A case study of how cultural diversity among Asian Americans is subsumed for social and political advantage

Asian American Panethnicity

Bridging Institutions and Identities

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Yen Le Espiritu

Outstanding Academic Title, Choice, 1994

Outstanding Book Award, Association for Asian American Studies, 1994

"Original and stimulating.... [Espiritu's] study raises compelling questions about the existing literature on ethnicity and her findings open up new avenues for research and analysis."
Michael Omi, University of California, Berkeley, co-author of Racial Formation in the U.S. from the 1960s to the 1980s

With different histories, cultures, languages, and identities, most Americans of Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Korean, and Vietnamese origin are lumped together and viewed by other Americans simply as Asian Americans. Since the mid 1960s, however, these different Asian American groups have come together to promote and protect both their individual and their united interests. The first book to examine this particular subject, Asian American Panethnicity is a highly detailed case study of how, and with what success, diverse national-origin groups can come together as a new, enlarged panethnic group.

Yen Le Espiritu explores the construction of large-scale affiliations, in which previously unrelated groups submerge their differences and assume a common identity. Making use of extensive interviews and statistical data, she examines how Asian panethnicity protects the rights and interests of all Asian American groups, including those, like the Vietnamese and Cambodians, which are less powerful and prominent than the Chinese and Japanese. By citing specific examples—educational discrimination, legal redress, anti-Asian violence, the development of Asian American Studies programs, social services, and affirmative action—the author demonstrates how Asian Americans came to understand that only by cooperating with each other would they succeed in fighting the racism they all faced.



Read Chapter 1 (pdf).



Tables and Figures
1. Ethnicity and Panethnicity
2. Coming Together: The Asian American Movement
3. Electoral Politics
4. The Politics of Social Service Funding
5. Census Classification: The Politics of Ethnic Enumeration
6. Reactive Solidarity: Anti-Asian Violence
7. Pan-Asian American Ethnicity: Retrospect and Prospect


About the Author(s)

Yen Le Espiritu is Assistant Professor in the Department of Ethnic Studies at the University of California, San Diego, and is the author of Filipino American Lives (Temple).

Subject Categories

Asian American Studies

In the series

Asian American History and Culture, edited by Sucheng Chan, David Palumbo-Liu, Michael Omi, K. Scott Wong, and Linda Trinh Vő.

The "standard" written histories of Asian immigrants to the United States have been imbued with Western cultural biases. As a critique and corrective to earlier work, Asian American History and Culture, edited by Sucheng Chan, David Palumbo-Liu, Michael Omi, K. Scott Wong, and Linda Trinh Vő, aims to develop a history of Asian Americans that is compatible with their own experience, that treats Asian Americans as agents of historical change and as creators of a new culture. In addition, this series intends to focus on the groups that are flourishing in the contemporary U.S.—Filipinos, Koreans, Vietnamese—about whom little has been written as well as to add to the substantial work done on the Chinese and Japanese in this country.



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