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Early adopters, like young people, see right through a lot of coercive methods of attracting eyeballs through online campaigns. However, these users are also deeply moved by methods of engagement that hit them close to home and make them feel empowered and fired-up about something. When we at 18 Million Rising roll out a campaign that gets people not just talking about and sharing our content, but adding their own, that’s the biggest win we can get. It means we’re tapping into something that’s already there but needs to be articulated in a way that’s accessible and meaningful.
I don’t think specialized knowledge is required to see and understand this “win” when it happens, but I do think that my background in media criticism and theory has helped me make this distinction between coercive and empowering technologies.
I arrived at my understanding of these things via critical theory, and much of my work is deeply rooted in my scholarly work with Walter Benjamin, the Frankfurt School, and also critical race and gender studies. I’d like to think my commitments to empowering users, resisting racism and sexism, and building what Benjamin called “housing for the dreaming collective” for the digital age comes through in my work. I wouldn’t have those touchstones without my theory background.
Recently, the call to go “beyond Black and White” in discussions of race has
become something of a mantra in scholarly circles. The conventional trope of
“two nations, Black and White”-crafted and reproduced over the past halfcentury
by Gunnar Myrdal, the Kerner Commission, Andrew Hacker, and others-
seems increasingly outdated as unprecedented levels of Asian and Latin
American immigration continue to diversify the U.S. population. While the multiracial composition of the American populace has always given the lie to a bipolar racial framework, these post-1965 demographic changes have thrown the framework’s shortcomings into especially bold relief. But what does it mean to go
“beyond Black and White” in thinking about race? As with most ritualistic exhortations, the need to do something is more apparent than how it is to be done.
Scholars have adopted two broad approaches to going “beyond Black and
White,” both of which, in my view, have certain shortcofuings. The first approach,
which I call the different trajectories approach, examines racialization (or the
creation and characterization of racial categories) as an open-ended, variable
process that has played out differently for each subordinated group. Michael
Omi and Howard Winant’s discussion of distinct and independent group
trajectories-“Native Americans faced genocide, blacks were subjected to racial
slavery, Mexicans were invaded and colonized, and Asians faced exclusion”—exemplifies this approach.! As David Theo Goldberg notes about
this approach, “the presumption of a single monolithic racism is being displaced
by a mapping of the multifarious historical formulations of racism. The second approach, which I call the racial hierarchy approach, emphasizes the ordering of groups into a single scale of status and privilege with Whites on the top, Blacks on the bottom, and all other groups somewhere in between. Gary Okihiro’s argument that Asian Americans have been rendered an intermediate group on America’s bipolar racial scale and Mari Matsuda’s claim that Asian Americans constitute a “racial bourgeoisie” imply such a hierarchy (although both authors are more concerned with the implications of Asian Americans’ intermediate status than they are with the overall notion of hierarchy itself). These two broad approaches are not necessarily mutually exclusive: Tomas Almaguer, for instance, addresses both the “differential racialization” of various groups and the single racial hierarchy that these processes produced in a particular time and place.
The shortcomings of both approaches suggest that the mandate to go “beyond
Black and White” remains at least in part unfulfilled. The problem with the different
trajectories approach is that it imputes mutual autonomy to respective racialization
processes that are in fact mutually constitutive of one another. Asian
Americans have not been racialized in a vacuum, isolated from other groups; to
the contrary, Asian Americans have been racialized relative to and through interaction with Whites and Blacks. As such, the respective racialization trajectories of these groups are profoundly interrelated.
The problem with the racial hierarchy approach, on the other hand, is that its notion of a single scale of status and privilege is belied by the fact that Whites appear to have ordered other racial groups along at least two dimensions or axes historically. Angelo Ancheta, for instance, points out that Blacks have been denigrated as inferior while Asian Americans have been denigrated more often as outsiders or aliens. The challenge, it seems, is to find a way to talk about what Neil Gotanda calls the “other non-Whites” in a way that appreciates both how racialization processes are mutually constitutive of one another and how they can unfold along more than one dimension or scale at a time.
