Moving beyond monoracial categories

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Media Archive, Philosophy, Social Science, United States on 2015-01-26 20:42Z by Steven

Moving beyond monoracial categories

The Daily: of the University of Washington

Emily Muirhead

I once had a professor claim that in 50 years, everyone will be so racially “mixed” and therefore ambiguous, no one will be able to distinguish “what someone is,” so race won’t matter much anymore.

As a biracial individual who has been asked “What are you?” more times than not, race does matter. It matters more than many people choose to believe. Despite the fact that racial categories are arbitrary social constructs, race still has very real personal and public implications aside from blatant racism — which seems to be the only times race is actually is talked about.

Categorizing someone into a racial category upon meeting them happens instantaneously. For most people this isn’t problematic because it’s merely a harmless form of observation, but sometimes, regardless of intent, a person’s race negatively or positively changes how someone is perceived and interacted with.

Ralina Joseph, associate professor in the communication, ethnic studies, and women’s studies departments, and a woman of color, has experienced racially rooted assumptions when it comes to teaching. She explained how on a number of occasions on the first day of class while standing alongside a white male TA, students will wrongly address the TA as “professor,” likely due to the image that comes to mind when one thinks of a person in this profession — i.e., a white man.

Being half-Japanese and half-Caucasian (predominantly Scottish), I straddle two sides of a racial spectrum, one foot in an American minority and the other in the majority. I’ve even been called “exotic,” a Eurocentric term that labels me as a sort of racial commodity against which monoracial individuals may be measured. To some, my whiteness blended with Asian features automatically places me into the irritatingly vague racial category of “half-white, half-something,” but there is much more to my identity than that…

Read the entire article here.

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About Hatsumi… with Toronto Director Chris Hope: Part 1 of 3

Posted in Articles, Arts, Asian Diaspora, Biography, Canada, History, Media Archive on 2015-01-26 02:43Z by Steven

About Hatsumi… with Toronto Director Chris Hope: Part 1 of 3

Discover Nikkei

Norm Masaji Ibuki

An extraordinary and beautiful film…exhaustively and passionately researched, both at the level of the filmmaker’s personal history and as an investigation into our national consciousness”

—Academy Award® Nominated Director, Atom Egoyan

Thus far in 2012, the 70th anniversary of internment, there has been no greater artistic tribute to the generation of Nikkei that survived Canadian internment than Chris Hope’s moving tribute to his grandmother, Nancy Hatsumi Okura.

It has been a very long time since we’ve had the occasion to celebrate a new feature-length film that addresses the issue of how internment continues to affect our community. The Toronto-based filmmaker’s new film, Hatsumi, is a moving testament to how his grandmother as a girl survived and triumphed over the systemic racism and discrimination that was aimed at destroying British Columbia’s Japanese Canadian community.

As such, this film is as much for the generations born after internment as it is a tribute to those who survived it. It is also a timely reminder for younger generations of all ethnic backgrounds that the fight to be recognized as “Canadian” has been and continues to be an ongoing one for many immigrant groups.

For those of Japanese descent in particular, there is something deeply personal about this film as there has been at least one “Hatsumi” in every one of our families be that a sister, mother, grandmother, or great grandmother. By telling her story, Chris helps to give voice to all of the Nikkei women who endured the betrayal of their country, rising above it all with a grace and, above all, a sense of forgiveness that this yonsei’s film honours.

Born to Marion (nee Okura) and Michael Hope (deceased 1998), his dual ethnic heritage is representative of the Nikkei community as it is evolving today. He studied Radio and Television Arts at Ryerson University, during and following of which he worked as a producer at CBC for about four years. Afterwards, it was on to Osgoode Hall Law School – York University, he spent summers working on the film and one summer at the CRTC in Ottawa. Following law school, he articled with Heenan Blaikie LLP, then worked as director of business and legal affairs at Cookie Jar Entertainment for two years, then joined Alliance Films Inc., which is where he’s been ever since. He completed an Executive Masters of Business Administration at the University of Windsor while at Cookie Jar Entertainment “for the purpose of rounding out my skill set.”

