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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.

May 16, 2012

Written by C.N.

Academic Research: Asian Americans

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

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

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

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

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

Asian American woman © Hero/Corbis

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

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

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

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

List of articles:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 20, 2012

Written by C.N.

It Was Inevitable: Racial Ignorance Against Jeremy Lin

In my recent post titled, “Jeremy Lin Mania and How it Relates to Colorblindness,” among other things, I noted that Jeremy’s emergence as a media sensation and explosion onto the center stage of mainstream U.S. popular culture does represent a small step toward the eventual ideal of colorblindness. At the same time, I also argued that the reality is that unfortunately, we are still a long way from being a truly colorblind society.

This past week, several public incidents have solidified the sad fact that many Americans still think that we are already in a colorblind society and as such, they can basically say anything they want about Jeremy, including offensive references to him as a Chinese American. Unfortunately there have been several examples of racial insensitivity in the past couple of weeks, but in this post I will focus on two in particular.

First, after the Knicks defeated the Los Angeles Lakers in which Jeremy scored 38 points, FoxSports.com columnist Jason Whitlock tweeted “Some lucky lady in NYC is gonna feel a couple inches of pain tonight.” Whitlock later apologized for the remark, but you can’t unring that bell — clearly he thought it was perfectly acceptable to invoke the emasculating racial stereotype about Asian men having small penises.

But wait, there’s more.

A few days later, after Jeremy committed nine turnovers in a game that the Knicks eventually lost, thereby snapping their 7-game winning streak, the following headline made it onto ESPN’s mobile website (screenshot below): “Chinks in the Armor: Jeremy Lin’s 9 Turnovers Cost Knicks in Streak-Snapping Loss to Hornets.”

'Chink in the Armor' headline on ESPN mobile website

The headline was apparently taken down after being public for 35 minutes but again, the damage was done — the editors at ESPN apparently had no idea or did not care that the term “chink” is a blatantly racist term against all Asian Americans but particularly and deeply offensive to Chinese Americans. I might expect people outside the U.S., such as Spain’s national basketball team, not to know that the term “chink” is racist, but it is very disappointing to learn that many Americans still think it’s perfectly fine to use in reference to a Chinese American.

Disappointing, but unfortunately not really surprising.

That is because many Americans already believe, consciously or unconsciously, that we are already a colorblind society. As such, they have been taught, socialized, and desensitized to naively think that all racial groups are equal now, that no racial discrimination ever takes place nowadays, and therefore, it’s fine to casually use terms such as “chink” in everyday conversation.

These particular incidents may not be as blatantly offensive as the racial taunts Jeremy encountered back when he played for Harvard, but they nonetheless illustrate a woeful level of ignorance and lack of sensitivity about Asian Americans, our history, and our community.

Imagine what the public’s reaction would have been if Jason Whitlock was referring to a Black player and his remark invoked the racial stereotype about Black men having large penises. What would the public’s reaction had been if ESPN went public with some headline that referred to a Black player using the ‘N’ word? I think it would be safe to say that the American public would be shocked, outraged, and furious if these hypothetical examples occurred in reference to a Black player.

To Whitlock’s and ESPN’s credit, they both apologized and in ESPN’s case, fired the person responsible for the website headline and suspended one of their sportscasters, Max Bretos, who repeated the “chink in the armor” phrase on air. To be honest, I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly and decisively ESPN acted in regard to these incidents. In the past, more than likely, ESPN would have taken days to issue a half-hearted apology and probably would not have disciplined any of their staff involved. I suppose ESPN’s actions in this matter do represent an encouraging sign of progress.

Fortunately, there are others in the mainstream media who “get it” — those who understand the contradiction and inequality that exist when such racial/ethnic stereotypes are in reference to, say Blacks, versus when they reference Asian Americans. Specifically, leave it the crew at Saturday Night Live to use comedy and satire to deftly illustrate this contradiction:

So I suppose that it does represent progress that when these types of racially ignorant incidents happen, the mainstream media nowadays does recognize it and take disciplinary action (or use satire to point out the absurdity of such ignorance) more quickly than in the past. Now if we can just get to the point where such incidents don’t happen in the first place.


February 13, 2012

Written by C.N.

