AA101: A  series presenting the quick bullet points of Asian American Studies


What’s the big deal about Orientalization?


Resisting Orientalization seems nit-picky until:


Consequence of being perceived as “Orientals:” 


Why is this so?

  • Assimilation thesis: you can take people from somewhere else, plant them on American soil, and they will become American.
      • Term origins: University of Chicago, School of Sociology (1930s)
  • Problem with the assimilation thesis: Asians will always be Asian.
      • At best we are “honorary whites.”
          • This is not good either because:
                • We will cease to contribute to our own communities.
                • It is still a racialized category.
                • It still paints us as “perpetual foreigners.”

Mia Tuan, Forever Foreigners or Honorary Whites?: The Asian Ethnic Experience Today (1999)
The press portrayed Olympic ice skaters Kristy Yamaguchi and Michelle Kwan as “forever foreigners” when they didn't do well and as “honorary whites” when they won.


What is the big deal?

  • The big deal is : PERCEPTION shapes PUBLIC OPINION which shapes POLICY
    in a democratic society.
  • If you are viewed as a foreigner:
      • You don’t need public funds.
          • If you are a “model minority” you don’t need public resources. We can cut your funding.
      • You don’t need laws to protect you.
      • Injustices don’t need to be corrected.
          • You don’t need reparations or affirmative action.


Janelle Wong, Democracy's Promise: Immigrants and American Civic Institutions (The Politics of Race and Ethnicity) (2006)
Asian Americans want to participate in the political process because of the promise of democracy. We do participate but we do so in ways the American public doesn't perceive to be political participation.
Don Nakanishi, “Asian American Politics,” Amerasia Journal 12:2 (1986), 1-27.
We think Asian Americans do not participate in politics because our definition of politics is skewed. While few electoral candidates run for office and our vote counts are low, we engage in community organizing and transnational politics. We do seek to transform our homelands with our American agenda.


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ASIANAMERICANCHRISTIAN.ORG primarily asks how we are to be, think and respond to being Asian, American and Christian in Christ. Towards this end, we are extremely interested to learn from others and hear viewpoints different from our own. Please note that the views represented here are not necessarily those of ASIANAMERICANCHRISTIAN.ORG.

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