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Keywords for Asian American Studies

Keywords for Asian American Studies

Cathy J. Schlund-Vials
Linda Trinh Võ
K. Scott Wong
Series: Keywords
Copyright Date: 2015
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 336
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  • Book Info
    Keywords for Asian American Studies
    Book Description:

    Born out of the Civil Rights and Third World Liberation movements of the 1960s and 1970s, Asian American Studies has grown significantly over the past four decades, both as a distinct field of inquiry and as a potent site of critique. Characterized by transnational, trans-Pacific, and trans-hemispheric considerations of race, ethnicity, migration, immigration, gender, sexuality, and class, this multidisciplinary field engages with a set of concepts profoundly shaped by past and present histories of racialization and social formation.

    The keywords included in this collection are central to social sciences, humanities, and cultural studies and reflect the ways in which Asian American Studies has transformed scholarly discourses, research agendas, and pedagogical frameworks.Spanning multiple histories, numerous migrations, and diverse populations,Keywords for Asian American Studiesreconsiders and recalibrates the ever-shifting borders of Asian American studies as a distinctly interdisciplinary field.

    Visit for online essays, teaching resources, and more.

    eISBN: 978-1-4798-8385-1
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)
    Cathy J. Schlund-Vials, Linda Trinh Võ and K. Scott Wong

    Born out of the civil rights and Third World liberation movements of the 1960s and 1970s, Asian American studies has grown considerably over the past four decades, both as a distinct field of inquiry and as a potent site of critique. In the late nineteenth century, most of what was written about the Asian presence in America was by those who sought to impede the immigration of Asians or to curtail the social mobility of Asians already in the country. This tendency in the literature of the time, and subsequent scholarship on Asians and Asian Americans that appeared into the...

  5. 1 Adoption
    (pp. 7-9)
    Catherine Ceniza Choy

    In Asian American studies, the word “adoption” is increasingly significant for elucidating the breadth and depth of Asian American demographics, cultural expression, contemporary issues, and history. In the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, the sight of an Asian child with white American parents has become a new social norm. Between 1971 and 2001, U.S. citizens adopted 265,677 children from other countries, and over half of those were from Asian countries. In 2000 and 2001, China was the leading sending country of adoptive children to the United States. South Korea, Vietnam, India, Cambodia, and the Philippines were among the top...

  6. 2 Art
    (pp. 9-13)
    Margo Machida

    Whereas all human societies have developed visual idioms, the idea of Art (with a capital “A”) is elusive, much debated, and often closely entwined with social and class hierarchies, and subjective matters of value, taste, and sensibility. Its historic application as a cultural category and definitions of what constitutes visual art have varied significantly from culture to culture, across different historic periods, and according to the background, position, and perception of the viewer. Especially in the modern West, distinctions have typically been drawn between “high” or “fine” art, and crafts or applied arts. “Fine” art has been conceived as a...

  7. 3 Assimilation
    (pp. 14-17)
    Lisa Sun-Hee Park

    The definition of “assimilation” and its subsequent usage has long been a contentious issue in American scholarship. Fundamentally, assimilation raises difficult questions about the social composition of a society or culture. More specifically, the debates around the term address the adaptation of those populations or individuals understood as outside or different from mainstream society. TheNew Oxford American Dictionarydefines “assimilate” as a verb meaning to “take in (information, ideas, or culture) and understand fully” and “absorb and integrate.”

    The dispute over the meaning of assimilation follows the intertwined history of racial formation, immigration politics, and national identity in the...

  8. 4 Brown
    (pp. 18-20)
    Nitasha Tamar Sharma

    “Brown” is a term from 11th-century Old English (brun) and Middle English (broun) referring to a color, meaning “duskiness, gloom.” With regard to people, theOxford English Dictionarydescribes a brown person as “having the skin of a brown or dusky colour: as a racial characteristic.” “Brown”’s work as an adjective (“brown bird”), verb (“to brown”), and noun parallels its references to multiple groups of people, including those from Africa, Asia, Europe, the Pacific, and Latin America. Given that many people have “brown” skin, “Brown” of course refers to much more than skin color and phenotype: like the terms “Black”...

  9. 5 Citizenship
    (pp. 20-24)
    Helen Heran Jun

    “Citizenship” has been a key foundational term within modern liberal definitions of rights since the 18th century. In the most basic sense, citizenship is a legal status accorded to subjects of a nation that confers to its members a host of rights, protections, and obligations. Citizenship is the institution through which states may grant or deny such rights and duties to the inhabitants of a national territory, and thereby positions the state as the ultimate arbiter and guarantor of equality and justice. With the rise of the nation-state form, citizenship became a necessity for realizing what had been imagined as...