My purpose in this paper is twofold. First, I propose that we use the notion of a
“field of racial positions” in order to move the conceptualization of racial dynamics
“beyond Black and White.” Second, I argue that Asian Americans specifically
have been “racially triangulated” vis-a-vis Whites and Blacks in this field of racial
positions for the past century and a half. Let me discuss these two points in turn.
According to Stephen Jay Gould, our racial thinking, conditioned by European
ethnological frameworks of centuries past, is “subject to visual representation,
usually in clearly definable geometric terms.”s My first claim is that public discourse
about racial groups and their relative status generates a field of racial positions
(or, to borrow Gould’s phrase, a particular “racial geometry”) in a given time
and place. The chief architects of this field are those we might call major opinionmakers: White elected officials, journalists, scholars, community leaders,
business elites, and so on. Although the most powerful always have the most say
in defining it, this field is continuously contested and negotiated within and
among racial groups, both at the elite level and at the level of popular culture and
everyday life. Since the field of racial positions consists of a plane defined by at
least two axes-superior/inferior and insider/foreigner-it emphasizes both that
groups become racialized in comparison with one another and that they are differently racialized.9 As a normative blueprint for who should get what, this field of racial positions profoundly shapes the opportunities, constraints, and possibilities with which subordinate groups must contend, ultimately serving to reinforce White dominance and privilege.
My second argument is that Asian Americans have been racially triangulated
vis-a-vis Blacks and Whites, or located in the field of racial positions with reference to these two other points. Racial triangulation occurs by means of two types of simultaneous, linked processes: (1) processes of “relative valorization,”
whereby dominant group A (Whites) valorizes subordinate group B (Asian
Americans) relative to subordinate group C (Blacks) on cultural and/or racial
grounds in order to dominate both groups, but especially the latter, and (2)
processes of “civic ostracism,” whereby dominant group A (Whites) constructs
subordinate group B (Asian Americans) as immutably foreign and unassimilable
with Whites on cultural and/or racial grounds in order to ostracize them from the
body politic and civic membership (see Figure 1 ). Processes of relative valorizationand civic ostracism are linked both analytically and functionally. They are joined analytically by an essentialized reading of Asian American/Asian culture
that commits a double elision among Asian American subgroups, on one hand,
and between Asian Americans and Asians, on the other. As Paul Gilroy notes in
another context, “Culture is conceived … not as something intrinsically fluid,
changing, unstable, and dynamic, but as a fixed property of social groups.
Functionally, the two types of processes work in a complementary fashion to
maintain Asian Americans in an triangulated position vis-a-vis Whites and
Blacks. As Figure 1 indicates, both processes are required to maintain Asian
Americans in this equilibrated position; the abridgment of either would result in
an altered group position.
Perhaps the most striking feature of the racial triangulation of Asian Americans
is its historical persistence. This paper demonstrates that the racial triangulation
of Asian Americans has persisted since its inception in the mid-1800s to the
present and that it has undergone only cosmetic changes in the post-1965 era in
keeping with contemporary norms of colorblindness. Before the civil rights era,
racial triangulation occurred openly, in cultural-racial terms; during the post-civil
rights era, racial triangulation has occurred in a coded fashion, in cultural terms
decoupled from overtly racial claims. Yet in both periods, racial triangulation (and
the field of racial positions, more generally) has functioned as a normative blueprint for which groups should get what, reproducing patterns of White power
and privilege. As Omi and Winant note, racial categories and meanings may be
social constructions, but they take on a life of their own over time, profoundly
shaping the distribution of goods in society. By illuminating the field of racial
positions that lies just beneath the contemporary edifice of prima facie racially
neutral laws and policies, this paper helps us to understand how White racial
power can continue to thrive in a formally colorblind society.
The first part of this paper examines open racial triangulation during the period
1850 to 1950. The second part examines coded racial triangulation from 1965 to
the present, IS The concluding section considers the implications of this paper for
future research on race and racialization.
You can read more at the article.
I need your help! Please reblog and respond and spread the word because I am trying to get as much of a response by crowd-sourcing.