“Father’s mom was born in County Cork, Ireland and father in Bristol, England. They both came to Toronto in the 1910s. I grew up referring to my parents as ‘John and Yoko’ as a result of my dad’s lineage. The generations in my family are so far spread out on my father’s side that my grandfather (as above) served as a medic during WWI. I have his medals as well as their wedding invitation and photos from, I believe, 1922. Thanks to an apparent family penchant for history, I also have original naval records on my father’s side dating back to the early 1800s, and the wooden “cubby box” my father’s great-great grandfather carried with him on sea voyages which was them full of his personal effects (many of which are still in the box!).”

“My mother’s grandfather also came in the early part of the 20th century, and her grandmother (both from Gobo City, Wakayama ken) was a picture bride. They settled in Steveston, where my great-grandfather worked as a fisherman. I have both of their citizenship photo cards from 1977, which, according to my grandmother, they prized. Kichijiro Hashimoto was my great grandfather’s name and Tami Mori, my great-grandmother’s.”…

Read part one of the entire interview here.

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‘Where the Dead Pause, and the Japanese Say Goodbye,’ by Marie Mutsuki Mockett

Posted in Asian Diaspora, Book/Video Reviews on 2015-01-25 02:56Z by Steven

‘Where the Dead Pause, and the Japanese Say Goodbye,’ by Marie Mutsuki Mockett

Sunday Book Review
The New York Times

Richard Lloyd Parry

Mockett, Marie Mutsuki, Where the Dead Pause, and the Japanese Say Goodbye: A Journey (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2015), 316 pp.

Among the many shocking things about tsunamis — along with their suddenness, violence and indiscriminate destruction of life and community — is how little there is to say about them. Man-made catastrophes, like wars or nuclear accidents, provide infinite opportunities for blame, recrimination and lessons learned. But natural disasters have no politics. One can quibble about the height of sea walls, the promptness of warnings and the quality of aid given to survivors. But such events have always occurred in countries like Japan, and always will. When the wave has receded, the dead have been counted and the slow work of recovery has begun, the pundits sheepishly quit the field and abandon it to the theologians, the spiritualists and the priests.

These are the people at the core of Marie Mutsuki Mockett’s book, which opens with the tsunami that struck northeastern Japan in 2011 and closes with a ghost. The act of God and the haunting frame an intriguing, but often awkward, travelogue through a landscape of Japanese spiritual belief, with forays into history, folklore and memoir. But the book’s central subject, deferred and evaded for much of its length, is the stubborn anguish of personal grief — the experience, as Mockett puts it, of being “kidnapped against one’s will and forced to go to some foreign country, all the while just longing to go back home.”

Mockett’s country is the United States, but she is a complicated, troubled American, and like many such journeys, hers is also a quest for identity. As the child of an American father, raised in California, she regards herself as fully of the West. From her Japanese mother she has acquired fluency in the language, although no sense of belonging in her maternal country. But she has the ability, fully available only to those on the margins, “to see through more than one set of eyes, if one learns to pay attention to one’s environment.” It is this gift of double-sightedness, of bringing to bear both the “dry” rationality of the West and the “sticky” sensibilities professed by the Japanese, that makes this the most interesting book so far to have come out of the disaster…

Read the entire review here.

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Where the Dead Pause, and the Japanese Say Goodbye: A Journey

Posted in Asian Diaspora, Books, Media Archive, Monographs, Religion on 2015-01-25 02:11Z by Steven

Where the Dead Pause, and the Japanese Say Goodbye: A Journey

W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.
January 2015
336 pages
Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-393-06301-1
6.6 × 9.6 in

Marie Mutsuki Mockett

How does one cope with overwhelming grief?

Marie Mutsuki Mockett’s family owns a Buddhist temple 25 miles from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. In March 2011, after the earthquake and tsunami, radiation levels prohibited the burial of her Japanese grandfather’s bones. As Japan mourned thousands of people lost in the disaster, Mockett also grieved for her American father, who had died unexpectedly.

Seeking consolation, Mockett is guided by a colorful cast of Zen priests and ordinary Japanese who perform rituals that disturb, haunt, and finally uplift her. Her journey leads her into the radiation zone in an intricate white hazmat suit; to Eiheiji, a school for Zen Buddhist monks; on a visit to a Crab Lady and Fuzzy-Headed Priest’s temple on Mount Doom; and into the “thick dark” of the subterranean labyrinth under Kiyomizu temple, among other twists and turns. From the ecstasy of a cherry blossom festival in the radiation zone to the ghosts inhabiting chopsticks, Mockett writes of both the earthly and the sublime with extraordinary sensitivity. Her unpretentious and engaging voice makes her the kind of companion a reader wants to stay with wherever she goes, even into the heart of grief itself.

