P1. New Asians in New Worlds: Crossing Old Boundaries and Old Borders

Session: Session 1, 12:00 – 1:30 pm, Friday 9/29

Category: Organized Panel

Location: Alma Mater

Chair: James Stanlaw (Illinois State University)

Paper Presenters: Ayushi Shukla (Illinois State University), Rebecca Ma (Binghamton University), Noah Virklan (Illinois State University), Janeth Montenegro Marquez (Illinois State University), Alexandria Kopicki (University of Minnesota Twin Cities)

Abstract: In an increasingly globalized world, terms like “domestic”, “foreign,” “Asian,” and “American” are becoming increasingly problematic as ideas of “state,” “citizen,” and “native” have become evermore contested. Here we look at how concepts of Asian-ness and Asian cultural practices become transformed when transplanted and juxtaposed in new cultural and national contexts. Often such transformations involve crossing political borders; at other times, they entail stretching internal cultural borders. First, Ayushi Shukla questions the efficacy of the concept of border when discussing how women of South Asian heritage living in the United States must continue to negotiate their lives still bound by patriarchal familial norms which often hinder their ability to prioritize their goals and desires. Rebeca Ma examines how a ubiquitous American institution—the Chinese restaurant—is a battleground of notions of race and Other in the United States. She shows this was exacerbated by a neo-Yellow Peril plague arising during COVID. Janeth Montenegro Marquez looks at how differential feelings of solidarity affect community organizing among Chicago Korean Americans and Latinos (not always natural allies). Noah Virklan examines how Japanese Zen, transplanted to receptive Americans, actually thrived during COVID due to the judicious incorporation of Buddhist concepts with twenty-first century technology. Alexandria Kopicki investigates how the depiction of long-term Japanese Korean residents in popular media have been affected by the greater world-wide phenomena of K-Pop. Finally, our discussant Nobuko Adachi examines how all these stateless physical and intellectual positionalities articulate through the lens of a diasporic context.

The Silencing of Women Beyond Borders: Exploring the Experiences of South Asian Women in America

Speaker: Ayushi Shukla
Role: Paper Presenter
Institution/Affiliation: Illinois State University
Abstract: Growing up in a South Asian-American household, I’ve seen how patriarchal norms impact women’s lives. Similar experiences are documented among South Asian women in the Western world, where cultural values reinforce gender expectations. Here I will illuminate ethnographically the unique challenges faced by South Asian women in America, breaking the silence surrounding their struggles. They assimilate while balancing ancestral values with Western norms, often leading dual lives. Patriarchal values shape their identities in male-dominated families, forcing them to navigate incompatible cultural frameworks.  My findings reveal South Asian women in America face challenges related to societal expectations and stereotypes. They often feel overlooked unless they achieve great success, leading to pressure to conform and prioritize accomplishments over other personal qualities. Their creative interests are often dismissed, causing them to give up pursuing their passions. They struggle with limited decision-making autonomy, and conflicting cultural identities. The participants of this study emphasized the need for acceptance and celebration of South Asian women for who they really are.

Chop Suey Habits: The State of the American Chinese Restaurant during COVID Times

Speaker: Rebecca Ma
Role: Paper Presenter
Institution/Affiliation: Binghamton University
Abstract: The American Chinese restaurant has cemented itself in the minds of Americans as a uniquely American institution, but is still considered an example of the “Other.” In spite of the Chinese exclusion acts of the late nineteenth century, and the history of various subservient roles of Chinese immigrants, such as indentured servants, the American Chinese restaurant has managed to survive for over a century and a half of trials and tribulations. In 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, it became apparent that American Chinese food and restaurants had become racial battlegrounds, with negative feelings by mainstream Americans being directed towards the food and the restaurants themselves. Their cleanliness was even attacked, due to centuries-old stereotypes of dirtiness and supposed unsavory behavior by Chinese owners and customers. I suggest that these attitudes of mockery (say, for example, by certain key political figures) and distrust had their basis in residual feelings of a new twenty-first century version of the Yellow Peril panic of old. In this paper, I argue that due to stereotypes institutionalized more than a century ago against Chinese people and their food, American Chinese food today has become a location of racialization, and a proxy for present (even of unspoken) racist attitudes.