Jeremy Lin Mania and How It Relates to Colorblindness

Back in 2010, I wrote about Jeremy Lin, who was leading Harvard University to a league title, a birth in the NCAA postseason tournament, and was poised to become one of the first Asian American players in the National Basketball Association (NBA). Back then, I pointed out how he represents an example of Asian Americans balancing both model minority expectations with an extracurricular passion, and in doing so, is expanding the definition of success for Asian Americans.

Jeremy Lin, point guard for the New York Knicks © Anthony Gruppuso/US Presswire

Since then, Jeremy went undrafted in the NBA after graduation but has now landed with the New York Knicks and is now exploding onto the basketball scene, as this New York Times article describes:

On Saturday night [Feb. 4, 2012], Lin came off the bench and powered the Knicks to a 99-92 victory over the Nets at Madison Square Garden, scoring a career-best 25 points with 7 assists. Two nights later, he made his first N.B.A. start and produced 28 points and 8 assists in a 99-88 win over the Utah Jazz.

Knicks fans now serenade Lin with chants of “Je-re-my!” and “M.V.P.!” while the franchise uses his likeness to sell tickets and teammates and coaches gush with praise. . . . Lin is raising expectations, altering the Knicks’ fate and redefining the word “unlikely.” On Twitter, fans and basketball pundits are using another term to describe the phenomenon: “Linsanity.”

[H]e became the first player in more than 30 years to record at least 28 points and 8 assists in his first N.B.A. start. . . . When the Knicks claimed Lin off waivers Dec. 27, he was fourth on the depth chart at point guard. Now he is No. 1, continuing a long pattern of low expectations and surprising results.

As another example of the accelerating Jeremy Lin bandwagon, ABC News just named Jeremy its “Person of the Week” and profiled him in the following news segment video:

Needless to say, Jeremy’s explosion into the U.S. cultural mainstream has inspired many Americans, and particularly Asian Americans. Beyond the mainstream media’s ever-increasing proclamations of him as “Linsanity,” “Lincredible,” “Going All Lin,” “Lin Your Face,” or “May the Best Man Lin,” Jeremy has also been described as Asian Americans’ version of Tim Tebow, both for embracing his Christian faith and for the media sensation and “Linspiration” that he has become for so many Asian Americans. For the record, Jeremy is the first monoracial (that is, both his parents are Asian) Asian American (either born or raised in the U.S.) to play in the NBA, and one of the few monoracial Asian Americans to play professional team sports in the U.S. at all.

In so many ways, Jeremy represents a big step forward for Asian Americans and U.S. society in general in terms of racial inclusion and being considered part of mainstream U.S. culture. Jeremy’s success actually follows a similar breakthrough moment for Asian Americans last year, as the hip-hop group Far East Movement became the first all-Asian American musical group to hit number one on the music charts with their single “Like a G6.” As another example of the “mainstreaming” of Asian Americans, the creators of MTV’s “Jersey Shore” are apparently in the process of creating a version that features an all-Asian American cast, to be called “K-Town.”

From a sociological point of view, the cultural emergence of Jeremy Lin, Far East Movement, and K-Town demonstrate that Asian Americans are indeed increasingly part of the U.S. mainstream. Up to this point, because of the relative scarcity of Asian Americans in the mainstream media and popular culture, it was usually a shock when we did see an Asian American on TV, in the movies, or on the music charts.

But as Asian Americans becoming increasingly common in these areas of U.S. popular culture, are we headed for a day when it is no longer a “big deal” when we see Asian American faces in the media, just like it’s taken for granted when we see White faces or Black faces? Ultimately, yes, that is the goal — for us as a society to no longer consider it “strange” or “unusual” to see Asian Americans in the media or in other prominent positions in U.S. social institutions.

If this idea sounds familiar, you might know it by its more common name — colorblindness.

In other words, part of being colorblind is what I just described — an ideal situation in which everyone in U.S. society is considered equal and when social, political, and economic distinctions based on race or ethnicity are no longer important or carry any sort of advantage or disadvantage. So in many respects, Jeremy Lin’s success gives us hope that, as a society, we are moving a little closer to the ideals of colorblindness.

Having said that, as I have written repeatedly in this blog, in order to eventually attain this ideal of true colorblindness, we first have to recognize that despite the progress that our nation has made in eradicating racism, the practical reality is that inequalities based on race and ethnicity unfortunately still exist and that groups such as Asian Americans still experience much ignorance, intolerance, and outright discrimination because of their identity and position as a racial minority group.

