Recreating Asian Identity: Yellow Peril, Model Minority, and Black and Asian Solidarities

Apa Studies on Asian and Asian American Philosophers and Philosophies 23 (1):11-17 (2023)
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Does intersectionality divide marginalized groups (e.g., women) along identity lines (e.g., race, class, and sexuality)? In response to the criticism that intersectional approaches to feminist and critical race theories lead to fragmentation and division, this paper notes that it relies on an ontological (mis)understanding of identity as a fixed entity. I argue against this notion of identity by engaging in a detailed case study of how Asian American women experience their Asian identity. The case study demonstrates that identity is lived not as a pre-given static object but rather as a fluid and flexible process: what Asian identity means varies according to how this identity is related to the dynamics of power. I propose a tripartite taxonomy of identity-power relationships exhibited in Asian American women’s lives, in which identities are 1) constructed by and 2) used to reproduce power as oppression, as well as 3) used to build power as resistance. In particular, I explore Black and Asian feminist solidarities to show that those at the margins recreate their identities and, in doing so, build positive forms of power such as resistance and solidarity. The criticism that intersectionality leads to fragmentation does not hold, as it is grounded in a flawed notion of identity that fails to consider how identities are actually lived in their changing relationships to power—especially how marginalized groups, such as women of color, build solidarity to resist oppression by recreating their identities, rather than being fragmented into smaller and mutually exclusive subgroups.

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Youjin Kong
University of Georgia


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