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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.

April 24, 2013

Written by C.N.

The Homogenization of Asian ‘Beauty’

Miss Korea 2013 Contestants

I was doing my daily browsing of Reddit, the popular online news, humor, and information aggregation site, and came across this submission that caused me to do a double-take: Korea’s Plastic Surgery Mayhem is Finally Converging on the Same Face: Miss Korea 2013 Contestants. The picture on the right shows the 21 contestants of the Miss Korea 2013 beauty pageant.

Although there are differences in hairstyle and dress, at least when it comes to the contestants’ faces, I have to say that I agree with the page’s consensus that all the women look virtually the same.

Physical Homogeneity and the Yellow Peril

As such, this brings up a few different implications. The first, as mentioned in several of the Reddit comments, is that it seems to reinforce the unfortunate stereotype that all Asians look the same. On the one hand, there tends to be a certain degree of visual conformity and homogeneity in beauty pageants in general, but as many Asian Americans can attest to, this particularly stereotype about all Asians looking the same unfortunately feeds into the image of us as the Yellow Peril — the depiction of Asians as a faceless and almost sub-human mass bent on attacking, taking over, and/or destroying U.S. society, its economy, and culture.

This imagery of Asians as the Yellow Peril can be seen in the graphic below from the 1800s, which is actually a magazine advertisement for soap (that’s what Uncle Same is holding in his left hand). The image’s main focus however, is on him kicking out the Chinese out of the country toward the squinty-eyed sun in the horizon. Just as important is the imagery of physically indistinguishable Chinese scurrying into the background, the Yellow Peril vanquished by American might and superiority. As described elsewhere on this blog, this stereotype that all Asians are the same has also led to many tragic instances of blatant bigotry, discrimination such as racial profiling, and even violence.

Anti-Chinese image from 1800s

Conformity to Western Beauty Standards

Secondly, the image of the Miss Korea 2013 contestants brings up the question of whether Asians and Asian Americans are implicitly or explicitly conforming to dominant western standards of physical beauty. Within the Asian American community, this question has taken the form of the debate about the cultural implications of Asian Americans getting cosmetic surgery and in particular, whether procedures such as double-eyelid surgery, breast augmentation, and using products to whiten one’s skin represent conforming to western standards of beauty. This question is highlighted in a segment from ABC’s NightLine from a couple of years age:

Of course, there are passionate opinions on both sides of this debate about these particular cosmetic procedures represent conforming to western standards of beauty, but more generally, I would venture to say that most people, Asian American and otherwise, would agree that westerns ideals of beauty are still a dominant force in the media and fashion industries in industrialized nations around the world and do indeed exert an influence on how young Asian American women judge themselves and their physical appearance.

The downside to such pressures can often be disastrous for Asian American women and take such forms as eating disorders, depression, and when combined with other pressures to conform to the model minority image, even suicide.

The Ironies of Multiculturalism

The irony in all of this is that, in the context of globalization, multiculturalism, and increased racial/ethnic diversity in U.S. society, our society has generally been more open and likely to recognize and celebrate more diverse forms of cultural representation. But one area in which this does not seem to be the case is standards of physical beauty where western and White images and idealizations still predominate. Even in the ABC NightLine video segment above, while the overall trend is toward greater inclusion of Asian and Asian American models in the fashion industry, the reality of their portrayals have included an underlying profit motive to tap into the burgeoning Asian consumer market and (inadvertently?) homogenizing the models.

Going back to the contestants of the Miss Korea 2013 pageant, like most people, I would certainly concur that the young women are all attractive just based on their physical appearance. Nonetheless, I hope that Korean and western societies in general will eventually acknowledge and appreciate that beauty can take many diverse forms and can wear more than just one face.


I am very pleased to report that this post is the 1,000th post published on the Asian-Nation blog. Thank you for helping to keep Asian-Nation going strong since 2001 and here’s to the next 1,000 posts and beyond!


November 28, 2011

Written by C.N.

Academic Research: Diversity & Multiculturalism in East Asia

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.

Street scene © Atlantide Phototravel/Corbis

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.


April 12, 2010

Written by C.N.