Therefore, much like the idea of Asian Americans as the “model minority,” I think we should definitely embrace and celebrate the emergence of Jeremy Lin, Far East Movement, and other examples in which Asian Americans are recognized for their success. Their accomplishments reflect how it is not a contradiction to recognize both their racial/ethnic uniqueness and their position as an integral part of mainstream society.

At the same time, we should also keep in mind that while we are getting closer to the ultimate ideal of colorblindness, there is still a lot of work to be done. Along with that, in order to keep working toward a time when true equality exists across all racial/ethnic groups, we need to understand that racial/ethnic distinctions still exist and still matter, and that the success of one person or a few people within that racial/ethnic minority group does not yet mean that members of that group no longer experience any injustice or discrimination.

In the meantime, despite my roots as a Los Angeles Lakers fan, I will definitely be rooting for Jeremy to keep lighting up the scoreboard and the “Lin-magination” of all Americans and beyond.


August 22, 2011

Written by C.N.

Posts from Years Past: August

If you’re the nostalgic type, you might be interested to read the following posts from August of years past:


February 10, 2011

Written by C.N.

Posts from Years Past: February

As I and my colleagues in New England continue to dig ourselves out of another snowstorm, here are some posts in this blog from February of years past:

  • 2010: Connecting Toyota and Asian Americans
    Looking at the larger sociological context surrounding Toyota’s recent troubles and its cultural connections to Asian Americans.
  • Winter cranes © Li Yu/Corbis
  • 2009: Using Immigrants to Stimulate the Economy
    To stimulate our economy, perhaps we should let in more Asian immigrants.
  • 2008: Another Example of East-West Convergence
    McDonalds restaurants incorporating feng shui — capitalism and natural harmony coexisting or just lipstick on a pig?
  • 2007: Controversy Over Childrens Book
    Cross-ethnic and nationalist tensions get reignited over the award-winning book So Far From the Bamboo Grove.
  • 2006: Toyota Joins NASCAR
    Toyota’s announcement that it will participate in NASCAR, the most popular form of motor racing in the U.S., poses a challenge to the sport’s all-White, American south-based culture.
  • 2005: Multiracial Commercial Images
    Images of racially-diverse and multiracial Americans are becoming more common, but how representative are they of the realities of the U.S. racial landscape?
  • 2003: in Defense of Ignorance
    Asian Americans react to Rep. Coble’s ignorant and misinformed defense of the imprisonment of Japanese Americans during WWII.

December 31, 2010

Written by C.N.

End-of-Year Stories and Lists About Asian Americans

The end of the year naturally brings stories, articles, and lists from media organizations and bloggers that summarize noteworthy news events, topics, and issues from the past year. On this blog, you may have read my posts about “Racial/Ethnic Relations in 2010: The Best & Worst” and “The Most Significant Racial/Ethnic Issue of the Decade.

Along the same lines, other writers and bloggers around the internet have also posted their own end-of-year stories, articles, and lists related to Asian Americans, so I list and summarize the ones that I have recently come across (thanks to 8Asians for taking the lead on mentioning these lists):


Asian Pop’s 2010 Year in Review

  • My colleague and pop culture expert Jeff Yang reviews the most newsworthy stories about Asian and Asian American popular culture from this past year.


Top 10 Asian Americans in Pop Culture

  • Columnist Keith Chow at Pop Culture Shock counts down the top 10 Asian Americans who made newsworthy achievements this past year in mainstream American pop culture.


The Most Underreported Stories of the Decade

  • The good folks at New America Media compile their list of stories about people and communities of color that were largely ignored by the mainstream American media.


20 Essential Works of Asian-American Literature

  • A blog that promotes graduate education opportunities compiles a list of the 20 most important literary works related to Asian Americans.


Asia Pacific Arts’ Best of 2010

  • The writers of the online magazine Asia Pacific Arts (published by the University of Southern California U.S.-China Institute) select their favorite Asian and Asian American performers, film, music, TV dramas, choreography, video games, behind-the-scenes artists, etc. of 2010 (thanks to AngryAsianMan.com for mentioning this).


Top 10 Asian American Bachelors of 2010

  • The folks at Asiance make their case for the 10 hottest Asian American bachelors of 2010.