  10. 6 Class
    (pp. 25-28)
    Min Hyoung Song

    The meaning of “class” in Asian American studies formed in conversation with Marxism, with the former building on the latter’s insights while seeking to find ways to exceed its perceived limitations. For instance, Lisa Lowe starts her groundbreaking bookImmigrant Acts: On Asian American CulturalPolitics by insisting, “Understanding Asian immigration to the United States is fundamental to understanding the racialized foundations of both the emergence of the United States as a nation and the development of American capitalism” (1996, ix). In the equally groundbreakingEverybody Was Kung Fu Fighting: Afro- Asian Connections and the Myth of Racial Purity, Vijay...

  11. 7 Commodification
    (pp. 29-30)
    Nhi T. Lieu

    InCapital, Volume One, Marx was highly critical of commodification, a process that occurs under capitalism whereby things are assigned an exchange value in the marketplace. He observed that when the use-value of commodities are given economic or exchange values, these commodities subsequentlymodifysocial relationships. Building upon these ideas, Marxist scholars such as Arjun Appadurai (1986), Stuart Hall (1992), and Donald Lowe (1995) have complicated the studies of commodification to argue that the social values of commodities are highly contested and firmly immersed in their cultural, social, and political contexts. In her thought-provoking article “Eating the Other,” bell hooks...

  12. 8 Community
    (pp. 31-36)
    Linda Trinh Võ

    “Community,” or “communities,” is an amorphous keyword in Asian American studies that has evolved along with societal transformations, and its meaning is highly contested. TheOxford English Dictionarydefines “community” as a “body of people organized into a political, municipal, or social unity”; it can be characterized as those “who have certain circumstances of nativity, religion, or pursuit, common to them, but not shared by those among whom they live.” In Asian American studies, the term is most often associated with bounded, geographic localities that incorporate people, places, and institutions that have an affinity to one another or intricate connections....

  13. 9 Coolie
    (pp. 37-38)
    Kornel Chang

    The etymology of the word “coolie” was for a long time thought to have Tamil—kuli(wages)—Urdu—quli(hireling)—or Chinese—kuli(bitter strength)—origins (Tinker 1974; Tsai 1976; Irick 1982; M. Jung 2006). More recently, Mae Ngai (2015) has traced the word’s origins to a European neologism that was first employed by sixteenth-century Portuguese to describe common native workers on the Indian subcontinent. By the mid-nineteenth century, “coolie” came to be applied specifically to indentured laborers from China and India who were being contracted out to colonial plantations in Southeast Asia and the Americas (Hu-DeHart 1992; W. Lai...

  14. 10 Cosmopolitanism
    (pp. 39-41)
    Lucy Mae San Pablo Burns

    From its inception, Asian American studies has struggled with its ability to attend to, describe, and theorize experiences and ideas that exceed singlenation identification, fixed territorial boundaries, and conditions produced by globalization. Various terms such as “internationalism,” “transnationalism,” “diaspora,” “exile,” “flexible citizens,” and “extranationals” have been mobilized in the field to indicate an Asian American imaginary, identification, and everyday practice that signal more than just Asia and America, more than just Asia, more than just America. This list of terms suggests an embodied and discursive mobility that refuses to settle along distinct and firm borders, particularly national ones. “Cosmopolitanism belongs...

  15. 11 Culture
    (pp. 41-44)
    Robert G. Lee

    Asian American studies began as the intellectual expression of a political and social movement mobilized to answer questions long suppressed, suspended, or foreclosed in a national imaginary shaped by race and empire. The twin tasks of Asian American studies with regard to culture have been to critique the changing cultural formation of empire and to recuperate critical agency for Asian American cultural production. This essay argues that such a critical approach to culture depends on the recognition of the connection between local cultures and the global historical terrain on which they are produced. This is not to claim that the...

  16. 12 Deportation
    (pp. 44-49)
    Bill Ong Hing

    According to theOxford English Dictionary, “deportation” (noun) refers to “the action of carrying away; forcible removal,esp. into exile; transportation.” Connotative of an involuntary relocation and exilic subjectivity, “deportation” as a state policy and legislative practice is by no means limited to Asian immigrants. The very condition of deportation—wherein individuals are, due to shifting politics, contested demographics, and changing cultural dynamics, compulsorily moved out of country—is at the forefront of the expulsion of Spanish Jews in 1492; it is apparent in the forced removal of Native peoples during the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries per a larger...

  17. 13 Diaspora
    (pp. 49-54)
    Evelyn Hu-DeHart

    “Diaspora” is now a word in the popular domain, but its popularization presents challenges to the field of diaspora studies, namely how to regain some control over its meaning and parameters before it is totally reduced to a simple and simplistic essentialism denoting any kind of human mobility and scattering, or any kind of sentimental yearning by upper-class exiles. World history has been replete with diasporas, starting with the ancient Greeks who gave us the word “diaspora” (to sow or scatter) with their practice of intentionally planting colonies in other lands for cultural propagation and to advance trade. New ones...

  18. 14 Disability
    (pp. 55-56)
    Cynthia Wu

    According to theOxford English Dictionary, the first appearance of “disability” occurred in the midsixteenth century. Its adjectival form, “disabled,” follows shortly thereafter in the linguistic record. It appears that from the beginning, the three definitions of disability that persist today—“a lack of ability (to discharge any office or function),” “a physical or mental condition that limits a person’s movements, senses, or activities,” and “a restriction framed to prevent any person or class of persons from sharing in duties and privileges which would otherwise be open to them”—coexisted with one another. A now-obsolete meaning, disability as financial hardship,...

  19. 15 Discrimination
    (pp. 57-61)
    John S. W. Park

    “Discrimination” comes from the Latin prefix “dis-,” meaning “apart from” or “away from.” Its root, “crimen,” denoting “blame” or “judgment,” gives us “crime” and all of its variants. Carrying negative and positive connotations, to discriminate is to come to a judgment about something or someone or to set it apart from something else with similar characteristics. To be “discriminating” suggests a finer taste and sensibility, the ability to distinguish good from bad, and the capacity to discern desirable from undesirable. It can indicate good judgment, a kind of refinement, and even snobbery. In the context of public law, “discrimination” most...

  20. 16 Education
    (pp. 62-67)
    Shirley Hune

    In the founding era of Asian American studies, the College Edition ofWebster’s New World Dictionary of the American Languageprovided four explanations of the term “education”: (1) “the process of training and developing the knowledge, skill, mind, character, etc.”; (2) “knowledge, ability, etc. thus developed”; (3) “formal schooling” or “a kind of stage of this,” for example, higher education; and (4) “systemic study of the problems, methods, and theories of teaching and learning” (Guralnik and Friend 1968, 461). The first three features were given serious attention in the formation of Asian American studies, but only a few instructors took...

  21. 17 Empire
    (pp. 67-71)
    Moon-Ho Jung

    Empire never went away in U.S. history, but it has been making a comeback in recent years. Likening the United States of the twenty-first century to the British empire of the nineteenth century, right-wing scholars and pundits have enthusiastically extolled empire to justify and glorify colonial misdeeds of the past and the present. “In deploying American power, decisionmakers should be less apologetic, less hesitant, less humble,” Max Boot declared in 2002 with no sense of irony. “America should not be afraid to fight ‘the savage wars of peace’ if necessary to enlarge the ‘empire of liberty,’” he concluded. “It has...

  22. 18 Enclave
    (pp. 71-73)
    Yoonmee Chang

    “Enclave” when used in the context of Asian American studies is shorthand for “ethnic enclave.” The enclave as such is, broadly, a geographically distinct cluster point for a racial or ethnic group. The enclave’s political and economic structures become associated with ethnicity. In some cases, they can be accurately characterized as indigenous to, or at least historically embedded within, an ethnic group. In other cases, political and economic practices that look ethnicity based are adaptations with no inherent relationship to race and culture.

    Vis-à-vis Asian America, places that are categorized as “enclaves” are known as Chinatown, Koreatown, Little Tokyo, Little...

  23. 19 Entrepreneur
    (pp. 73-75)
    Pawan Dhingra

    Ethnic entrepreneurship supposedly symbolizes minority uplift based on principles of free choice, free markets, and limited government support. Within this neoliberal framework Asian American business owners have become yet another version of the “model minority,” a population other minorities should emulate for their hard work and resourcefulness and whose achievements indicate a meritocratic United States. Ethnic niches, that is industry- or productspecific stores commonly associated with an ethnic group, have been heralded by politicians and minority communities themselves. So, more than simply an economic term, the entrepreneur (i.e., one who finds or creates opportunities and products, often through selfemployment) is...

  24. 20 Environment
    (pp. 76-77)
    Robert T. Hayashi

    Considering the term “environment” in relation to Asian American studies is like staring at one of those optical illusions full of dots that make up a face or figure that one at first cannot discern. In both instances, the modalities of viewing provide one a limited field of vision. In the case of the optical illusion, we rely on studying a static, one-dimensional image. When discussing the relation of Asian American studies to the term “environment,” our perception is similarly restricted by the narrow meaning this term conveys since the mid- twentieth century—the natural world.

    Until the late twentieth...

  25. 21 Ethnicity
    (pp. 78-81)
    Rick Bonus

    Ethnicity appears prominently among Asian Americans and in Asian American studies as a basis for the group’s and field’s inaugural formation in the 1960s, when participants in the later period of the civil rights movement advocated for the coherence of several Asian-descent and historically affiliated populations into one coalition. Even though one may argue that “Asian American” itself is mostly thought of as a racebased designation, people with different ethnic origins comprise this category, thereby making ethnicity undisputedly a marker that is racialized in the same fashion as other ethnicities within certain racialized categories are collectively configured. Examples of ethnic...

  26. 22 Exclusion
    (pp. 82-87)
    Greg Robinson

    Within the field of Asian American studies, exclusion is a leitmotif that brings together collective histories of immigration restriction, detention, mass confinement, and citizenship denial. It expresses the organized forces, based in both state and private action, that have marginalized Asian Americans, and against which they have had to struggle, first to be permitted to enter the United States at all, and then to become accepted within the larger society.

    To understand Asian exclusion, it is necessary to look at the larger history of ethnic stratification in the United States. From the time of their first settlement, Euro-Americans determined that...

  27. 23 Family
    (pp. 87-92)
    Evelyn Nakano Glenn

    In popular usage, the ideal family unit is a nuclear household consisting of a mother, father, and children residing together. However, the U.S. Census Bureau defines the family more broadly as “two or more people (one of whom is the householder) related by birth, marriage, or adoption residing in the same housing unit.” In other contexts, “family” may refer to (all) those related by blood or marriage, regardless of whether or not they live under the same roof. Societies differ in how they reckon blood relationships. They may recognize kinship through only the male line (patrilineal), only the female line...

  28. 24 Film
    (pp. 92-94)
    Jigna Desai

    Asian American studies has long engaged with how films constitute and contribute to the formation of public cultures (zones of cultural debate). More specifically, scholars have turned to films to examine public culture as a “space between domestic life and the projects of the nation-state—where different social groups … constitute their identities by their experience of mass-mediated forms in relation to the practices of everyday life” (Appadurai and Breckenridge 1995, 4–5). Film is recognized as a significant institution for establishing and maintaining a racial order within the American nation and empire. Asian American cultural criticism elaborates upon the significance...

  29. 25 Food
    (pp. 95-97)
    Anita Mannur

    InThe Year of the DragonAsian American playwright Frank Chin narrates the story of Fred Eng, a Chinese American tour guide who makes his living by taking white American tourists through the crowded streets of San Francisco’s Chinatown. Fred is continually frustrated by his job, which requires him to pander to Orientalist fantasies about Chinese Americans that lead to easy conflations of Chinatown with China, eliding the racial histories that mark Chinese Americans as Americans. To be heard, he must speak in terms that the mainstream understands. For Eng this means talking about food. “Food’s our only common language,”...

  30. 26 Foreign
    (pp. 98-101)
    Karen Leong

    A word already in use in Europe from at least the 14th century with multiple meanings related to the status of being outside, not familiar, or different (OED), “foreign” likewise has multiple meanings within the field of Asian American studies, including “not American,” “outsider,” “noncitizen,” or “alien.” The term is deeply embedded in U.S. racial formations specifically relating to Asian Americans, and as such often slips between connotations of nation, citizenship status, race, and cultural difference.

    “Foreign” may more generally refer to that which is outside the borders of a nation. In the United States, the word “foreign” was written...

  31. 27 Fusion
    (pp. 101-104)
    Mari Matsuda

    In physics, fusion is the collision of nuclei generating the power of the stars. The term “fusion” is used generally to mean “combination.” In the surface realms of culture, “fusion” is pabulum jazz, celebrity chefs dabbling in “Pacific Rim” seasoning, or an Univision media venture. It is described in a brand launch as “fun, fresh, and even irreverent,” as though “irreverent” is the outer edge of what one might do with fusion. Applied to Asian Americans, however, “fusion” retrieves the usage from physics. It is about the creation of radical change through the politics of coalition, wherein each part brings...

  32. 28 Gender
    (pp. 105-109)
    Judy Tzu-Chun Wu

    The term “gender” has multiple meanings and intellectual usages. Gender generally refers to the socially constructed nature of sex roles. The concept of gender challenges biologically essentialist understandings of maleness and femaleness, asserting instead that normative understandings of masculinity and femininity are socially defined ideas projected onto biological differences. Because women’s studies scholars have had a vested interest in challenging naturalized and hierarchical differences between men and women, gender is sometimes used interchangeably with the category of woman. That is, studies of gender are at times primarily focused on women. However, scholars have also used gender to argue for the...

  33. 29 Generation
    (pp. 110-114)
    Andrea Louie

    “Generation” is often defined as the time span between birth cohorts. Correspondingly, generational divisions may be spaced according to age differences between grandparents, their children, and their grandchildren. In this sense, the length of a “generation” is determined by the age mothers give birth to their children. However, “generation” also invokes shared experiences and identities that define birth cohorts. In the context of immigration, “generation” encompasses differences between the experiences and relationships of immigrants born abroad and those born in the country of settlement.

    Economic, political, and legal factors shape immigration patterns and the experiences of various generations. These factors...

  34. 30 Genocide
    (pp. 115-118)
    Khatharya Um

    Writing about genocide, Leo Kuper noted: “the word is new, the crime ancient” (1981, 9). While the annals of history are replete with mass killings and the deliberate, virtual decimation of communities, the term “genocide,” which is derived from the Greek word genos, meaning “race” or “people,” and the Latin word c.dere, “to kill,” was first articulated by Raphael Lemkin in 1944. InAxis Rule in Occupied Europehe defined genocide as “a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves” (1944,...

  35. 31 Globalization
    (pp. 119-120)
    Robyn Magalit Rodriguez

    “Globalization” is a term used by academics, political figures, and activists to describe changes in economic, political, and cultural life due to accelerated flows of capital, goods, media, and people across borders (Appadurai 2000; D. Harvey 2007; Lowe and Lloyd 1997). Another term used to describe these changes is “transnationalism” (Basch et al. 1994; Ong 1999). “Transnationalism” is sometimes used to identify processes and practices engaged in by ordinary people or social movements, whereas “globalization” is used to identify processes and practices engaged in by more powerful world actors like governments or multinational corporations (Guarnizo and Smith 1998).

    Globalization is...

  36. 32 Health
    (pp. 121-124)
    Grace J. Yoo

    Health is defined as the absence of injury or illness. This definition incorporates multiple spheres of wellness including the physical, mental, spiritual, and social. To understand wellness of Asian Americans and within Asian American studies, the multiple dimensions of well-being, recovery, and healing need to be considered. Of utmost importance is to hear the voices of diverse Asian American communities in the process of comprehending the true meaning of wellness and health for Asian Americans. Although scholars in various disciplines have argued that race is not a valid biological or scientific concept, “race” and racialization continue to act as important...

  37. 33 Identity
    (pp. 125-127)
    Jennifer Ho

    “Identity” is a term that simultaneously unites and divides Asian Americans. Those with Asian ancestry in the United States are united in this demographic label through the political reality of the history of racialization (exclusionary immigration and naturalization laws, restrictive marriage laws, mass xenophobic incarceration) that Asians in America have been subjected to (and continue to be subjected to) and by activist and academic beliefs in making visible the experiences and histories of Asian Americans within the larger U.S. society. Asian Americans are divided by the different types of identities that exceed this singular racial label—by differences of ethnicity,...

  38. 34 Immigration
    (pp. 128-133)
    Shelley Sang-Hee Lee

    In Asian American studies and other academic fields, “immigration” describes a process of movement across national borders, long an important part of our understanding of U.S. social experience. The early twentieth century saw the emergence of immigration as a field of study, as scholars sought to explain large-scale movements and adaptations involved in the peopling of the United States. In recent decades, inquiries extended beyond people’s journeys to and initial encounters in America to also examine issues of ethnicity, community, and processes of “becoming American.” In legal discussion, immigration concerns a related yet different set of matters, specifically those involving...

  39. 35 Incarceration
    (pp. 133-138)
    Lane Ryo Hirabayashi

    Internment, like incarceration, is a bona fide keyword insofar as it is still practiced in the twenty-first-century United States. Internment entails the confinement of members of a politically suspect group without trial in an effort to isolate, contain, regulate, deprive, stigmatize, and dehumanize, sometimes reeducate, and possibly deport if not kill them. What most immediately distinguishes internment from incarceration per se is that at a technical as well as a legal level, “internment” refers specifically to government policies enacted against foreign nationals. While current research on populations of color in confinement—specifically African Americans, American Indians, Chicanos/as, and Puerto Ricans,...

  40. 36 Labor
    (pp. 139-144)
    Sucheng Chan

    The word “labor” is a fraught one in Asian American history because it has distilled and encapsulated complicated and sometimes strident normative debates over the nature of Asian labor in the United States. How Asian labor has been used and treated by white employers and how that use has been denigrated, condemned, and opposed by white workers, their labor union leaders, politicians, and large segments of the public have been important issues not only in Asian American history but also in U.S. history more broadly. A central theme in the anti-Asian movements that persisted for almost a century was the...

  41. 37 Law
    (pp. 144-148)
    Neil Gotanda

    The scope, significance, and depth of thinking on the law is difficult to overstate. Ancient religious traditions, the oldest forms of commerce and contract, the earliest recorded forms of government—all embrace notions of law. In modern society, legal thinking can be seen in virtually every aspect of our lives. Within Asian American studies, there is widespread acceptance and use of legal documents and legal categories. Yet little attention has been paid to studying as well as using these pervasive elements embedded in so many aspects of our discipline.

    To begin such a study, three themes in modern jurisprudence are...

  42. 38 Media
    (pp. 149-153)
    Shilpa Davé

    The word “media” is fundamentally about the power and control over the dissemination of information in mass culture. The intersections between Asian American studies and media explore Asian American cultural production and representation from the joint perspective of global culture and American cultural trends. The term “media” first appeared in the midnineteenth century, but the word takes its roots from the Greek language, where it is related to aspects of performance and literally means “voiced stop” (OED). The more common usage of “media,” related to communicating with the masses, developed in the 1920s. “The media” was associated with reporters, journalists,...

  43. 39 Memory
    (pp. 153-157)
    Viet Thanh Nguyen

    Memory is fundamental to Asian American studies and cultures, even though as a keyword or term it has not been significant in the academic realm. Its importance holds true whether one speaks of Asian American culture as a self-identified panethnic whole, or Asian American cultures in their various ethnic parts. In either the panethnic or ethnic case, memory enables the formation of an Asian American “imagined community” (B. Anderson 1991). The Asian American panethnic community (Y. Espiritu 1992), the one that names itself as Asian American, is in particular an imagined community dependent on strategies of remembering and forgetting to...

  44. 40 Militarism
    (pp. 157-160)
    Vernadette Vicuña Gonzalez

    Militarism is a founding value of the United States: in defense of the right to own (and wrest away) property, later patriotically recast as “American interests,” the turn to a state- funded military and the threat or implementation of armed aggression have been crucial. Arguably, militarism had its early iterations in the colonial era, before the United States of America was even a political entity. The ways European settlers executed a practice of land theft and the indigenous genocide that intensified during the period known as the Indian Wars influenced how U.S. militarism would be turned to Asia, Asians, and...

  45. 41 Minority
    (pp. 161-165)
    Crystal Parikh

    One day after the 2012 presidential election, Bill O’Reilly (2012), conservative commentator for the Fox News network, declared, “the white establishment is now the minority,” to explain how the nation’s first black president, Barak Obama, was able to win a second term in office. In response to O’Reilly’s proclamation,New York Timesop-ed columnist Charles Blow (2012) explained that, in fact, white Americans are projected to remain the majority racial population in the United States until 2043. Blow nonetheless acknowledged, “The browning of America is very real and unrelenting.” Pondering the “meaning of minority,” Blow also suggested that the imminent...

  46. 42 Movement
    (pp. 165-168)
    Daryl Joji Maeda

    Although the keyword “movement” can bring to mind a variety of meanings—migration, transnationalism, and diaspora, to name a few—in the field of Asian American studies, “movement” is most often joined with “Asian American” to form a label for the political assemblage known as the “Asian American movement.” Fortuitously, the social movement connotation of “movement” also accords with the sense of the word that suggests flux rather than stasis, for the Asian American movement was constructed and evolved over time.

    Politically active Asian Americans began to use the word “movement” even prior to the coining of the term “Asian...

  47. 43 Multiculturalism
    (pp. 169-173)
    James Kyung-Jin Lee

    While what one might call the multicultural mode or inclination first entered the verbal imagination in the United States in 1935, theOEDdoes not recognize its nominal usage until 1957; “multiculturalism” found its way and allied to multilingualism in the journalHispania. But before the term entered the lexicon, and certainly before it became part of a popular if not normative understanding of how to negotiate cultural difference, it was quite the vexed notion. In 1784, J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur publishedLetters from an American Farmer, which includes the now famous chapter “What Is an American?” to...

  48. 44 Multiracial
    (pp. 174-177)
    Rebecca Chiyoko King-O’Riain

    According to theOxford English Dictionary, “multiracial” means “made up of or relating to people of many races.” Coming into common use in the mid- 1920s, “multiracial” initially referred primarily to relationships that spanned across racial groups or collectives of monoracial people from different racial groups. But this word has shifted meaning in the United States, particularly over the last 80 years. In the contemporary era, “multiracial” began in the late 1980s and early 1990s to refer more specifically to people of mixed racial and ethnic descent as individuals, i.e., multiracial or mixed- race people and identities. Many, more specific...

  49. 45 Nationalism
    (pp. 178-181)
    Richard S. Kim

    “Nationalism” is a term fraught with multiple and complex meanings. TheOEDdefines nationalism as “advocacy of or support for national independence or self-determination” that “usually refers to a specific ideology, esp. one expressed through political activism.” This definition provides a useful starting point for examining nationalism as a keyword in Asian American studies. Indeed, nationalism has been central to the intellectual and political project of Asian American studies from its inception through its subsequent trajectory. Using nationalism as a keyword thus offers a productive means to chart a critical genealogy of Asian American studies that traces its key interventions,...

  50. 46 Orientalism
    (pp. 182-185)
    Sylvia Shin Huey Chong

    Had the activists of the late 1960s christened themselves “Orientals” instead of “Asian Americans,” we might be calling this volume “Keywords in Oriental American Studies.” This alternate history is not so unlikely, for both terms expressed a similar desire for a pan- Asian coalition, and both were more inclusive than the skincolor- based calls for “yellow” or “brown” power. One of the first Asian American studies classes taught by Yuji Ichioka at UCLA in 1969 was entitled “Orientals in America,” and the UCLA student group Sansei Concern initially changed its name to Oriental Concern in 1968 to accommodate more ethnic...

  51. 47 Performance
    (pp. 185-189)
    Josephine Lee

    “Performance” can mean the everyday accomplishment of a task or function, or acting in special contexts such as plays, music, or sports. The first meaning links “performance” to the fulfillment of social roles; in both cases, instances of “performance” reference and reiterate the conventions of meaning that define communities, societies, or nations (“as American as [eating] apple pie”). Scholars have adopted the term “performative” (derived from language philosopher J. L. Austin’s “performative utterance” inHow to Do Things with Words[1962]) to good effect in analyzing the everyday enactments that constitute aspects of identity such as gender, sexuality, class, and...

  52. 48 Politics
    (pp. 189-195)
    Janelle Wong

    “Politics” is a term that is used broadly in Asian American studies. Scholars might refer to cultural politics or the politics of identity (Takagi 1994; Maira 2000; L. Lowe 1996), or they might refer to the political representation (J. Lai 2011; Lai and Geron 2006; W. Tam 1995) and participation of Asian Americans in civic, governmental, and institutional settings (Cain, Kiewiet, and Uhlaner 1991; Nakanishi 1991; Ong and Nakanishi 1996; Lien 1997; Janelle Wong et al. 2011). In part, the use of the term depends on the discipline, but for all, the term “politics” refers to processes or sites in...

  53. 49 Postcolonialism
    (pp. 195-197)
    Allan Punzalan Isaac

    Emerging from literary studies, postcolonial criticism initially examined how the experience of, negotiation with, and resistance to formal colonialism have shaped national cultures and literatures emerging from the former British empire (Ashcroft 1989). The consideration of subjects and subjectivity impacted by imperial incursions and fantasies, as explored in Edward Said’sOrientalism(1978), has resonance for multiple populations from Asia with varied colonial legacies that have come to enter the political coalition called Asian America. The postcolonial signals the colonial legacy as part of the cultural heterogeneity and hybridity lived by ethnic groups such as South Asians from the different parts...

  54. 50 Queer
    (pp. 197-202)
    Martin F. Manalansan IV

    “Queer” has become a ubiquitous term in quotidian, scholarly, mass media, and political discourses to characterize and name things, relationships, situations, practices, and bodies from TV shows such asQueer Eye for the Straight Guyto academic endeavors such as queer studies. Its pervasiveness has resulted in messy contexts and situations as it is deployed in multiple and oftentimes contradictory ways. In its various uses, “queer” is and can be a vernacular word, a political idiom, and an academic field of study. The crux of the contentious nature of “queer” is whether the right question is “what is queer?” or...

  55. 51 Race
    (pp. 202-207)
    Junaid Rana

    Race is a key concept in the formation of Asian American studies as a political project and an intellectual field. Throughout U.S. history, Asians have been racially cast through the narratives of empire, war, and migration. The racial logic of yellow peril, enemy aliens, model minority, and now the enemy combatant are part of a genealogy that represents Asian Americans as potential threats to the American way of life—a euphemism for modernity, capitalism, and white supremacy (e.g., Okihiro 1994, 118–47). Similarly, race in relationship to representations of gender and sexuality has historically been used to demean Asian Americans, rendering...

  56. 52 Refugee
    (pp. 208-211)
    Yên Lê Espiritu

    In the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, reporters, politicians, and media commentators used the term “refugee” to describe the tens of thousands of storm victims, many of whom were poor African Americans, who were uprooted from their homes and forced to flee in search of refuge. Almost immediately, prominent African American leaders, including Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, charged that the use of “refugee” to refer to Katrina survivors was “racially biased,” contending that the term implies second-class citizens—or even non-Americans (Sommers et al. 2006, 40–41). For these critics, “refugeeness” connotes “otherness,” summoning the image of “people...

  57. 53 Religion
    (pp. 211-215)
    David Kyuman Kim

    Religion is a synthetic concept for Asian American studies. It represents much of what animates and vexes Asian American studies as a discipline and Asian Americans in their everyday lives, especially in light of the dynamic flux and flow of the alchemy of identity. Deploying religion as a keyword in Asian American studies demands making accounts of generic sociological data such as religious affiliation, the racializing cunning of Orientalism, the American cultural preferential option for Christianity, and the tenacious presence of white supremacy. Situating religion in a racial discourse about Asian America will inevitably reveal racist associations with the “Oriental”...

