and “Versailles” communities have revitalized urban areas to the benefit of residents from all backgrounds.

As Americans from all backgrounds reflect on this 35th anniversary of the end of the Viet Nam War, I think it’s important to acknowledge what has been lost, but also the many things that all of us have gained in the years since as well.


October 26, 2009

Written by C.N.

Struggles and Opportunities for Immigrant Minority Businesses

I previously wrote about data showing that in many ways, racial minorities are hurt more than Whites by the current economic recession, largely because in many occupations and industries, people of color are overrepresented among those who are recently hired, have less overall years of job experience and therefore, are more likely to be laid off.

However, a large part of daily life for many communities of color, particularly immigrants, centers on local small businesses. How are they doing in the recession? As New America Media points out, while they struggle just like almost all area of American society these days, they still remain focal points for cultural and social life within many communities of color. In addition, many entrepreneurs say the recession actually offers some interesting opportunities:

Recession or not, Mexican businesses that serve up traditional foods like conches, paletas, tacos and sopes to locals in San Francisco’s Mission District remain popular social gathering places in the neighborhood. But sales are another story.

“There used to be lines of people out the door. It’s not like it was,” said Estela Valle, 56, describing the drop in customers at her panadería, La Mexicana Bakery . . . Since the economy collapsed, Valle says she has seen a 40 percent drop in business. But the bakery continues to be popular among the usual crowd of housewives and construction workers, says Valle; they are just buying less. . . .

Nail salon owners, many of them Vietnamese immigrant women, say their businesses are slumping along with the economy.
Susan (Xuan) Le, owner of Susan’s Nail and Spa in Oakland, has been a manicurist for 20 years, and she says this is the hardest time. . . .

“People can’t afford it. They can’t afford to pay rent and eat, how can they have money to pay for manicures and pedicures?” she said. “They are coming back, but it’s taking longer than before. If they used to come every two weeks, now they’re coming in once a month. My income is cut in half.” . . .

While [others] cut back, Quyen Ton is venturing out on her own. After 14 years as a manicurist in other peoples’ shops, she decided to start her own business: White Daisy Nail Spa in San Francisco. “I have the skills and am good with customers. I had the ability and confidence to run my own business. I wanted to see if I could make a go of it, and make a better living,” Ton said.

Ton said a bad economy didn’t deter her. Instead it gave her an opportunity. “The good thing is that it’s easy to get a lease, they don’t require a lot, and it’s easier to negotiate a lower rent,” said Ton.

Certainly immigrant minority small businesses and their owners are just like other American businesses and workers — the recession has led to tough times and many businesses struggle to stay afloat. As the article describes, many immigrant minority owners have had to change and adapt to the economic downturn just like anybody else.

Nonetheless, the article illustrates some interesting points about immigrant business owners — even though sales are down, they are still prominent fixtures in their communities as places where people can congregate, socialize, maintain relations with friends and neighbors, and in doing so, perhaps share information about jobs, social services, or other ways to better survive the recession.

In other words, many immigrant minority businesses are more than just a place to buy goods or services — they can also serve as spaces for ethnic groups to maintain ethnic solidarity. This collective process also serves as an informal kind of networking and social support that can have many direct and indirect benefits for community members in times of economic difficulty.

In providing a space and social structure within which members collaboratively provide and access informal resources to/with each other, churches frequently perform similar functions as well. Taken together, such immigrant minority institutions can provide a form of social “safety net” for ethnic groups and may help to lessen some of the more negative consequences of the recession.


October 19, 2009

Written by C.N.

China-India Rivalry Heating Up

About a year and a half ago, I wrote about how China and India were trying to irn out some geographic, political, and economic differences as they both continue their emergence as 21st century superpowers. While relations between the two countries seem to have been stable for a while, as Time magazine reports, it looks like their rivalry is beginning to heat up again:

India and China fought a war in 1962 whose acrimonious legacy lingers even while economic ties flourish (China is now India’s biggest trade partner). Beijing refuses to acknowledge the de facto border — demarcated by the British empire — and claims almost the entirety of the northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh as part of its territory.

Indian strategic analysts believe Beijing’s stance has hardened in recent years, perhaps as a consequence of its increasing economic and military edge over India as well as growing Chinese influence in smaller South Asian countries like Nepal and Bangladesh. . . . “There’s a nervousness among some policymakers that the Chinese see India as weak and vulnerable to coercion,” says Harsh Pant, professor of defense studies at King’s College, London. . . . “Indians feel they can’t manage China’s rise and that they are far, far behind.” . . .

But the real arena for future confrontation, say most Indian strategists, lies not in standoffs on remote, rugged peaks but in the waters all around the Indian subcontinent. . . . Traditionally, India has imagined the ocean as part of its backyard without investing serious resources in its navy — much more goes to an army and air force that are perched by the land boundaries with the old enemy of Pakistan. . . .

To safeguard its vast appetite for oil and other natural resources, particularly those drawn from Africa, China has . . . [built] ports and listening posts around the Indian Ocean rim. . . . China will eventually possess key naval choke points around the subcontinent that could disrupt Indian lines of communication and shipping.

Reports of a tense standoff earlier this year between Indian and Chinese warships on anti-piracy patrol in the Gulf of Aden — though dismissed by both governments — did little to subdue the sense of distrust brewing between policymakers on both sides.

Something tells me that these renewed tensions between China and India are likely to get worse before they get better. If so, this is the last thing the world needs, but something that the U.S. may secretly like to see — two emerging superpowers and challengers to the U.S.’s global superiority sniping at each other and raising tensions in the region.

The other unknown is how will rising tensions between China and India affect relations between the Chinese American and Indian American communities in the U.S. Up to this point, these two Asian American communities seem to have good relations with each other, as they share many characteristics and experiences in common, particularly concerning immigration and entrepreneurship issues.

Nonetheless, with so many Chinese and Indian Americans maintaining connections with their ancestral countries, if tensions rise back there, they may eventually spill over into their lives in the U.S.


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.


July 22, 2009

Written by C.N.

Posts from Years Past: July

You might be interested to read the following posts from July of years past: