Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Displacements and Diasporas

Displacements and Diasporas: Asians in the Americas

Copyright Date: 2005
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 312
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Displacements and Diasporas
    Book Description:

    Asians have settled in every country in the Western Hemisphere; some are recent arrivals, other descendents of immigrants who arrived centuries ago. Bringing together essays by thirteen scholars from the humanities and social sciences, Displacements and Diasporas explores this genuinely transnational Asian American experience-one that crosses the Pacific and traverses the Americas from Canada to Brazil, from New York to the Caribbean.With an emphasis on anthropological and historical contexts, the essays show how the experiences of Asians across the Americas have been shaped by the social dynamics and politics of settlement locations as much as by transnational connections and the economic forces of globalization. Contributors bring new insights to the unique situations of Asian communities previously overlooked by scholars, such as Vietnamese Canadians and the Lao living in Rhode Island. Other topics include Chinese laborers and merchants in Latin America and the Caribbean, Japanese immigrants and their descendants in Brazil, Afro-Amerasians in America, and the politics of second-generation Indian American youth culture.Together the essays provide a valuable comparative portrait of Asians across the Americas. Engaging issues of diaspora, transnational social practice and community building, gender, identity, institutionalized racism, and deterritoriality, this volume presents fresh perspectives on displacement, opening the topic up to a wider, more interdisciplinary terrain of inquiry and teaching.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-3751-1
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. PART ONE Frameworks

    • 1 Asian American Displacements
      (pp. 3-22)

      With an optimistic nod toward the new millennium, Quan Nguyen voices the hopes of a newly arrived Vietnamese, one of almost half a million refugees from the wars in Southeast Asia. Quan Nguyen and many other immigrants from Asia have imagined the Americas as the new “land of opportunity,” the “Golden Mountains,” or a “safe haven.” As Mrs. Fu Lee, an immigrant seamstress from Hong Kong testifies, however, for large numbers of them the realities of life and work in America are harshly at odds with these dreams. Quan Nguyen and Fu Lee are among the millions of migrants who...

    • 2 Diaspora, Transnationalism, and Asian American Studies: Positions and Debates
      (pp. 23-38)

      It should come as no surprise that the borders of Asian America are not synonymous with the borders of the United States of America. Sucheta Mazumdar’s often-quoted declaration that “the very genesis of Asian American Studies was international” (Mazumdar 1991, 40) underscores the ever-present, but always shifting, awareness of the transnational dimensions of the field, an awareness that exists in tension with its domestic preoccupations.¹ Mazumdar argues that the U.S.-centric focus of Asian American Studies can be traced back to the work of the Chicago school of sociologists led by Robert Park, whose paradigms of immigrant assimilation continue to influence...

  5. PART TWO Displacements and Diasporas:: Historical and Cultural Studies Perspectives

    • 3 Diasporas, Displacements, and the Construction of Transnational Identities
      (pp. 41-53)

      In the midst the First World War, the American social critic Randolph S. Bourne (1886–1918) published an essay that went against the grain of the widespread calls for active Americanization and national conformity through the suppression of the articulation of ethnic identities. In the face of that international crisis, Bourne resisted the notion that immigrants were required to cast their lot into the American “melting pot” and to leave behind their cultures of origin. Instead, Bourne sought to broaden Americans’ understanding of their relationship to the rest of the world, advocating that notions of “citizenship” were not necessarily bound...

    • 4 Images of the Chinese in West Indian History
      (pp. 54-77)

      The Chinese who entered the British West Indies in the middle and late nineteenth century formed a marginal but distinct part of the global dispersal of southern Chinese characteristic of the period. Next to those in the United States, on the one hand, and in Cuba and Peru, on the other, they formed the third largest regional grouping of Chinese arrivals to the Western Hemisphere in mid-century. About 15,000 arrived in British Guiana, with just under 3,000 going to Trinidad and Jamaica, to work as indentured laborers in the sugar industry. In the last decade of the century, these immigrants...

    • 5 On Coolies and Shopkeepers: The Chinese as Huagong (Laborers) and Huashang (Merchants) in Latin America/Caribbean
      (pp. 78-111)

      For almost twenty-five years I have been studying the history of migration and settlement of the Chinese in a part of the world not commonly associated with Chinese diaspora studies, or, as the study of Chinese migration and resettlement is known outside the United States. Overseas Chinese Studies (huaqiao shi). Although the Chinese in the United States and even in Canada have constituted a central focus of the field, the rest of the Americas—that is, Latin America and the Caribbean—have been largely ignored until very recently. Similarly, for the most part, the field of Latin American/Caribbean Studies has...

    • 6 From Japanese to Nikkei and Back: Integration Strategies of Japanese Immigrants and Their Descendants in Brazil
      (pp. 112-121)

      1. In the early 1920s, Hachiro Fukuhara, a wealthy businessperson from Japan, decided to set up a farming colony in the Amazon that would be populated by Japanese immigrants. He returned from an exploratory trip to area north of Blem do Pára, at the mouth of the river, claiming that Brazil was “founded by Asiatics” since “the natives who live along the River Amazon look exactly like the Japanese. There is also a close resemblance between them in manners and customs … [and] a certain Chinese secretary in the German Embassy at Rio [has] made a careful study [of language] and...

    • 7 In the Black Pacific: Testimonies of Vietnamese Afro-Amerasian Displacements
      (pp. 122-156)

      American critical inquiries of the lived-experience of blackness continue to explore the inherent heterogeneity of African diasporas, yet such inquiries focus almost exclusively within a specific spatio-temporal site.¹ This transnational and transcultural site, which is more commonly known today as the “Black Atlantic,” is a symptomatic formation of the transculturation of many African diasporic cultures, linked primarily by the history of the Atlantic slave trade: it overlaps and connects black cultures in the Caribbean, Europe, Africa, and the Americas.² Beyond the Black Atlantic, however, another counterhegemonic discourse emerges and calls attention to the need for American literary and cultural studies...

  6. PART THREE Displacements and Diasporas:: Anthropological Perspectives

    • 8 Lived Simultaneity and Discourses of Diasporic Difference
      (pp. 159-169)

      It is one thing to speak of diasporas, ethnoscapes, hybridity, and transnational communities, and quite another to carefully research the life worlds, performance of culture, and social relationships of migrants and their children. Whether we begin that exploration through participant observation or ethnographic interviews, as soon as we begin to examine how migrants and their descendants live their lives, we move beyond the domain of diasporic discourse and confront the complexity of the migrant experience. Concepts of assimilation versus diasporic identities, situational or multiple identities—in fact any discussion of migration solely in terms of identities, values, norms, or cultural...

    • 9 From Refugees to Transmigrants: The Vietnamese in Canada
      (pp. 170-193)

      According to the Canadian federal census, some 137,000 residents of Canada claimed a single or multiple Vietnamese ethnic origin in 1996. Without debating the accuracy of this figure—Canada had only 94,000 Vietnamese in 1991, and births and new arrivals could in no way have reached a total of 43,000 over the following five years—it shows that people from Vietnam now constitute a sizeable group among Canadian immigrants. Even when those Vietnamese who define themselves primarily as Chinese or Khmer from Vietnam are left out of statistics, we remain with around 100,000 ethnic Vietnamese living in Canada. Cities such...

    • 10 Between Necessity and Choice: Rhode Island Lao American Women
      (pp. 194-226)

      As one of the most recent Asian groups to arrive in the United States, Lowland Lao have received limited attention politically, educationally, and in public awareness. The perception that the Lowland Lao in Columbus, Ohio, have of themselves as the “forgotten refugees,” as cited by Muir (1988, 8), is not far from the truth. Despite this apparent neglect, Lowland Lao from a variety of socioeconomic classes, levels of education, and past experiences are no less committed than other Asian groups to adapting to life in America—a new country with new socioeconomic and political environments, new cultures, and different value...

    • 11 Mixed Desires: Second-Generation Indian Americans and the Politics of Youth Culture
      (pp. 227-248)

      One of the major questions driving the study on which this chapter is based is: What are the ways in which “being Indian” is (re)produced in the second generation, and how is national identity and culture recreated in the diaspora? My research intersedes with work on diasporic experiences in two ways; first, by using youth culture as a site in which to think about questions of cultural displacement, national reimaginings, and the politics of nostalgia in material contexts. Studies of Asian diasporic communities in the United States often view youth primarily through the lens of their reproduction of “ancestral cultures,”...

  7. PART FOUR Opening the Dialogue

    • 12 Crossing Borders of Disciplines and Departments
      (pp. 251-255)

      The admonition to “think globally, act locally” has become something of a cliché over the past decade. Yet the current crisis, the putative “global war on terrorism,” is a sharp reminder that the experiences of displacement examined in the preceding chapters continue to take place on a terrain of intense struggle. The two chapters introduced here, Nancy Abelmann’s “Anthropology, Asian Studies, Asian American Studies: Open Systems, Closed Minds” and Epifanio San Juan Jr.’s “The Ordeal of Ethnic Studies in the Age of Globalization,” explore the epistemological, ethical, and political implications of displacement and transnational studies for our intellectual commitments and...

    • 13 Anthropology, Asian Studies, Asian American Studies: Open Systems, Closed Minds
      (pp. 256-269)

      A series of papers written in 1957 and 1958 culminated in prominent British anthropologist Max Gluckman’s 1964 edited volume,Closed Systems and Open Minds: The Limits of Naivety in Social Anthropology. The subtitle of this chapter inverts that title: open systems and closed minds. That early volume’s methodological interest in how anthropologists define and delimit their “field”—both in the disciplinary and ethnographic sense (that is, field site)—was indeed prescient of debates to come in anthropology (for example, Gupta and Ferguson 1992; Lavie and Swedenburg 1996). Gluckman and collaborators (Devons and Gluckman 1964a, 15) champion naiveté—the treatment of...

    • 14 The Ordeal of Ethnic Studies in the Age of Globalization
      (pp. 270-290)
      E. SAN JUAN JR.

      After September 11, 2001, reflections on ethnic and racial conflicts in the “homeland” have automatically undergone surveillance and security checks. But is this a new situation? Have we, people of color in the racial polity, ever been truly released from such emergency measures? In any case, I want to frame the following discourse in the context of what precedes it: the killing of Filipino-American Joseph Ileto by a white supremacist in 1999 and the trial of Chinese-American scientist Wen Ho Lee, and what occurred after the destruction of the World Trade Center—the murder, ostracism, and continuing harassment of thousands...

    (pp. 291-294)
  9. INDEX
    (pp. 295-301)