I am developing an undergraduate introductory course in Asian American Studies/Asian American Literature. Usually, it would be easy to simply draw together canonical texts and material, but I thought that it could be a good idea to crowd source people interested in learning more about Asian American issues, literature, history, and cultural productions to see what you would want in a class.
The idea of the course is that it would cover APIA as well as South Asian cultural productions, history, and issues in America. This means a range of theoretical material, literature and poetry, film and music may be included in the curriculum.
I am trying to figure out how to organize an introductory survey-like seminar that will trace the production of the Asian American racialized body through history to present-day representation. This means, of course, looking at issues in pop culture in addition to canonical material.
So this brings me to YOU, Tumblr! What would you want to see in a course that deals with these type of issues? What kind of literature, media, materials? What questions and issues would you want to be addressed?
What films, in particular, would you be interested in watching and writing about? There are not too many films that deal directly with Asian American identity in particular that star Asian Americans. And to be honest with you guys, I am not really sure what films are even out there that 18-21 year olds would be interested in watching and also would want to talk/write about that either star Asian Americans or deal with Asian American issues. Any suggestions?
I am taking suggestions for any literature, poetry, slam poetry/spoken word, film and music/pop figures that any of you might find really interesting.
Right now, I am considering the following materials (this is a big list, I need to pare it down):
“Leaves From the Mental Portfolio of Sui Sin Far,” Sui Sin Far; The Woman Warrior, Maxine Hong Kingston; Excerpts from China Men, Maxine Hong Kingston; Obaasan, Joy Kogawa; All I Asking for is My Body, Milton Moriyama; Interpreter of Maladies, Jhumpa Lahiri; American Son, Brian Ascalon Roley; The Gangster We Are All Looking For, le thi diem thuy
POETRY/SLAM POETRY/SPOKEN WORD
Broken Speech, I Was Born With Two Voices; Attack! Attack! Go! Beau Sia; Song I Sing, Bao Phi
HIP HOP/POP ARTISTS & FIGURES
Far East Movement; praCh
(NEED HELP HERE…)
Better Luck Tomorrow, The Namesake, and even Harold and Kumar. (Could use some help here, too!)
The Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B. Du Bois; Black Skin, White Masks, Frantz Fanon; Woman, Native, Other, Trinh T. Minh-ha; Bodies That Matter, Judith Butler
“Racist Love”, Frank Chin
To anyone who reblogs or responds, thank you for any input you can provide and for trying to help me crowd source a fun class that is hopefully as interesting as it is informative!
fuck i accidentally closed the tab and lost everything!!!! let me try to remember what i wrote:
This is fantastic! Thank you so much for your suggestions.
In regards to the Okada and Said — keep in mind that this is an intro-level APIA class and I need to get in as much material as possible without it being too difficult or too overwhelming. In general, I have to limit the amount of novels I can teach to maybe 5 or 6 if I want to also teach history, theory, film, and pop culture on top of literature.
I might offer an excerpt from Said — but honestly, I have my own quibbles with Said’s work. It bothers me how, for example, Said figures the Orient as like this passive female body, or how the Orient for Said does not actually deal with the “real Orient” as such or “Oriental people.” In that sense, theoretical works on American Orientalism might work better if I want to talk about Orientalism within the context of America. (Bear in mind that Said’s work was also driven by a desire to expand the notion of what was “literature” in the academy during the 1970s.)
I am definitely thinking of including the Charlie Chan is Dead anthologies since they include so many writers. I do not want to or am interested at all in teaching Amy Tan. I don’t find her writing compelling, and I also feel that the issues that she deals with are dealt with much better by Maxine Hong Kingston.
Anyway — again, this is a great list. You are awesome.
(Incidentally, Wang Leehom is totally not what I’d consider a real AsAm artist. He is Taiwanese Mando-pop! As is Van Ness Wu, Will Pan, Nicholas Tse, Edison Cheng (lol), and all of the other ABCs who work in Asia.)
