Integrating Multiple Identities: Multiracials and Asian-Americans in the United States (Review Essay)

Integrating Multiple Identities: Multiracials and Asian-Americans in the United States (Review Essay)

Canadian Journal of Sociology
Volume 33, Number 2 (2008)
pages 397-403

Wendy D. Roth, Assistant Professor of Sociology
University of British Columbia, Canada

Kimberly McClain DaCosta, Making Multiracials: State, Family, and Market in the Redrawing of the Color Line. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2007, 280pp., paper (978-0-8047-5546-7), hardcover (978-0-8047-5545-0).

Pawan Dhingra, Managing Multicultural Lives: Asian American Professionals and the Challenge of Multiple Identities. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2007, 328 pp., paper (978-0-8047-5578-8), hardcover (978-0-8047-5577-1).

As the sociological literature has shifted away from a primordial view of race and ethnicity as fixed identities, research has emphasized not only their fluid and changing nature, but also how individuals maintain and negotiate multiple identities. It was not so long ago that ethnic and — especially — racial identities were seen as exclusive: a person could only have one. Today we recognize that people can identify as both White and Black, as both Chinese and Canadian, or that they can create new identities that combine yet are different from any of their constituent parts (e.g., a “Canadian-Born Chinese” identity that is neither Canadian nor Chinese).

Kimberly McClain DaCosta and Pawan Dhingra both take up the question of how people create and legitimize new identities that blend together different, and sometimes conflicting, cultures or sets of meaning. DaCosta focuses on the construction of “multiracial” as a social category and mode of identification, particularly how the family, marketing, and the state contribute to this construction. Dhingra illustrates how professional second-generation Korean-Americans and Indian-Americans in Dallas live out the hybridity they experience on both sides of their hyphen. His groups work in the mainstream economy, allowing them to balance their ethnic and American selves. DaCosta’s book is ultimately a more satisfying contribution, but both works offer valuable illustrations of how groups resist pressures to sublimate one identity into another, and thereby integrate multiple identities into a more complex whole…

Read the entire book review here.

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