Best Asian American Songs of 2010

  • Over at Hyphen magazine, Los Angeles-based soul/R&B musician Dawen recounts his favorite songs from each month of 2010.


Top 10 Amazing Asian American Achievers of 2010

  • Columnist Nina Huang at Northwest Asian Weekly recounts the stories of 10 Asian Americans who made remarkable achievements this past year.


10 Best Asian Films of the Year

  • Again at Northwest Asian Weekly, Andrew Hamlin summarizes his list of the 10 best Asian films/movies of 2010.


Top 10 Asian American Sports Figures of 2010

  • The crew at Northwest Asian Weekly have been quite busy apparently, turning out another top 10 list, this time of the most newsworthy Asian American athletes and sports personalities of 2010.


Top 10 Asian American Cities

  • The best cities for Asian Americans to live in, as compiled by the blog Amped Asia.

December 16, 2010

Written by C.N.

Posts from Years Past: December

In case you’re the nostalgic type, here are some posts in this blog from December of years past:


November 15, 2010

Written by C.N.

Posts from Years Past: November

In case you’re the nostalgic type, here are some posts in this blog from November of years past:

  • 2009: The U.S. and China: A Love-Hate Relationship
    President Obama’s trip to Asia highlights some of the contradictory, love-hate sentiments that many Americans and its institutions seem to have with Asians/Asian Americans.
  • 2008: Don Wakamatsu: First Asian American Big League Manager
    Discussing the significance of Don Wakamatsu as the first Asian American head coach and manager of a major sports team.
  • 2007: Big Plans for Little Saigons
    Debate around plans for the two largest Little Saigon communities in the U.S. highlight struggles to maintain ethnic solidarity among Vietnamese Americans.
  • 2006: New Internment Pictures Depict Harsher Life
    Recently-published photos reopen a sad and painful episode for Asian Americans and American society in general.
  • 2005: China Attracting U.S. Scholars
    China’s big push to recruit U.S. academics to help build up their universities to eventually rival the best from around the world.
  • 2004: Inter-Asian Sentiments
    Examples from popular culture in both Japan and South Korea illustrate the contradictory nature of inter-ethnic relations between Asians of different ethnic groups.

February 15, 2010

Written by C.N.

New Books: Asian Americans and Popular Culture

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 time around, I highlight several recently-released books that focus on different elements and examples of Asian American popular culture:

Racial Stigma on the Hollywood Screen from World War II to the Present: The Orientalist Buddy Film, by Brian Locke (Palgrave MacMillan)

Orientalist Buddy, by Brian Locke

Racial Stigma on the Hollywood Screen from World War II to the Present charts how the dominant white and black binary of American racial discourse influences Hollywood’s representation of the Asian. The Orientalist buddy film draws a scenario in which two buddies, one white and one black, transcend an initial hatred for one another by joining forces against a foreign Asian menace. Alongside an analysis of multiple genres of film, Brian Locke argues that this triangulated rendering of race ameliorates the longstanding historical contradiction between U.S. democratic ideals and white America’s persistent domination over blacks.

Bollywood Weddings: Dating, Engagement, and Marriage in Hindu America, by Kavita Ramdya (Lexington Books)

Bollywood Weddings, by Kavita Ramdya

Bollywood Weddings examines how middle to upper class second-generation Indian-American Hindus negotiate wedding rituals, including the dating and engagement processes. Many of these couples are (in Ramdya’s neologism) “occasional Hindus” who display their Hindu religious background only on important occasions such as the rite of passage that is marriage.

These couples (and their extended families) negotiate two vastly different cultures and sets of values inside a community that has itself largely predetermined how to mix American and Indian/Hindu elements into this ritual. As a rule, the first generation organizes the wedding, which is largely Hindu, and their children coordinate the American-style reception. Instead of choosing either India or America, or arriving at a compromise in between the two, this community takes a “both/and” approach, embracing both cultures simultaneously.

Asian Americans in Sport and Society, by C. Richard King (Routledge)

Kristi Yamaguchi © Sports Illustrated

For more than a century, sporting spectacles, media coverage, and popular audiences have staged athletics in black and white. Commercial, media, and academic accounts have routinely erased, excluded, ignored, and otherwise made absent the Asian American presence in sport. Asian Americans in Sport and Society seeks to redress this pattern of neglect. This volume presents a comprehensive perspective on the history and significance of Asian American athletes, coaches, and teams in North America.