A few weeks ago, I posted an “introduction” to critical race theory list. Here is a more comprehensive list that includes some postcolonial works as well. This list is incomplete and you might find some authors have competing, if not completely opposing methodologies. This list also includes works that are transnational, as race theory is currently moving towards a politics of globalization and transnationalism.
This list is by no means everything that is out there — but it is a broader list for those who want to read beyond introductory material.
Anderson, Margaret and Collins, Patricia Hill. Race, Class , and Gender: An Anthology
Alcoff, Linda Martin. Visible Identities: Race, Gender, and the Self
Allen, Theodore. The Invention of the White Race
Appiah, Kwame Anthony. The Ethics of Identity
Baum, Bruce David. The Rise and Fall of the Caucasian Race
Bhabha, Homi. The Location of Culture
Bonilla-Silva, Eduardo. Racism without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in America
Cheng, Anne. The Melancholy of Race: Psychoanalysis, Assimilation, and Hidden Grief
Cheung, King-Kok. Articulate Silences
Chin, Frank and Chan, Jeffrey Paul. “Racist Love.” Seeing Through Shuck. Ed. Richard Kostelanetz. 65-79.
Chow, Rey. “Sacrifice, Mimesis, and the Theorizing of Victimhood (A Speculative Essay)” Representations 94 (Spring 2006), 131-49.
Cox, Oliver Cromwell. Race: A Study in Social Dynamics
Darity, William A. and Myers, Samuel L. Persistent Disparity: Race and Economic Inequality in the United States Since 1945
Du Bois, W.E.B. The Souls of Black Folk
Duncan, Patti. Tell This Silence
Eng, David L. and Kazanjian, David. Loss.
Entman, Robert and Rojecki, Andrew. The Black Image in the White Mind: Media and Race in America.
Fanon, Frantz. Black Skin, White Masks
____. Wretched of the Earth
Feder, Ellen K. Family Bonds: Genealogies of Race and Gender
Frankenberg, Ruth. White Women, Race Matters: The Social Construction of Whiteness
Gates, Henry Louis. Race, Writing and Difference
____. The Signifying Monkey
Gilroy, Paul. Against Race
____. The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness
Glasgow, Joshua. A Theory of Race
Goldberg, David Theo. Anatomy of Racism
____. Racial Subjects: Writing on Race in America
____. The Racial State
Hall, Stuart. “When Was ‘The Post-Colonial’? Thinking at the Limit.” The Post-Colonial Question. ed Ian Chambers and Lidia Curti. 242-260.
Hannaford, Ivan. Race: The History of an Idea in the West
Harris, Michael. Colored Pictures: Race and Visual Representation
Hardt, MIchael and Negri, Antonio. Empire.
Jordan, Winthrop. White Over Black: American Attitudes Toward the Negro, 1550-1812
Lipsitz, George. The Possessive Investment of Whiteness: How White People Profit from Identity Politics
Mamdani, Mamhood. Citizen and Subject: Contemporary Africa and the Legacy of Late Colonialism
Marx, Anthony W. Making Race and Nation: A Comparison of South Africa, the United States, and Brazil
McClintock. Imperial Leather: Race, Gender, and Sexuality in the Colonial Context
Mills, Charles Wade. The Racial Contract
Muhammad, Khalil Gibran. The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime and the Making of Modern Urban America
Nandy, Ashis. The Intimate Enemy: Loss and Recovery of Self Under Colonialism
Okihiro, Gary et al. Privileging Positions
Omi, Michael and Winant, Howard. Racial Formation in the United States: From the 1960s to the 1990s
Painter, Nell. The History of White People
Said, Edward. Culture and Imperialism
Sheth, Falguni. Toward a Political Philosophy of Race
Skidmore, Thomas. Black into White: Race and Nationality in Brazilian Thought
Spivak, Gayatri. A Critique of Postcolonial Reason
____. “Can the Subaltern Speak?” Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture. Ed. Cary Nelson and Lawrence Grossberg, 271-31.
____. In Other Worlds
Thiong’o, Ngugi Wa. Decolonising the Mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature
Wright, Richard. Black Power