Between Racial Stranger and Racial Underling: Elastic Racialization of Asian Pacific Americans Across White and Multiracial Academic Spaces

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Abstract

Using an autoethnographic approach, this article draws on my personal experience as an Asian Pacific American (APA) political theorist who has navigated between different institutional spaces to reflect on a phenomenon that I call “elastic racialization” of APAs in higher education and its implications on our pedagogic agenda and curriculum. While the existing notion of “differential racialization” critically captures the ways in which racial minority groups have been racialized in different ways in accordance with the changing interests of the dominant group, the concept is often used in a broad U.S. national context such that even though it underlines fluidity in the social construction of race, the racialized meanings of particular racial groups can become fixed understandings and paradigms. As a result, we stop short of exploring further how the differential racialization of people of color—for instance, APAs as the “model minority” and the “perpetual foreigner”—can take on more protean forms in particular locations and contexts. Through a self-reflective analysis, I discuss how my racialized positionality in academia has taken on a more nuanced, elastic quality in different institutional contexts: shifting between “racial stranger” in the predominantly White space of political theory within political science and “racial underling” in the multiracial space of an interdisciplinary academic unit. Elastic racialization systemically effaces APA experiences/issues in the teaching/learning agenda of political science and other (inter)disciplinary fields, underlining the resilient multiformity of racism that requires a protean and multipronged approach of counter-racialization in higher education.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)242-257
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Political Science Education
Volume18
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 2022
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Asian Americans
  • autoethnography
  • differential racialization
  • model minority
  • perpetual foreigner

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Sociology and Political Science

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