The contributors interrogate the sociocultural contexts in which Asian Americans lived and played, detailing the articulations of power and possibility, difference and identity, representation and remembrance that have shaped the means and meanings of Asian Americans playing sport in North America. This volume will be of interest to students and scholars of the Asian American experience, ethnic relations, and the history of sport.

Culinary Fictions: Food in South Asian Diasporic Culture, by Anita Mannur (Temple University Press)

Culinary Fictions, by Anita Mannur

For South Asians, food regularly plays a role in how issues of race, class, gender, ethnicity, and national identity are imagined as well as how notions of belonging are affirmed or resisted. “Culinary Fictions” provides food for thought as it considers the metaphors literature, film, and TV shows use to describe Indians abroad. When an immigrant mother in Jhumpa Lahiri’s “The Namesake”, combines Rice Krispies, Planters peanuts, onions, salt, lemon juice, and green chili peppers to create a dish similar to one found on Calcutta sidewalks, it not only evokes the character’s Americanization, but also her nostalgia for India.

Food, Anita Mannur writes, is a central part of the cultural imagination of diasporic populations, and “Culinary Fictions” maps how it figures in various expressive forms. Mannur examines the cultural production from the Anglo-American reaches of the South Asian diaspora. Using texts from novels – Chitra Divakaruni’s “Mistress of Spices”, and Shani Mootoo’s “Cereus Blooms at Night” – to cookbooks such as Madhur Jaffrey’s “Invitation to Indian Cooking” and Padma Lakshmi’s “Easy Exotic”, she illustrates how national identities are consolidated in culinary terms.


January 4, 2010

Written by C.N.

Racial Contradictions in College Basketball

First, I hope everyone had a nice holiday season and that your new year is off to a good start.

As reflected in the origin of its name (Janus, the Roman god of beginnings and endings), the first month of the new year is traditionally a time to reflect on two “opposite” ideas. In this case, I’d like to use a recent Time magazine article profiling Harvard University basketball player Jeremy Lin as an opportunity to explore opposing and contradictory racial presumptions in college and professional basketball.

Jeremy Lin © Harvard University Athletics

First, the article describes the success Jeremy is having as Harvard’s star player:

It’s been 64 years since the Crimson appeared in the NCAA tournament. But thanks to senior guard Jeremy Lin, that streak could end this year. Lin, who tops Harvard in points (18.1 per game), rebounds (5.3), assists (4.5) and steals (2.7), has led the team to a 9-3 record, its best start in a quarter century.

Lin, a 6 ‘3″ slasher whose speed, leaping ability, and passing skills would allow him to suit up for any team in the country, has saved his best performances for the toughest opponents: over his last four games against teams from the Big East and Atlantic Coast Conference, two of the country’s most powerful basketball leagues, Lin is averaging 24.3 points and shooting nearly 65% from the field.

“He’s as good an all-around guard as I’ve seen,” says Tony Shaver, the head coach of William & Mary, which in November lost a triple overtime game to Harvard, 87-85, after Lin hit a running three-pointer at the buzzer. “He’s a special player who seems to have a special passion for the game. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in the NBA one day.”

I think it’s important to first recognize Jeremy’s success. He’s worked hard academically and athletically to be in the position he’s in right now. In many ways, he represents a nice example of how Asian Americans can balance both model minority expectations with a physical or extracurricular passion on the way to a well-rounded sense of personal balance.

The article later acknowledges the elephant in the room and points out why Jeremy’s success is unique — he’s Asian American. Unfortunately, he’s also experienced some racism from opposing fans based on his racial identity:

A Harvard hoopster with pro-level talent? Yes, that’s one reason Lin is a novelty. But let’s face it: Lin’s ethnicity might be a bigger surprise. Less than 0.5% of men’s Division 1 basketball players are Asian-American. . . . Some people still can’t look past his ethnicity. Everywhere he plays, Lin is the target of cruel taunts.

“It’s everything you can imagine,” he says. “Racial slurs, racial jokes, all having to do with being Asian.” Even at the Ivy League gyms? “I’ve heard it at most of the Ivies, if not all of them,” he says. Lin is reluctant to mention the specific nature of such insults, but according to Harvard teammate Oliver McNally, another Ivy League player called him a c-word that rhymes with “ink” during a game last season.