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Adopting The Asian in ‘Caucasian': Korean Adoptees and White Privilege

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Autobiography, Media Archive, United States on 2015-01-25 01:19Z by Steven

Adopting The Asian in ‘Caucasian': Korean Adoptees and White Privilege

Hyphen: Asian America Unabridged

Nicky Sa-eun Schildkraut

My father remembers that when I first arrived, he’d wake up to me calling out “Abojee! Abojee!” in the middle of the night, the Korean word for father. As a little girl, those nights in my new home in America were filled with angst that if I fell asleep at night, I might wake up utterly alone. I fought against the tide of sleep until I was secure in the knowledge that one of my parents was still at my side. I remember my mother would often sing me to sleep with Christmas carols, after running out of lullabies.

I was around two years old when I was adopted. I say ‘around’ because my date of birth and name on my official adoption documents were most likely fabricated by social workers at the White Lily orphanage in Daegu, South Korea in 1979. On those papers, it says that I was “abandoned,” without explanation nor names of my biological parents; for many Korean adoptees, this is the norm. Many of us will never know our real stories because those early erasures of our original families were not only commonplace but were created to make us into social orphans, a profitable industry. Many of us were the children of unwed mothers who faced the stigma of raising us alone and unsupported by the state. Caught in precarious social and economic circumstances, their only option was to relinquish their children to wealthy, white and European parents who could provide “a better life” with the promise of a home, education, and cultural capital.

I feel compelled to return to this giant chimera of adoption because it continues to haunt me. Equivalent to the giant elephant in the room, the chimera represents everything that is unspeakable and messy and ambivalent. Like many Korean adoptees, I grew up in a liberal, white family, in a predominantly white town, and came of age during the years of neoliberal multiculturalism in the 1980s to 1990s. I didn’t realize it then, but my discomfort as a hypervisible minority in my family was the direct result of being raised in a climate of colorblind attitudes when international adoption was part of a continuing trend of the white American savior complex. I was taught to believe race wasn’t important, when the real reason was that nobody knew how to discuss racism and micro aggressions, especially the social workers at adoption agencies…

Read the entire article here.

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TCK TALENT: Gene Bell-Villada, literary critic, Latin Americanist, novelist, translator and TCK memoirist

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Autobiography, Caribbean/Latin America, Interviews, Media Archive, United States on 2015-01-24 20:22Z by Steven

TCK TALENT: Gene Bell-Villada, literary critic, Latin Americanist, novelist, translator and TCK memoirist

The Displaced Nation: A home for international creatives

Elizabeth (Lisa) Liang

Professor Gene Bell-Villada (own photo)

Elizabeth (Lisa) Liang is here with her first column of 2015. For those who haven’t been following: she is building up quite a collection of stories about Adult Third Culture Kids (ATCKs) who work in creative fields. Lisa herself is a prime example. A Guatemalan-American of Chinese-Spanish-Irish-French-German-English descent, she has developed her own one-woman show about growing up as a TCK, which is receiving rave reviews wherever it goes.

—ML Awanohara

Happy New Year, readers! Today I’m honored to be interviewing Gene Bell-Villada, author of the Third Culture Kid memoir Overseas American: Growing Up Gringo in the Tropics and co-editor of my first published essay in the TCK/global-nomad anthology: Writing Out of Limbo. Gene grew up in Latin America and “repatriated” to the USA for college and beyond; he is a Professor of Romance Languages (Spanish), Latin American Literature, and Modernism at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts. He is also a published writer of fiction and nonfiction.

Welcome to The Displaced Nation, Gene. Like me, you’re an Adult Third Culture Kid of mixed heritage. Since you were born in Haiti and grew up in Puerto Rico, Cuba, and Venezuela as the son of an Asian-Polynesian mother from Hawaii and a WASP father from Kansas, your identity development was complex and nuanced, as you make clear in your memoir. Can you tell us how you identify yourself these days?

Like the title of my memoir, I identify myself as an Overseas American, of mixed WASP and Chinese-Filipino-Hawaiian ethnicity, with a Caribbean-Hispanic upbringing. I wrote my memoir in great measure to disentangle and explain that background—for myself and others! More broadly, in my middle 20s, it dawned on me that, by default, I happened to be a cosmopolitan, and that I couldn’t feel “local” even if I wished to. And so, I set out to make the best of that cosmopolitanism and build on it…

Read the entire interview here.