Updated List of White Backlash Examples

Following up on my earlier post entitled “White Backlash: Yes, It’s Real,” I will use this post to maintain a continually updated list of news stories that highlight and exemplify various examples of this kind of direct and indirect anti-minority, anti-‘foreigner,’ and pro-‘traditional American’ mentality and behavior that is increasingly on display throughout American society. The list in in reverse chronological order (most recent stories first). Also, feel free to mention any other examples I missed in the comments section at the bottom.

  • Secret Service to Probe Bullet-Ridden Picture of Obama (Jan. 2012)
    A photograph showing a group of men with guns posing with a bullet-riddled T-shirt containing an image of Barack Obama’s face is to be investigated by the Secret Service. The picture originally appeared on the Facebook page of an Arizona (surprise!) police officer.
  • Kansas Republican Leader Calls Michelle Obama ‘Mrs. YoMama,’ Prays She Becomes a Widow (Jan. 2012)
    Kansas House Speaker Mike O’Neal (R) was forced to apologize to First Lady Michelle Obama after forwarding an email to fellow lawmakers that called her “Mrs. YoMama.”
    Earlier that same week, O’Neal said “Let [President Obama’s] days be few” and calls for his children to be without a father and his wife to be widowed.
  • Arizona Teenage Girls Post Racist YouTube Denigrating Immigrants (Jan. 2012)
    A group of Arizona girls post a video on YouTube about “Mexican immigration” and the “new Arizona law that just passed the legislator (sic).” The video was pulled from YouTube and the creators deleted their YouTube account shortly after their inboxes and social media accounts were flooded with video responses and hate mail.
  • California Libertarian Politician Calls for Obama to be Assassinated (Jan. 2012)
    Jules Manson, who ran for city council in Carson (CA), posts about President Obama on his Facebook page, “Assassinate the fucken nigger and his monkey children.”
  • Fox Sports Sports Segment Mocks Asians With an Accent (Sept. 2011)
    Fox Sports deliberately singles out Asian students who have a foreign accent at USC to suggest that USC students are clueless about sports.
  • Muslim American U.S. Citizen Removed from Flight for Saying “I’ve Got to Go” (March 2011)
    Racial Profiling 1010: a Muslim American graduate student was removed from a Southwest flight after a crew member thought they had overheard the passenger say something vaguely threatening over her cell phone — “I’ve got to go.”
  • Posters for Students of Color Vandalized at Univ. of Utah (March 2011)
    Candidates of color running for student government at the Univ. of Utah have their campaign posters torn down or vandalized with racist terms such as “terrorists,” “ghetto,” and other offensive stereotypes.
  • Blond UCLA Student Majoring in White Privilege (March 2011)
    Clueless UCLA student Alexandra Wallace thinks it’s cool to post a video on YouTube where she mocks and stereotypes Asians (yes, the tired, old ‘ching chong’ routine) and makes light of the catastrophe in Japan. [Insert blond joke here].
  • Kansas Lawmaker Suggests Hunting Illegal Immigrants Like ‘Feral Hogs’ (March 2011)
    Murder is so funny, isn’t it — State Rep. Virgil Peck cracks, “Looks like to me, if shooting these immigrating feral hogs works, maybe we have found a (solution) to our illegal immigration problem,” refuses to apologize.
  • British Prime Minister Calls Multiculturalism a Failure (February 2011)
    Cameron stereotypes and indicts entire religious, ethnic, and cultural groups by arguing that “hands-off tolerance” in Britain and other European nations has encouraged Muslims and other immigrant groups “to live separate lives, apart from each other and the mainstream.”
  • Asian American Legislator Receives Death Threats for Criticizing Rush Limbaugh (January 2011)
    Rush Limbaugh mocks China’s President Hu Jintao using juvenile “ching chong” gibberish, refuses to apologize, and his supporters threaten the life of an Asian American legislator who calls for a boycott of Limbaugh’s advertisers.
  • Ohio Mom Sent to Jail for Sending Kids to Suburban School (January 2011)
    A single African American mother tries give her kids a better life by sending them to a predominantly White school, only to be arrested, convicted of “tampering with school records,” and sentenced to 10 days in jail.
  • Virginia Republican Chair Compares Blacks to Dogs (October 2010)
    Virginia’s Republican Party Chairman Bob McDonnell sent around an email in which he draws on racist stereotypes about Blacks on welfare.
  • Billboard in Colorado Portrays President Obama as Terrorist, Gangster, Mexican Bandit, and Gay (October 2010)
    An anonymous individual or group puts up a billboard on Interstate 70 in Colorado that has cartoon caricatures of President Obama as an Arab terrorist, a gangster, a Mexican bandit/illegal immigrant, and as a homosexual.
  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel: Multiculturalism has ‘Utterly Failed’ (October 2010)
    Germany’s leader declares that attempts at building a multicultural society has “utterly failed” and that, basically it is entirely the responsibility of non-Germans (i.e., non-Whites) to integrate into the German mainstream. Didn’t we hear a similar message from another high-profile German Chancellor back in the 1930s?