Zoom Zen and Zen Buddhism in Denver

Speaker: Noah Virklan
Role: Paper Presenter
Institution/Affiliation: Illinois State University
Abstract: After increasing interest in meditation among a greater virtual audience, Zen Buddhist meditation temples, such as the Zen Center of Denver, have gained more members since the start of the COVID-19 lockdowns of 2020. The higher direct-access viewership gained from the livestream services they maintained over Zoom directly contributed to the vitality and adaptability of stay-at-home Zen practice. The demand for Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) training during the remote-only period of the pandemic is easily seen: two nationally- representative suicide prevention assessments—the 2017 NHANES and 2022 CLIMB studies –show that throughout the period from 2020 through 2022, suicidal thoughts increased by 4.8 times, especially for those facing economic hardships. Psychologists have known about the advantages of MBSR when combined with cognitive therapy, concluding that around 87% of clinically suicidal patients could be helped more effectively than by normal talk-therapy alone. Furthermore, while the use of secular self-help MBSR subscription-user apps plateaued after social distancing restrictions lightened during 2022, Zoom livestream practices in the Zen Center of Denver did not decrease. To explain this, I ethnographically examined several Zen centers in Colorado. I found that an unexpected sense of social connection throughout the transition period occurred among most participants. Because livestream broadcasts of the Zen Center of Denver, and many other meditation-practicing communities (whether Buddhist or not), show no signs of letting up soon, this paper offers a useful addition to our understandings of symbolic interactions over structuralist conceptions of cyberspace.

Korean Americans, Latinos, and the HANA Center: Solidarity Through Community Organization in Northeastern Chicago

Speaker: Janeth Montenegro Marquez
Role: Paper Presenter
Institution/Affiliation: Illinois State University
Abstract: In this paper I argue how the HANA Center, a Korean American organization and welcome center located in Chicago’s Ravenswood neighborhood, situates itself as not only a hub for the area’s longstanding and new immigrant population, but also as a coalition-building establishment that brings Asians and Latinos together in the struggle for immigrants’ rights. Asians and Latinos, broadly put, have many similarities when it comes to their immigration history. This was true in the past, and it is even more prevalent now. Through an investigation of immigration history in the United States, with a focus on Asian and Latin American immigrant communities, I will demonstrate how the HANA Center strives for coalition-building through an analysis of their webpage, the resources they make available, their status as a Chicago welcome center, and the community-building opportunities they make available for those who might need them. The HANA Center is one of many organizations in the United States that offers resources to immigrants of multiple backgrounds in the US, but this paper offers a look into how one such organization not only compares to the available literature, but also how it is done in Chicago.

Japan and the Korean Wave: Re-shaping History Through Media

Speaker: Alexandria Kopicki
Role: Paper Presenter
Institution/Affiliation: University of Minnesota Twin Cities
Abstract: The socio-political formation of the Zainichi Korean community is a phenomenon that is both multi-layered and multi-polar. The contention between Japanese nationals and the Zainichi Korean community is only intensified by the replicated division of the Koreas within their community. As a result, the stateless positionality of Zainichi has made them the subject of the various agendas of each nation (Japan, South Korea, and North Korea). In other words, the ideological and communal barriers found within the Zainichi Korean community represent the compounded contention between these three nations. In the eyes of Koreans, Japan’s exploitation of Korean bodies during the colonization of Korea has created a legacy of perpetuated injury that remains ever-present in the hearts and minds of Koreans at home and abroad as Japan continues to attempt to eradicate the narrative of Korean hardship from their history books. In recent times, this has taken the form of a celebration and acceptance of South Korean media forms and an adoption of Resident Korean stories into their own national mediascape. While Japan’s acknowledgment of heterogeneity within its borders is no small feat, through an exploration of the creative liberties of the Japanese director of the Naoki prize- winning film adaptation of Zainichi Korean writer Kaneshiro Kazuki’s Go, this paper calls to question if the motives behind Japan’s recent inclusion of Zainichi Korean narratives serves the purpose of advocacy or is disguised mode of assimilation by rewriting Zainichi Korean experiences in film and media.