  58. 54 Resistance
    (pp. 216-219)
    Monisha Das Gupta

    Resistance has a different valence in physics, biology, the social sciences, and the humanities, but each usage alludes to withstanding or opposing a force, power, or pathogen. The onlineDictionary of Critical Theory(Buchanan 2012) helpfully steers us away from the desire to fix the definition of resistance, and, instead, encourages us to treat the concept as a “problematic” or a “theoretical starting point that is at once perplexing and productive.” Many scholars in the humanities and social sciences have been deeply influenced by one such starting point: philosopher Michel Foucault’s formulation, “Where there is power, there is resistance, and...

  59. 55 Riot
    (pp. 220-224)
    Edward J. W. Park

    The term “riot” occupies a central yet complicated place within Asian American studies. In its historical usage, the term signifies the critical importance of collective acts of violence that terrorized Asian immigrants and forced them to evacuate and retreat from various geographic regions and areas of social life. Anti- Asian race riots began soon after the first significant population of Chinese immigrants arrived in California, beginning with the 1849 California Gold Rush and lasting through the Great Depression, when Filipino farmworkers were targeted and attacked in various farming communities. Today, in Asian American studies, the term is most closely associated...

  60. 56 Sexuality
    (pp. 224-228)
    Martin Joseph Ponce

    In contemporary usage, “sexuality” refers to sexual orientation or the direction of an individual’s desire. It is closely entwined with but also separable from biological sex (male, female, intersex) and gender expression (masculinity, femininity, transgender). The categories of heterosexuality, homosexuality, and bisexuality are based on a binary sex/gender system and are defined by an individual’s object choice. Prior to this modern sense of sexuality as denoting erotic preferences and tastes, however, engaging in certain sexual acts did not necessarily entail definite sexual identities. It is not until the nineteenth and twentieth centuries through the work of sexologists, psychoanalysts, and state...

  61. 57 Terrorism
    (pp. 228-232)
    Rajini Srikanth

    “Terrorism” comes from the Latin wordterrorem, meaning “great fear, dread.” TheOxford English Dictionary(1971) marks 1795 as the first time the word was used, in the phrase “reign of terrorism,” to refer to the “government by intimidation as directed and carried out by the party in power in France during the Revolution of 1789–94.” The reference is to Maximilian Robespierre, a member of the Jacobin political club that overthrew the French monarchy; Robespierre terrorized opponents who, in his view, undermined the objectives of the revolution (Mayer 2000; Žižek 2011).

    Terrorism seeks the following outcomes: “regime change, territorial...

  62. 58 Transnationalism
    (pp. 232-234)
    Lan P. Duong

    “Transnationalism” is a term used in many disciplines: the social sciences, anthropology, sociology, international law, economics, feminist studies, and cultural studies. A prominent keyword in these fields, it is nonetheless a contested term. Although there have always been the transnational phenomena of migration and movement, transnationalism—as it is commonly used today—expresses a contemporary condition, one that is vitally associated with a post- Fordist economy, finance capital, and flexible accumulation. This is especially marked in the ways that globalized corporations, large- scale flows of capital and information, and migratory workforces have become more dominant within late capitalist modernity. In...

  63. 59 Trauma
    (pp. 235-238)
    Cathy J. Schlund-Vials

    According to theOxford English Dictionary, “trauma” (noun) refers to “a wound or external bodily injury in general; also the condition caused by this.” Shifting from the physical to the psychological, “trauma” analogously denotes “a psychic injury, esp. one caused by emotional shock the memory of which is repressed and remains unhealed.” In adjectival form, “traumatic” signifies the following: “of, pertaining to, or caused by a psychic wound or emotional shock, esp. leading to or causing behavioral disturbance.” Within recent memory, these “psychic wounds” and “emotional shocks” are inextricably linked to war and stateauthorized mass violence. As Cathy Caruth avers...

  64. 60 War
    (pp. 238-243)
    K. Scott Wong

    War is a fundamental component of the human experience; indeed, across cultures, some of the earliest examples of oral and written traditions deal with warfare. Chris Hedges asserts, “war forms its own culture … it is peddled by mythmakers—historians, war correspondents, filmmakers, novelists, and the state—all of whom endow it with qualities it often does possess: excitement, exoticism, power, chances to rise above our small stations in life.… It dominates culture, distorts memory, corrupts language, and infects everything around it” (2002, 3). Taking the concept of war in the conventional sense, an armed conflict between two or more...

  65. 61 Yellow
    (pp. 244-246)
    Robert Ji-Song Ku

    Per a basic dictionary definition, yellow is a component of light, the most luminous of the primary colors, occurring in the spectrum between green and orange, with a wavelength between 570 and 590 nanometers. Part of growing up in the United States is to eventually begin associating a handful of basic colors with racial categories and, along with them, prescriptive notions of race. Together with the cognate colors white, black, red, and brown, yellow has come to signify a major racial category in the United States.

    The etymology of “yellow,” in its simplest color sense, begins with the Old English...

  66. Bibliography
    (pp. 247-284)
  67. About the Contributors
    (pp. 285-292)