  • Islamophobia Reaches a Fever Pitch (August 2010)
    Racist and xenophobic opposition to a mosque near Ground Zero and calls by some Christian leaders to burn the Koran on 9/11 illustrates America’s rising hatred of Islam.
  • “Yup, I’m A Racist” T-Shirts for Sale (July 2010)
    Celebrate Independence Day 2010 by proudly proclaiming your racism and do your part to make racism cool.
  • U.S Hospital Fires 4 Filipina Nurses for Speaking Tagalog on Their Lunch Break (June 2010)
    Four Filipina ex-staffers of a Baltimore City hospital haven’t gotten over the shock of being summarily fired from their jobs, allegedly because they spoke Pilipino during their lunch break. . . “They claimed they heard us speaking in Pilipino and that is the only basis of the termination. It wasn’t because of my functions as a nurse. There were no negative write-ups, no warning before the termination,” [Nurse Hachelle Hatano] added.
  • South Carolina State Senator Calls President Obama a “Raghead” (June 2010)
    Republican state Sen. Jake Knotts refers to President Obama and Nikki Haley, a Republican gubernatorial candidate of Indian descent: “We’ve already got a raghead in the White House, we don’t need another raghead in the governor’s mansion.”
  • Arizona Passes Law Censoring Ethnic Studies Programs (May 2010)
    On the heels of the law that critics argue would legalize racial profiling against Latinos, Arizona’s new anti-ethnic studies bill “prohibits classes that advocate ethnic solidarity, that are designed primarily for students of a particular race or that promote resentment toward a certain ethnic group.”
  • Alabama Governor Candidate Declares “We Speak English” (April 2010)
    Tim James, Republican candidate for Governor of Alabama, releases a TV ad in which he declares, “This is Alabama; we speak English. If you want to live here, learn it” (you can watch the actual ad at the link above).
  • Arizona Enacts Stringent Law on Immigration (April 2010)
    Arizona’s new legislation would allow police to question anyone suspected of being an unauthorized immigrant. Critics charge that it basically amounts to legally-sanctioned racial profiling and plan demonstrations, boycotts, and lawsuits to protest and block its implementation.
  • Asian American Legislator Receives Racist Threats After Questioning Palin Visit (April 2010)
    California State Legislator Leland Yee summarizes the racist threats he received from Sarah Palin supporters after questioning her planned visit to a Cal State University campus.
  • John Jay College Accused of Bias Against Noncitizens (April 2010)
    The Justice Department files a lawsuit against John Jay College of Criminal Justice, accusing it of violating provisions of immigration law by demanding extra work authorization from at least 103 individuals since 2007.
  • McDonnell’s Confederate History Month Proclamation Irks Civil Rights Leaders (April 2010)
    The Governor of Virginia revives a dormant proclamation that April is “Confederate History Month,” with the initial version of his proclamation omitting any mention of slavery.
  • Male Studies vs. Men’s Studies (April 2010)
    A group of White male academics are trying to create a new academic discipline that highlights the ways in which males (by implication, White males) are apparently an underrepresented and oppressed group in contemporary American society.
  • Racist Fliers Distributed at UW-Oshkosh, St. Norbert College (March 2010)
    An example of how White supremacist hate groups are increasingly capitalizing on this White backlash.
  • UC Regents Sorry for Acts of Hate on Campuses (March 2010)
    Summarizing numerous racist incidents at numerous University of CA (UC) campuses, students and faculty try to get the UC Regents to see that racial ignorance and intolerance is a serious and endemic problem.
  • Meeting Space for Muslim Students at Brandeis is Vandalized (March 2010)
    On the heals of the racist incidents at the University of CA campuses, a newly renovated meeting space for Muslim students at Brandeis University is vandalized.
  • The Year in Nativism (March 2010)
    The Southern Poverty Law Center summarizes notable recent hate crimes against immigrants in 2008 and notes that nativist extremist groups have more than tripled in number, from 144 in 2007 to 309 in 2009.
  • Justice Department Fights Bias in Lending (January 2010)
    Under a new initiative from the Obama administration, the U.S. Justice Department begins targeting the rising predatory practice of “reverse redlining” aimed predominantly at minorities in which “. . . a mortgage brokerage or bank systematically singles out minority neighborhoods for loans with inferior terms like high up-front fees, high interest rates and lax underwriting practices. Because the original lender would typically resell such a loan after collecting its fees, it did not care about the risk of foreclosure.”
  • New Basketball League for Whites Only (January 2010)
    The “All-American Basketball Alliance” announces plans to create a minor league basketball league in which “only players that are natural born United States citizens with both parents of Caucasian race are eligible to play in the league.”