Just last week, during Harvard’s 86-70 loss to Georgetown in Washington, D.C., McNally says one spectator yelled “sweet and sour pork” from the stands. In the face of such foolishness, Lin doesn’t seem to lose it on the court. “Honestly, now, I don’t react to it,” he says. “I expect it, I’m used to it, it is what it is.”

It would be simple enough to point out the obvious contradiction in Jeremy’s situation — why is it apparently acceptable (or at least tacitly tolerated) to hurl racial slurs at an Asian American basketball player but not at say, African American players?

How would bystanders, teammates, coaches, security personnel, and even opposing players react if a fan in the stands yelled the N-word at a Black basketball player at a game? Chances are, that “fan” would immediately face backlash and would be ejected from the building faster than you can say “codes of conduct.” In fact, Dartmouth recently issued an official apology to Harvard in the wake of anti-Semitic and homophobic slurs hurled at some of its squash players at a recent match.

But in Jeremy’s case, there doesn’t seem to be any sense of collective backlash or outrage over the racist comments he routinely receives on the court. Apparently it’s another sad example of Asian Americans being seen as the invisible minority, perpetual foreigners, or as easy targets for racism.

But beyond that, I have to wonder whether his status as an Asian American — as opposed to an Asian — player plays a role as well. In other words, we have seen an influx of professional athletes from Asia in basketball (Yao Ming, Yi Jianlian) and baseball (Hideo Nomo, Ichiro, Daisuke Matsuzaka, etc.) recently but unfortunately, there is still a glaring underrepresentation of Asian American professional athletes in the highest-profile sports such as football, basketball, and baseball.

Although it’s a documented fact that many Americans can’t or won’t distinguish “Asians” from “Asian Americans,” my question is, are Americans (or in this case, sports fans) likely to accept Asian athletes more readily than Asian American ones?

Perhaps fans consciously or unconsciously are more comfortable with the idea that Asian athletes are likely to remain “foreigners” and therefore will eventually return to “their own” country and won’t settle down in the U.S. and be in direct competition with Americans for jobs, etc., while Asian American athletes are in fact homegrown and are perceived to be a greater economic “threat” to “real” Americans. After all, many already perceive Asian Americans to be “taking over” other areas of American life such as colleges and universities.

So based on these perceptions, perhaps fans are unconsciously spewing racism — or at least remaining silent when such slurs are made — at Asian American athletes as another form of backlash against the ongoing socioeconomic success of Asian Americans.

The mentality and contradictions of racism are always subject to speculation but the examples keep adding up.

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Update: If you’re reading this, you probably know that in January 2012, Jeremy was signed by the New York Knicks. He promptly seized this opportunity and has since blown up the basketball scene and is now a national and international sensation. To read my sociological take on this “Linsanity” phenomenon, check out my recent post “Jeremy Lin Mania and How to Relates to Colorblindness.”


August 17, 2009

Written by C.N.

Globalization and Golf: Y.E. Yang, Newest Major Champion

If you haven’t heard already, this past Sunday, South Korean Y.E. Yang won the Professional Golf Association (PGA) Championship by stunning heavy favorite Tiger Woods. This was Yang’s first ‘major’ PGA win (there are four tournaments each year that are considered “majors” — the Masters, the U.S. Open, the British Open, and the PGA Championship) and only his second overall PGA victory, while Tiger had been undefeated when leading a major PGA tournament going into the final round. As Sports Illustrated points out, this was also the first major PGA victory by an Asian-born player:

Y.E. Yang celebrates at the PGA Championship © John Biever/Sports Illustrated

[Yang's victory was] memorable as much for his clutch shots as the player he beat. Woods was 14-0 when he went into the final round of a major atop the leaderboard. He had not lost any tournament around the world in nine years when leading by two shots.

None of that mattered to Yang, a 37-year-old South Korean who hit the shots everyone expected from Woods. Leading by one on the final hole, Yang slayed golf’s giant with a hybrid 3-iron that cleared the bunker and settled 12 feet from the cup. Yang made the birdie putt and shouted with joy as he pumped his fist. That gave him a 2-under 70, and a three-shot victory. . . .