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Md. Gov. Larry Hogan and his Korean-born wife, Yumi, are a historic first couple

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2015-01-24 19:45Z by Steven

Md. Gov. Larry Hogan and his Korean-born wife, Yumi, are a historic first couple

The Washington Post

Michael S. Rosenwald, Staff Writer

She was a painter displaying her abstract landscapes, a single mother of three daughters who’d grown up on a chicken farm in South Korea. He was a wealthy bachelor with more interest in politics than art who had stopped by the show in suburban Maryland on a whim.

His eyes didn’t gravitate to the paintings.

“I was more interested in the artist than the art,” he said.

He gave her his phone number, but she never called. Still, he didn’t give up. They eventually met again, fell in love and married several years later, in 2004.

They made history this week, moving into the Maryland governor’s mansion as a mixed-race couple in an increasingly diverse state — and as novices in wielding political power. Larry Hogan, a Republican in an overwhelmingly Democratic state, had never held elected office before he won a stunning upset in November…

Read the entire article here.

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Talking about Critical Mixed Race Studies in the Wake of Ferguson

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2015-01-21 20:38Z by Steven

Talking about Critical Mixed Race Studies in the Wake of Ferguson

University of Washington Press Blog

Laura Kina, Vincent de Paul Professor of Art, Media, & Design
DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois

In this guest post, Laura Kina, coeditor of War Baby / Love Child: Mixed Race Asian American Art, discusses the emerging discipline of mixed race studies and what it can contribute to ongoing dialogues surrounding race, police brutality, and social justice in the wake of Ferguson.

Since the deaths this past summer of two unarmed black men, Michael Brown Jr. in Ferguson, Missouri and Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York by white police officers, our nation has been embroiled in discussions of police brutality and racial profiling. The social unrest and racial tensions of our current moment are a stark contrast to the congratulatory “post-racial” moment in 2008 with the election of President Barack Obama–the first black “biracial” president. Recent racial tensions also present stark contrast to the celebration of the multiracial “melting pot” that America celebrated following the 2000 US Census, which allowed individuals to self-identify as more than one race for the first time.

Those earlier, problematic readings of race—as something to either get beyond or as something new and worthy of celebration—coupled with the dearth of history and representations of mixed race Asian American lives inspired my coauthor Wei Ming Dariotis and I to publish War Baby/Love Child: Mixed Race Asian American Art (University of Washington Press, 2013). Along with my DePaul colleague Camilla Fojas, we also set out to challenge these myths and establish a scholarly field of Critical Mixed Race Studies

Read the entire article here.

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Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Autobiography, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2015-01-20 02:56Z by Steven


Mixed Humans ~ Reflections on occupying a space of inbetweenness. Persistently grappling with identity.

Natalie Armitage

Authenticity. Authentic. What is that? I always wondered, what it meant when people referred to the lentils mum made us as “really authentic, not like that stuff you get in the curry houses thats not real, its not actually indian compared to this”. I assume it was because she was the only indian person that they actually knew, the first time that they actually saw lentils being made in this way.

Authenticity. The first thing that comes to mind was a house, a large old manor that was converted into a place called “Trading Boundaries” and there were two large model elephants outside. We used to go there to look at the furniture that had been imported from Bali on the way back from school. It was lavish.

The objects and ornaments in there mixed with the smell of incense felt like something, out of a book I read called A Little Princess. A story, of little rich girl that feels lost and abandoned in London, after being sent to boarding school from India where her father is a Captain. Upon her father’s death in war, and a confusion about financial ownership she is rendered worthless by the English headmistress and made to be a servant at the school, where previously she was a princess. Anyway, the part that I remember is that she becomes friends with a black girl called Becky, who is also a servant though treated a lot worse than the princess, but they bond over their misery and become friends and the princess entertains her with magical stories of Gods in India. There is also a pet monkey involved somewhere that they play with and love as much as they do each other.

What a story to read as a little girl. Being half indian, half english, the princess of my fathers eye, blissfully unaware of what colonialism actually was. Confusion, is a word that doesn’t quite cover it. Authentic?…

Read the entire article here.

