Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California


Established in 2021, the Asian American Research Journal (AARJ), co-sponsored by the Asian American Research Center (AARC) and the Asian American and Asian Diaspora studies (AAADS) Program at UC Berkeley, seeks to provide a platform for research and scholarly work centered on Asian American experiences, identities, and communities. The AARJ is published annually with the intent to uplift and direct power towards undergraduate and graduate research. AARJ accepts work that facilitates discourse on Asian American issues.

Shaping Our Legacies

Issue cover
Cover Caption: "Shaping Our Legacies" Cover by An Nguyen, shot by Julianne Han


Chief Editors' Note

To the community,

We are honored and excited to share our third annual volume of the Asian American Research Journal with you all. This journal was established in Fall 2020, amid the pandemic, as a means of battling historical erasure and misunderstandings of Asian American history that continue to impact our community today. Our goal is to provide a platform to center Asian American and Asian diasporic experiences, studies, and research; we believe that by uplifting each other’s voices, we can inform, educate, and spark change.

This volume’s theme of “Shaping Our Legacies” explores how generations of Asian Americans have evolved and persevered throughout time. The stories in this publication invite readers to retrace the roots of Asian American identity and contemplate how these communities have continued to persist in the face of hardship, fight against injustice, and build upon their cultures. Through this issue, we hope you will gain a deeper understanding of our present, and perhaps even a glimpse into our future, as our diverse communities continue to shape the legacies imparted upon them.

The support of our authors, editors, designers, faculty, and community members has been invaluable to Asian American Research Journal’s growth as both a publication and an academic community. We want to emphasize that none of this work would have been possible without the incredible efforts of our AARJ Board; thank you to our executive editors Vivian Kuang and Grace Huang, our chief designer An Nguyen, our communications chair Frances Chai, and our finance and operations chair Kelly Lam. Finally, our gratitude goes out to the eScholarship team and our endlessly supportive faculty sponsors, Dr. Khatharya Um and Dr. Lok Siu.

We hope you enjoy reading “Shaping Our Legacies” as much as we have!

In Solidarity,

Antonia Mou and Julianne Han

Chief Editors 2022-2023

The Impacts and Significance of Yum Cha for the Cantonese Diaspora

Across the Cantonese diaspora, dim sum establishments have been a critical cultural hubfor immigrant communities. Dim sum are the foods that are consumed during yum cha, a popularCantonese brunch meal with shareable dishes and tea. Dumplings, buns, noodles, stews, desserts,fried delectables, and other dim sum come in a variety of flavor profiles, textures, and shapes,making the yum cha process one filled with joy and plentitude. Popularized in Southern China,yum cha became a staple morning cuisine for the working class by the mid-20th century. Itspopularity and other restaurant innovations elevated dim sum from street food to indoor diningfood. Labor migrations within the last century have brought Cantonese cuisine to the rest of theworld, including Southeast Asia, Australia, the United Kingdom, and North America. ForChinese communities overseas, the establishment, performance, and preservation of native foodsbecomes a process of recreating home and belonging in the resettlement society. In particular,yum cha comes with a formal set of etiquette and customs which emulate cultural values, oralhistories, and social hierarchies. From the distribution of tea to the festive dining ambiance, yumcha provides a collective culinary citizenship and communal space for immigrant communities.More than a physical recreation of home, yum cha becomes a socio-cultural transitory space forthe Cantonese diaspora to actively practice cultural traditions and teach future generations.

Japanese American Women's Self-Definition Facing Identity Crisis Through Intersectional Lenses

This essay examines the self-definition of Japanese American women through anintersectional lens, recognizing the intricate interplay of multiple identities shaped by factorssuch as race, gender, ethnicity, religion, and more. While the portrayal of minority women bymainstream media as a homogenous group has resulted in damaging stereotypes that underminethe complexity and diversity of their experiences, the intersectional theory—whichacknowledges the complex interplay of social forces, identities, and ideologies that legitimizepower and disadvantage in society—offers a more nuanced understanding of the experiences ofJapanese American women. Incorporating historical context and Western feminist theories, thispaper argues that the adoption of an intersectional approach is necessary to better understand thediverse experiences of Japanese American women and their self-definition, also stressing thatpromoting diversity and intersectionality can advance research and support individuals, creatinga society that celebrates and embraces all of its members.

A Study on the ABG, a Racialized, Gendered Social Label

The Asian Baby Girl (ABG), a racialized and gendered social label, is a recent socialphenomenon occurring within the Asian American community. It is a new Asian Americanarchetype amongst the Dragon Lady, China Doll, and Lotus Blossom that targets and constructsracialized femininity. Hinging on its visual appearance, the ABG is a persona whoseperformance evokes positive and negative connotations due to its ability to subvert AsianAmerican stereotypes and create a hybridized Asian American persona, while also creating newand restraining stereotypes imposed onto Asian American women. This study intends toinvestigate how this new racialized and gendered social label, the ABG persona, impacts theexperiences of Asian American women by focusing on the allure and rejection of the label, andthe operation of this label under the male gaze and within academic and professional settings.

How Do You Decide Your Major(s)?: A Study of Asian American Female College Students’ Major Choice(s)

“The “model minority myth” is an overgeneralized symbol for Asian Americans, definingthe characteristics and pursuits of Asian Americans based on their racial identity. They areportrayed as smart yet humble and, according to the stereotype, they enjoy a higher income inSTEM-related fields, which stands for “science, technology, engineering, and mathematics”.Meanwhile, the myth perpetuates an image of Asian women as feminine, caring, and gentle.Thus, the intersectionality of the racial and gender stereotypes creates overlapping pressure anddiscrimination against Asian female college students. Given the stereotypes of the Asian andAsian female community, this study seeks to answer the following research questions by addinga gender component: How do Asian American female college students choose their major(s)? &How do they react to racial and gender stereotypes when deciding their major(s)? This researchaims to navigate the variety of reactions of Asian American female students themselves whenthey choose a major in college. Using data from eight in-depth interviews with Asian Americanfemale college students aged 18 to 21, this study explores personal motivation, familyexpectations, and institutional influences as Asian American female students negotiate andbalance multiple factors that influence their major choice(s). While the existing literature mostlytalks about conformity to the model minority myth, this study explains how students developtheir unique strategies to take their agency when deciding on their college major(s). Thus, thisresearch extends the scope of the existing literature to explore students’ agency.

Elder Wisdom, 1960s Asian American Activism, and the Struggle for Third World Education

The 1960s Asian American Movement and 1968–69 Third World Liberation Front(TWLF) Strikes dismantled racist stereotypes of Asian Americans as “silent citizens” while alsoconnecting the community to a broader global liberation movement. This research explores howthese 1960s radical movements continue to influence modern Asian American communityorganizing and efforts to build multiracial solidarity. This paper draws upon the wisdom ofinterviewees who participated in the 1960s TWLF Strikes at SFSU and UC Berkeley, and theradicalizing lessons they shared with a younger generation of students, activists, and communityleaders.Through a series of conversations with former TWLF student members and leftistactivists, this paper reflects on the following questions: In light of the broad political changesthat emerged from the 1960s Third World struggle, how do we begin to understand thesignificance of these movements today? What lessons can we learn from Third World solidarityand the origins of Asian America, given the institutional limitations of the Ethnic Studiesdepartment at UC Berkeley? The theoretical and social foundations of these past movementschallenge capitalist, imperialist perspectives and emphasize an urgent community focus. Byrediscovering community-oriented learning and “self-determination,” Asian American studentscan revitalize the spirit of the Third World struggle in Ethnic Studies and the broader community.

Stuck in the Middle: Crimmigration and the Asian American Community

“Crimmigration,” coined in 2006 by Professor Juliet Stumpf, refers to the merging ofcriminal and immigration law in the United States, particularly after 1980. Crimmigrationincludes both immigration-related punishments for non-American citizens convicted of crimesand immigration enforcement’s growing resemblance to criminal law enforcement. This paperexplores the historical development of crimmigration through laws such as the 1996Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act and Illegal Immigration Reform and ImmigrantResponsibility Act, as well as the massive expansion in ICE detention in recent decades. Itargues that Asian Americans have been disproportionately impacted by crimmigration due totheir historical marginalization at the intersection of non-citizen status, poverty, and violence.“Stuck in the middle” of the criminalization of immigration and unjust punishment ofimmigrants with criminal convictions, Asian American communities are uniquely impacted by acrimmigration system that marginalizes those seen as foreign and “other.”

Uprooted but Unbroken: Ethnic Studies Programs in California Prisons

Asian Americans compose a relatively small but growing portion of the prison populationboth nationwide and in California, with the number of AAPIs incarcerated in the US quadruplingfrom 2000 to 2010. Incarcerated Asian Americans face unique challenges, often having arrivedto the US as refugees fleeing war and genocide and struggling with intergenerational trauma,familial isolation and stigma, and a lack of culturally informed programs in prison. Thus, thisresearch project focuses on ethnic studies programs in California prisons, with a specific focuson Asian American studies programs. Constructed through interviews with participants andfacilitators of these programs, this project finds that ethnic studies programs have transformativeeffects on incarcerated people’s sense of self, personal healing, sense of community, and capacityas agents of change for themselves and others during and after incarceration.

Insiders, Outsiders, and In-Between: Asian Nonimmigrant Experience in the American Context of Intersectional Racism

The racism discussion in the United States has often overlooked the role of legal statuses and left Asian resident nonimmigrants unable to process their intersectional experience with racial discrimination in the American context. This lack of space plays out within public discussions, within one’s subjectivity, and within the minority collective subjectivity. This paper demonstrates the invisibility of this space through examples of news reports and governmental policies during the 2020 pandemic and provides the language and framework for legal statuses as part of intersectional racism with reference to literature on the philosophy of race.

Bridging Vietnamese Subjectivities in the United States: On Complex Communication through Time and Space

The end of “The Second Indochina War,” “The Vietnam War,” or “The Anti-American Resistance War” forty years ago has led to millions of Vietnamese fleeing Vietnam to the United States and millions of others living in post-war poverty. The historical, political, and spatial separation between North and South Vietnam has also resulted in a fragmented Vietnamese identity and subjectivity. As a Vietnamese international student growing up in north Vietnam, moving to the United States, and coming in contact with the Vietnamese diaspora here without identifying with it, I am driven by the questions: “What does it mean to be Vietnamese in the United States? How do I reconcile the internalized tension of North/South Vietnamese historical conflict and come to terms with my Vietnamese experience in the U.S. I share with many other diasporic subjects here?” Using María Lugones’s frameworks of diasporic and nondiasporic subjects, liminality, and complex communication, I analyzed Thi Bui’s memoir The Best We Could Do and traced back my own family’s history from a Vietnamese nondiasporic position in an attempt to bridge across fragmentation and build a coalitional Vietnamese resistance through time and space.

Ode to 옹기: An examination of culinary tradition, memory, and belonging in the Korean diaspora

옹기 are earthenware pots originating on the Korean peninsula; vessels that have sustained kitchens and designed palettes since before the common era. Home to fermented vegetables, cooking pastes, and alcoholic beverages, 옹기 are not so much culinary tools (though their practical benefits are innumerable) as they are symbols of nostalgia, artistry, and life. In turn, their fading regularity today provokes a greater discourse questioning the effects of modernity and the fluidity of tradition across generations of Korean diaspora. Beginning with 옹기, this paper analyzes the concept of authenticity as it appears in several diasporic negotiations of self, “home,” and belonging. Often when writing “ethnic” food, assumptions are liberally made, and the cuisine is homogenized—both intentionally and not, though this distinction matters little when the effect is the same. In light of this, terms like 고추장 are indexed as simply “spicy red pepper paste” rather than “Korean spicy red pepper paste”–a nuanced yet persistent attempt at asserting the narrative as told for and by the subjects it concerns, rather than in observation of them. While food is crucial to many diasporic relationships with “home,” for some the two are completely unrelated, a detail seldom acknowledged by Western perspectives on the culinary world. We are not defined by authenticity nor our proximity to it, and our experiences parallel one another to a far lesser extent than they are unique, such that any attempt to generalize them is futile. Instead, it is much more substantial to recognize—and rejoice in—the endless variety of our narratives, identities, and dinner tables.


Names and biographies of everyone who made this journal possible.