January 21, 2010

Written by C.N.

New Books: Immigration

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.

Reinventing the Melting Pot: The New Immigrants and What It Means To Be American, edited by Tamar Jacoby (Basic Books Publishing)

Reinventing the Melting Pot, edited by Tamar Jacoby

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.

The Diversity Paradox: Immigration and the Color Line in Twenty-First Century America, by Jennifer Lee and Frank Bean (Russell Sage Foundation)

The Diversity Paradox, by Lee and Bean

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.

Beyond a Border: The Causes and Consequences of Contemporary Immigration, by Peter Kivisto and Thomas Faist (Pine Forge Press)

Beyond a Border, by Kivisto and Faist

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.

Inheriting the City: The Children of Immigrants Come of Age, by Philip Kasinitz, Mary C. Waters, John H. Mollenkopf, and Jennifer Holdaway (Russell Sage Foundation)

Inheriting the City, by Kasinitz, Waters, Mollenkopf, and Holdaway

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.


September 17, 2009

Written by C.N.

New Book: Asian-White Interracial Marriage

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 particular book examines a consistently controversial and hot-button topic among all Americans, but particularly Asian Americans — interracial dating and marriage. The author’s findings are not likely to end the disagreements about the racial and gender dynamics inherent within such unions and may even add more fuel to the fire, but nonetheless it is a worthy contribution to the discussion.

Racing Romance: Love, Power, and Desire Among Asian American/ White Couples, by Kumiko Nemoto (Rutgers University Press)

Racing Romance by Kumiko Nemoto

Despite being far from the norm, interracial relationships are more popular than ever. Racing Romance sheds special light on the bonds between Whites and Asian Americans, an important topic that has not garnered well-deserved attention until now. Incorporating life-history narratives and interviews with those currently or previously involved with an interracial partner, Kumiko Nemoto addresses the contradictions and tensions — a result of race, class, and gender — that Asian Americans and Whites experience.

Similar to Black/White relationships, stereotypes have long played crucial roles in Asian American/White encounters. Partners grapple with media representations of Asian women as submissive or hypersexual and Asian men are often portrayed as weak laborers or powerful martial artists. Racing Romance reveals how allegedly progressive interracial relationships remain firmly shaped by the logic of patriarchy and gender inherent to the ideal of marriage, family, and nation in America, even as this ideal is juxtaposed with discourses of multiculturalism and color blindness.


July 24, 2009

Written by C.N.

New Book: Multiracial Change in America

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.

Twenty-First Century Color Lines: Multiracial Change in Contemporary America, edited by Andrew Grant-Thomas and Gary Orfield (Temple University Press)

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.