“What are You?”: Explaining Identity as a Goal of the Multiracial Hapa Movement

“What are You?”: Explaining Identity as a Goal of the Multiracial Hapa Movement

Social Problems
Volume 56, Number 4 (November 2009)
Pages 722–745
DOI 10.1525/sp.2009.56.4.722

Mary Bernstein, Associate Professor of Sociology
University of Connecticut

Marcie De la Cruz
Empirical Education Inc.

This article uses the Hapa movement as a case study in order to provide a framework for understanding identity as a goal of social movements and to expand on a theoretical understanding of multiracial social movements. In contrast to current understandings of identity-based movements, this article argues that the Hapa movement seeks simultaneously to deconstruct traditional notions of (mono)racial identities and to secure recognition for a multiracial “Hapa” identity. Movements that have identity as a goal are motivated by activists’ understandings of how categories are constituted and how those categories, codes, and ways of thinking serve as axes of regulation and domination. The Hapa movement simultaneously challenges (mono)racial categories at both the institutional level through targeting the state and at the micro level through challenging the quotidian enactment of race and promulgating a Hapa identity. Activism by mixed-race individuals and organizations constitutes an important challenge to power that has significant implications for racial categorization and classification in contemporary American society.

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