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“Funny—You Don’t Look Jewish!”: Racial, Ethnic, and Religious Identities of Children of Asian American and Jewish American Spouses

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Religion, Social Science, United States on 2015-01-19 02:09Z by Steven

“Funny—You Don’t Look Jewish!”: Racial, Ethnic, and Religious Identities of Children of Asian American and Jewish American Spouses

Journal of Jewish Identities
Issue 8, Number 1, January 2015
pages 129-148

Helen Kim, Associate Professor of Sociology
Whitman College, Walla Walla, Washington

Noah Leavitt, Research Associate
Department of Sociology
Whitman College, Walla Walla, Washington

Rachel Williams
Whitman College, Walla Walla, Washington

Who is a Jew? What does it mean to be Jewish? Often connected to these questions is the subject of intermarriage among Jewish Americans, a demographic reality that has long been understood as problematic and threatening to the Jewish people because of the supposed dilution, and possible extinction, of Jewish identity and community that will necessarily follow when a Jew marries a non-Jew. Often, the most pressing concern regarding intermarriage is its impact on the Jewish identity of the children and grandchildren of these relationships. Will the offspring of intermarriage identify as Jewish? If so, what does Jewish identity mean for these individuals? Furthermore, what impact does Jewish identification or non-identification mean for the continuity of the Jewish people?

Currently, the debate regarding the continuity of Jewish identity and peoplehood as it pertains to intermarried couples and their children is unresolved, especially within the realm of academic scholarship pertaining to this subject. Most notably, the Pew Research Center’s 2013 Portrait of Jewish Americans acknowledges that, according to its findings, support exists for both sides of the debate. In their discussion of the Pew survey, Gregory A. Smith and Alan Cooperman note that adult children of intermarriage are more likely to identify as religiously agnostic, atheist, or nothing in particular than those born to two Jewish parents. This difference may suggest the eventual erosion of Jewish religious identification as a result of intermarriage. Smith and Cooperman also note, however, an increase in Jewish identification in adulthood among offspring of intermarriage. Thus while intermarriage may be leading to a significant decrease in religious identification, it may be contributing to an increase in a different type of Jewish identification that is no less important.

Some scholars have argued that the debate and scholarship regarding intermarriage as assimilation and an erosion of Jewish authenticity stifles innovative ways to think about and encourage more nuanced conceptions of Jewish identity and, subsequently, Jewish belonging and community. These critiques often point to the importance of broadening our understanding of Jewish identity through frameworks and methods that complicate common notions of Jewish authenticity based in religiosity and descent.

Our exploratory qualitative study of adult children born to Asian American and Jewish American spouses adds to the debate regarding intermarriage and Jewish authenticity by investigating how Jewish identity is negotiated through the lenses of religion and race. We argue that multiraciality and Jewish identity are intrinsically connected for respondents in our sample. Our work derives from a larger project on intermarriage between Jewish Americans of any racial or ethnic background and Asian Americans of any ethnic or religious background.

More specifically, we seek to understand how children of mixed backgrounds experience and think about their Jewish identity in light of their position as children of intermarried spouses who are ethnically, religiously, and racially different. While our findings are not generalizable to a larger population, they do call into serious question the conceptualization and, for some, the strongly held belief that intermarriage between Jews and non-Jews necessarily results in an erosion of Jewish identity and community through children and subsequent generations. Rather, our interviews with children of multiracial intermarriages point to the maintenance of many traditional markers of Judaism and Jewish identity commonly associated with certain institutional affiliations at the same time that they challenge and offer newer understandings of Jewish authenticity through the lens of external and internal racial identification. Thus, our findings emphasize the importance of understanding these kinds of identity negotiations within a larger national landscape that is increasingly multiracial and multicultural. Put differently, the U.S. population, including its Jewish and Asian American populations, is becoming increasingly multiracial and multiethnic and is doing so, in large part, through intermarriage broadly construed. In this sense, our work highlights the importance of understanding how our respondents think about their identity, whether racial, ethnic, or religious, within a demographic landscape that is changing at a pace much faster than the debate regarding intermarriage fully acknowledges.

The data for this paper comes from qualitative in-depth interviews conducted in 2011 with twenty-two adult children, ages eighteen to twenty-five, of Jewish and Asian intermarriages, residing in the San Francisco Bay Area and in parts…

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