Event Title

What *Is* “Asian American?”: Asian American As A Socially Constructed Kind

Location

SU 218

Start Date

19-4-2019 12:20 PM

Department

Philosophy

Session

Session 9

Description

What is “Asian American?” (What exactly are we talking about when we use the term “Asian American” to refer to a racialized group, or when we use a specific term to refer to specific racialized group, more generally?) This is an important question to ask for demographic purposes, and thus the term comprises a distinct category on the U.S. Census. However, it is not always clear what is meant by the term in popular parlance, and the trend (e.g., on social media, where there is a hashtag, #disaggregatedata) to insist on disaggregating the data on this large swath of the human population for the purposes of the social sciences is demonstrative of its discursive limitations. My paper takes the view that Asian American is socially constructed kind. Following after other social constructionists such as Sally Haslanger, I take Asian American, as a social kind, to be a social reality that is ontologically distinct from a natural kind. My paper also asks if Asian American is a racial kind determined by group solidarity originating from a social movement, and, like other socially constructed kinds such as disability, constructed from cluster- concept reasoning. My argument benefits significantly from the work of Elizabeth Barnes on disability. Barnes offers a moderate social constructionist account of the social kind, “disability”: “the disability rights movement didn’t just influence the kind disability, they created it. I want to say that disability is socially constructed from group solidarity.” 1 She continues, “disability is all and only the things that the disability rights movement ought to consider as things they are promoting justice for - it is rule-based solidarity among people with certain kinds of bodies.” 2 These rules may seem arbitrary. However, as I argue, they are a response to the oppression faced by a group that has formed by means of solidarity with a social movement. My account, similar to that of Barnes, will also be sympathetic to Charles Mills’s view on race: it makes sense to ask whether someone is really Asian American, in the same way it makes sense to ask whether someone is really disabled. In agreeing with Barnes and following her reasoning with regards to the social kind, “Asian American,” I argue that “Asian American” is defined by whatever the Asian American movement is and has been promoting justice for.

Comments

Stacey Goguen is the faculty sponsor of this project.

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Apr 19th, 12:20 PM

What *Is* “Asian American?”: Asian American As A Socially Constructed Kind

SU 218

What is “Asian American?” (What exactly are we talking about when we use the term “Asian American” to refer to a racialized group, or when we use a specific term to refer to specific racialized group, more generally?) This is an important question to ask for demographic purposes, and thus the term comprises a distinct category on the U.S. Census. However, it is not always clear what is meant by the term in popular parlance, and the trend (e.g., on social media, where there is a hashtag, #disaggregatedata) to insist on disaggregating the data on this large swath of the human population for the purposes of the social sciences is demonstrative of its discursive limitations. My paper takes the view that Asian American is socially constructed kind. Following after other social constructionists such as Sally Haslanger, I take Asian American, as a social kind, to be a social reality that is ontologically distinct from a natural kind. My paper also asks if Asian American is a racial kind determined by group solidarity originating from a social movement, and, like other socially constructed kinds such as disability, constructed from cluster- concept reasoning. My argument benefits significantly from the work of Elizabeth Barnes on disability. Barnes offers a moderate social constructionist account of the social kind, “disability”: “the disability rights movement didn’t just influence the kind disability, they created it. I want to say that disability is socially constructed from group solidarity.” 1 She continues, “disability is all and only the things that the disability rights movement ought to consider as things they are promoting justice for - it is rule-based solidarity among people with certain kinds of bodies.” 2 These rules may seem arbitrary. However, as I argue, they are a response to the oppression faced by a group that has formed by means of solidarity with a social movement. My account, similar to that of Barnes, will also be sympathetic to Charles Mills’s view on race: it makes sense to ask whether someone is really Asian American, in the same way it makes sense to ask whether someone is really disabled. In agreeing with Barnes and following her reasoning with regards to the social kind, “Asian American,” I argue that “Asian American” is defined by whatever the Asian American movement is and has been promoting justice for.