His victory is massive for Asia, the fastest-growing market in golf. Perhaps even more significant is that the way he stood up to Woods, the world’s No. 1 player whose heritage is half-Asian through his Thai-born mother. Yang and K.J. Choi are the only PGA Tour players who learned golf in South Korea before coming to America. South Koreans have had far more success on the LPGA Tour, with seven players combining to win 11 majors. . . .

Asian-born players had come close in the majors – Liang-Huan Lu of Taiwan finishing one shot behind Lee Trevino at the 1971 British Open, and T.C. Chen’s famous two-chip gaffe that cost him a chance at the 1985 U.S. Open, where he was runner-up to Andy North. This could be a big breakthrough for Asian players, especially with a World Golf Championship starting this year in China.

First, Yang’s victory is a significant individual achievement for him as a professional golfer. Not only is this victory his first major win, but it was just his second overall PGA win. Very few golfers are able to win a major with such a relatively short victory list. He was ranked just 110th in the world (with Tiger ranked at #1) and actually had to do well in supplemental tournaments in order to qualify to play in a major such as this PGA Championship. So a win like this is certainly significant for him personally.

Secondly, Yang’s victory is also representative of a larger emerging trend — how golf is increasingly become more Asian and Asian American. It was Tiger Woods (who is half Asian and half Black) who first started this trend when he burst on the scene 13 years ago. Then women’s professional golf (the Ladies’ Professional Golf Association, LPGA) saw an influx and emergence of several successful Asian and Asian American golfers (many from South Korea), with Se Ri Pak being the first. Then last year, Asian American Anthony Kim had his coming out party, helping the U.S. team beat the Europeans in dramatic fashion at the prestigious Ryder Cup.

The video clip from CNN discusses the recent emergence of golf in Asia:

I would not be surprised to see more Asian and Asian American golfers emerge and achieve consistent success in the next few years. In fact, in addition to Anthony Kim, another South Korean, K.C. Choi, has been making a name for himself recently as well. It remains to be seen whether such Asian and Asian American golfers can achieve the same level of success as their female counterparts in the LPGA and whether any of them can dethrone Tiger Woods as the number one golfer on the planet (no player has for any extended amount of time in the past 13 years).

Nonetheless, I’m confident we’ll be hearing names like Yang, Choi, Kim, and other Asian surnames more often in the years to come.


November 19, 2008

Written by C.N.

Don Wakamatsu: First Asian American Big League Manager

The Seattle Mariners of Major League Baseball (MLB) are expected to name Don Wakamatsu to be their new manager. If so, that would make him the first Asian American manager/coach of not just MLB, but of any major professional American sport (to include the National Football League, National Basketball Association, and the National Hockey League):

Wakamatsu becomes Seattle’s fifth manager since Lou Piniella left following the 2002 season. He replaces Jim Riggleman, who took over in June when John McLaren was fired after a 25-47 start to a season in which the Mariners were expected to contend for the playoffs. . . .

The native of Hood River, Ore., who grew up in Hayward, Calif., says he knows only a little Japanese — always a consideration in Seattle, with All-Star Ichiro Suzuki as the franchise cornerstone — though it has improved recently while with the A’s and Rangers.

Wakamatsu was the minor league catching coordinator for the Angels from 2001-02, after playing in the minors as a catcher from 1985-96. He played 18 games in the majors with the White Sox in 1991.

He managed Arizona’s rookie league team in 1997, then at Class-A High Desert, Double-A El Paso and Double-A Erie from 1998-2000.

Although I consider myself a baseball fan, I have to admit that I had never heard of Wakamatsu until now. From his picture above, he also looks to be multiracial/Hapa and without knowing much about him, I do not know how strongly he identifies as Asian American.

Nonetheless, this is still a huge day for the Asian American community, and for American society in general. As I’ve said numerous times in this blog, there is no denying that American society is becoming increasingly diverse — demographically, politically, and culturally.

We’re seeing more examples of this social trend everyday, from Barack Obama being elected as our next President, to Orange County’s (CA) first Asian American mayor, to Don Wakamatsu becoming the first Asian American manager/coach of a major professional sports team.

Congratulations to Mr. Wakamatsu and I wish him the best success.

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Update: Thanks to comments from readers below, and as shown in the following ESPN news clip from the Seattle Mariners’ news conference earlier today, I am happy to learn that Don Wakamatsu indeed does strongly identify as Asian American and wants to serve as a trailblazer and pioneer for all of us: