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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.

Building Our Voices


Chief Editors' Note

To the community,

As mass media showcased the increasing instances of anti-Asian racism and xenophobia towards the Asian diaspora, the chief editors saw that there was a lack of research literature on the Asian American experience, both before and during the onset of the pandemic. By providing a platform that empowers students to share their academic work, the AARJ continues the vision initiated by student activists in the Third World Liberation Front (TWLF) strikes by de-centering academic gatekeeping against people of color and reinforcing the importance of Asian American and Asian Diasporic studies as a scholarly field. We are proud to announce the publication of this first issue of the Asian American Research Journal (AARJ) at UC Berkeley. We created this journal because we saw that UC Berkeley lacked a platform for undergraduate and graduate students to publish their research and scholarly work centered on Asian American and Asian Diasporic experiences, identities, and communities.

For our initial publication, we chose the theme “Building Our Voices”. We envisioned a space to recognize and showcase student papers commenting, analyzing, and advising on the various contemporary issues facing the Asian American community, as well as how historical legacies of trauma, discrimination, and oppression continue to affect past, present, and future generations. In addressing the need for a platform for student work and voices, we encouraged a broad range of submissions to capture the multifaceted, non-monolithic stories of the Asian American and Asian diaspora.

We are beyond thankful to the editors, designers, authors, faculty editors, and community members for bringing this inaugural journal to fruition and are excited for this publication to continue supporting future generations of scholars to come. We especially thank the tireless efforts of our journal-building community: Anya Fang, our logo designer; Jamie Noh, our chief designer; Rachel Lee and the eScholarship team, and of course, our relentlessly uplifting faculty sponsors, Dr. Khatharya Um, Dr. Lok Siu, and Dr. Michael Omi.

Please enjoy the first issue of the Asian American Research Journal!

In Solidarity,

Anh-Tu Lu, Austin Le, Gabrielle Nguyen, Richie Chu

Chief Editors 2020-2021

Asian American Research Journal Co-founders

Faculty Editors' Note

When Richie, Austin, Anh-Tu, and Gabby first approached us about their interest in initiating an undergraduate e-journal with a focus on Asian American issues, we were thrilled to learn of their vision for the project and offered our unqualified support. A student-led initiative, the multi-disciplinary Asian American Research Journal (AARJ) with a focus on Asian American experience is the first of its kind at UC Berkeley! Over the course of 15-plus months of incubation, the team worked with us to think through the structure of the editorial board, the disciplinary parameters of the journal, the copyright issues of publishing, and the editorial process. From the outset, the team worked fastidiously and methodically, ensuring the timely publication of their first issue at the end of the academic year 2020-2021. They did all this remotely, amid the shelter-in-place orders and on top of their own academic and extra-curricular responsibilities. Their herculean efforts to make this collective vision come true is nothing short of awe-inspiring!

The inaugural issue of  the Asian American Research Journal (AARJ) is an excellent collection of timely articles that reflect the diversity of interests and issues facing Asian Americans today. The essays encompass a broad range of topics, including health and mental wellness, Asian North American representations, policies and legislations, education, involuntary migration and refugeeism, sexuality, and the reintegration of the formerly incarcerated. Together, the essays showcase the vibrant, dynamic, and socially engaged research taken up by our talented and committed students. Their keen analysis of some of the most pressing issues of our time amplifies the work of the Asian American and Asian Diaspora Studies Program. They also affirm the importance of cultivating and nurturing young critics and scholars, who will carry forward this intellectual project and advance social change.

With great pride and enthusiasm, we welcome this inaugural issue of the AARJ! We are so proud of the team and so grateful for all the thought, time, effort, and care that the members put in to launch UC Berkeley’s first Asian American Research Journal. They and their work represent all the very best that the Asian American and Asian Diaspora Studies Program stands for. We thank them for their inspiration, vision, and hard work, and for carrying our message forward and outward!

Professor Lok Siu                         Professor  Khatharya Um

Asian American Perceptions of Affirmative Action

Confusion regarding affirmative action programs combined with ambiguous and secretive college admission processes have generated a growing resentment amongst the Asian American community specifically in the ways that they view other racial and ethnic minorities. Although affirmative action is popularly believed to disadvantage Asian Americans, this paper makes the case that the false narrative of affirmative action is more harmful to Asian Americans than affirmative action programs themselves because of how these misconceptions generate intense divisions within the Asian American community. After a brief personal preface, this paper establishes the historical origins of the affirmative action myth as well as introduces research that shows how negative portrayals of affirmative action are misleading. After discussing the current consequences of repealing affirmative action in college admissions, the second part of this paper investigates contemporary views of affirmative action from both students and parents who identify as Asian American. Lastly, this paper discusses applications of the research findings to modern Asian American movements towards self-determination.

Bilingual Education for Asian Americans

Since the 1960s, Asian American children often face unequal access to American schools as a result of their lack in English proficiency. Despite this recurring phenomenon, American schools continue to push for a primarily English education system. In my research, I searched the archives for information on race, language, and education in the United States, the experience of Asian Americans in an English based education system, and the emergence of limited English proficiency and bilingual education programs. Through my analysis, I argue that an English based education privileges English speaking Americans over non-English speaking minorities, and that American education should offer limited English proficiency and bilingual education programs for all non-English speaking children to level the educational playing field.

Chosen Pamilya: Student-Based Retention Programming for Queer Pilipinx American College Students at UC Berkeley

This paper is concerned with the experiences of  LGBTQ Pilipinx American undergraduate leaders who are in charge of developing retention programs and resources for fellow queer Pilipinx American students at UC Berkeley. Using semi-structured interviews, this research draws upon the personal experiences of queer Pilipinx American undergraduate at UC Berkeley who  been involved in student organizing and retention event planning. As descendants of immigrants, uprooted and diasporically displaced by centuries of colonial and imperial regimes, and as members of the pan-ethnic “Asian American” category, observing the existence of queer Filipinx Americans may allow us to further unpack and disaggregate underlooked AAPI experiences. Thus, I interrogate how queerness, gender, and sexuality inform the ways queer Pilipinx Americans navigate higher education, how the experiences they faced as queer subjects growing up, be it positive, negative, or somewhere in between, affected their path to college, and the factors that led them to do the work they are currently doing. This work will allow me to develop a theoretical framework that destabilizes, complicates, and expands our current understandings of queer Asian diasporic experience within educational research.

Conversations on Mental Wellness in Vietnamese American Community

Stigma is one of the major barriers to seeking mental health services among Vietnamese Americans. This barrier is even more prominent spanning different cultures and different generations. The present study examines the following hypothesis: when first-generation, immigrant parents are willing to talk about mental health to their second-generation, US-born children, their children are more open to seeking mental health services as adults. An online survey consisting of quantitative and qualitative questions was administered to 63 people. The results suggest that students are more likely to talk to their peers about mental health issues compared to their families. The results indicate that there should be an increase in accessible services for students and educational workshops for parents and faculty to promote understanding and destigmatize mental health and mental illnesses.

Conversations of Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression Among Iu-Mien High School Students and their Parents

There is a lack of research that focuses primarily on the Iu-Mien population in America. With the lack of scholarly work comes consequences in understanding the needs of these communities. Furthermore, the studies that were conducted on the Iu-Mien caters toward the first generation, many of whom had fled from the Secret War in Laos. The first generation who came to America faced difficulty in expressing mental health concerns due to linguistic barriers and a differing cultural understanding of mental health. This research seeks to explore whether Iu-Mien youth, or the second generation and the generations after, are able to have conversations of their symptoms of anxiety and depression with their parents when they learned English as their first language. It was found that despite speaking English as their first language, many of the respondents (n=13) still struggled to speak about their symptoms due to the fear of being judged and having different beliefs as their parents.

Cultural Affiliation and Mental Health Disruptions of Second Generation Asian Americans in College

The subject of mental health is something that is often stigmatized and overlooked in conversations, and this holds especially true for people of immigrant backgrounds coming from places and cultures in which mental health is a topic that is not discussed and has not been widely recognized and regularly treated in the mainstream, such as in many Asian cultures. In my research, through literary analysis and four qualitative interviews, I delve into how the cultural identity of Second Generation Asian Americans (SGAA) plays a role in their mental health states as well as in their mental health care as they go on their journey in higher education in pursuit of “the American Dream”. Without proper recognition, prioritization, and treatment of mental health issues and without ways to find the root of a problem and address it in order to find better ways to cope, 2nd generation immigrant youths are at large risk to fall into harmful cycles that can be detrimental and injurious to their progress and their lives. I will delve into the how factors such as immigration stress, assimilation, cultural differences, dual identity, family pressures, racialization, and the model minority myth contribute to the higher risk of mental health complications for SGAA in college, threatening their ability to thrive and sometimes even to survive. Hopefully, with a better understanding of the social conditions that SGAA face in college, better systems of mental health support and treatment can be widely circulated to help future generations of SGAA understand and cope with their unique predicaments.

Determinants of Use For Traditional Medicinal Practices Within the Vietnamese American Community

Objective: This study aims to identify potential reasons Vietnamese Americans continue to use traditional medicine and explore the relationship between balancing Western care and traditional medicinal care.  The study’s main hypothesis is that Vietnamese Americans partake in traditional medicinal practices due to five reasons: it is more accessible, there is a cultural significance to the practice, there is a credibility of traditional practices, participants are more comfortable with the practice, and it is more effective than Western medicine. Furthermore, this study hopes to categorize and understand what traditional medicinal practices are used for as supplemental information.

Methods: A digital Google survey was sent out to Vietnamese Americans based on personal connection and word-of-mouth. A sample of 107 responses were obtained within a two week collection period.

Results: Based on the responses, the results supported only part of the hypothesis in which participants rated that traditional medicinal practices held a cultural significance to them and the user felt comfortable using these practices. More so, herbal medicine, wind scraping or coin scratching, and massage therapy were the most common traditional medicinal practices used among the participant pool.

Conclusion: Although the results did not fully support the hypothesis, there is still a better understanding about how respondents viewed traditional medicinal practices in comparison to Western medicine. Vietnamese Americans continue to play a role of bridging traditional and Western practices into their lives, which brings up a point of the need to be more culturally sensitive to traditional practices in a Western healthcare setting. This would allow more cultural competency in designing Western healthcare interventions and open pathways to collaborate between both health spheres, overall potentially decreasing barriers to access to culturally competent care in the United States.

Examining the Limits of Filipinx Enrollment in Selective Postsecondary Public Institutions Within the U.S.: A study on the University of California, Berkeley

California's Filipinx population is one of its largest Asian American subgroups with an extensive history of socioeconomic accounts, although higher education in the state has shown a drastic lack of underrepresentation for Filipinx and Filipinx Americans. This study focuses on the University of California, Berkeley, a selective public institution, and the disparities in effectively reaching parity within admissions applications and enrollment rates among California's significant Filipinx population. According to 2019 data published by the University of California Infocenter, more than 87,000 high school students applied to Berkeley with a 16% admit rate. Filipinx/Filipinx Americans accounted for only 3,468 (3.9%) of Berkeley's applications with only 489 (14%) admitted. When we keep in mind that Filipinxs identify as the largest Asian American subgroup of California, we see a huge discrepancy in numbers. In this paper, I utilize a variety of different resources that encapsulate the greater challenges of Filipinx students within both K-12 and higher education to pinpoint the institutional cause of low enrollment. This includes the disproportionate representation of Filipinx faculty, the racialization of Filipinx as a model minority, and the distinct educational values instilled in Filipinx culture. My data collection further consists of interviews among UC Berkeley undergraduate students, alumni, and faculty. Conversations were emphasized to highlight the socioeconomic elements they believed to be a contributing cause, what short-term and long-term effects culminated from the rate of Filipinx admission at Berkeley, and their impression on current California educational policies such as Proposition 209 and Proposition 16.

Generational Differences Between Asian American Women and their Mothers and its Effects on Sexual and Reproductive Health Communication

The study examined generational differences between Asian American daughters and their mothers to assess the degree in which these differences have on the quality of their sexual and reproductive health (SRH) education. The participants of this study aimed at individuals identifying as college-aged Asian American women. Each participant took an online survey and voluntary interview regarding their experiences navigating their sexual and reproductive health in close reflection of their quality of SRH education from their mothers. The results show that most participants recalled getting little to no communication with their mothers on sexual and reproductive health, and indicated that they have some degree of reservation when it comes to discussing these topics with their mothers presently. Upon consideration of these findings, maternal communication of sexual and reproductive health topics should be destigmatized in order for their daughters to have a more comprehensive education on these topics in adolescence. It is critical for mothers to understand the long-term benefits of properly educating their daughters on the importance of sex and reproduction so that they can develop a positive perspective on SRH as adults.

Involuntary Immigrant: The Story of a Vietnamese Refugee

Hoang Minh Phan never wanted to leave Vietnam. After his father was shot and killed by the Viet Cong, he vowed that he would stay by his mother's side and care for and protect her. However, one fateful morning, Hoang finds himself in a boat with other refugees looking to escape Vietnam. Realizing the situation he was in too late, he journeys to Malaysia, Greece, and finally settled in Texas, where he begins to rebuild his life. This paper explores not only Hoang's story, but the complicated history of many Southeast Asian refugees who escaped Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam after the American Wars in Southeast Asia.

"Know History, Know Self:" Coming Home for Formerly Incarcerated Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders

During the prison boom of the 1990s, the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) prison population in the U.S. exploded by 250 percent. Although they occupy a relatively small portion of the total prison population, AAPIs are one of the fastest-growing groups of incarcerated peoples nationwide. Yet, the experiences of this racial “Other” in the carceral system remain marginalized within the canonical studies of mass incarceration and Asian America. Using 20 in- depth interviews, this research seeks to understand how formerly incarcerated AAPIs experience reentry into their families and communities. Drawing upon carceral and critical refugee studies, I adopt the militarized refugee to reveal the ways in which the legacies of U.S. militarism and transpacific displacement constitute the conditions of reentry for formerly incarcerated AAPIs. I highlight three key aspects in their reentry that demonstrate the ongoing presence of militarism in their lives – living in limbo, cultural shame, stigma, and silence, and knowledge as a site of healing and resistance. These findings demonstrate the need to move beyond traditional reentry frameworks, to which I conclude with thoughts as to how reentry programs and spaces may rethink ways to better support formerly incarcerated AAPIs as they reenter our communities.

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Making Korean-Canadian Representation Convenient: Remediating Kim’s Convenience from Stage to Screen

This analysis of Kim’s Convenience as both a theatrical text and televised sitcom examines the growing trend in diverse representations of daily life in Western media, and the successes achieved by these multicultural media texts. By focusing on a Korean-Canadian immigrant family, Ins Choi seeks to normalize the experiences of the Asian diaspora in North America. In a time of growing Asian representation in the West, this paper advocates for increased presentation of these stories in the media.

Miss Saigon: The Asian Experience in the Perspective of the White Man

Stuart Hall defines stereotyping as a way in which mediamakers separate and excludegroups of people, a hegemonic practice that works to maintain a social order (Hall, 1997). Theproducers and writers of the musical film Miss Saigon aim to show a tragic love story between aVietnamese woman and a white GI soldier during the Vietnam War; however, the mediamaker’snarrow perspective on the war causes the musical to feel limited in showing and understandingvarious experiences of Asian immigration. While mediamakers believe that Miss Saigonencourages Asian representation, by framing the immigrant experience through the perspectiveof white male producers, the musical film depicts Asians as exotic and inferior and createslasting stereotypes. This form of “othering” creates and maintains fixed differences between the“insiders” and “outsiders” as the experiences of minorities are told by people in positions ofpower.

Multiethnic Asian American Identities in Asian American Spaces

This paper seeks to address the ways in which multiethnic Asian American voices have been marginalized in Asian American spaces. I conducted interviews with three participants who self identify as multiethnic Asian Americans and discuss how language, phenotypic features, and family play a role in the multiethnic Asian American experience.

Prevalence of Traditional Asian Postpartum Practices at a Federally Qualified Health Center

Objective: To evaluate the knowledge of, participation in, attitudes towards, and experiences with “doing the month” (DTM), a traditional Chinese and Vietnamese postpartum practice, at a federally qualified health center that serves predominantly Asian immigrants. DTM practices revolve around the balance between yin and yang and include practices such as the mother remaining on bed rest for as long as possible, restricting diet to certain foods, and avoiding visitors and social activities.

Methods: A cross-sectional survey in Chinese, Vietnamese, and English was developed to determine the prevalence of women who have heard of and participated in DTM.

Results: One hundred fifty-four respondents participated. The mean age of respondents was 40.1 years. Without prompting of what DTM was, 58 (37.7%) responded that they had heard of DTM. After an explanatory paragraph, this increased to 117 (76.6%) participants. Out of 107 patients that have children, 65 (60.7%) “did the month” after giving birth. Participation rates were highest for women who identified as Chinese or Vietnamese. Likert-type scale questions showed that respondents believed DTM was stressful but enjoyable and helpful for recovery from childbirth.

Conclusion: DTM is a common practice that health providers should be aware of.

The Model Minority Myth on Asian Americans and its Impact on Mental Health and the Clinical Setting

The false perceptions from the "Model Minority Myth" mask the reality of the myth’s harm in obscuring racism that is seen through forms of microaggressions, lack of representation in American political leadership, and implementation of a racial hierarchy. As the model minority myth continues to be embodied, Asian Americans face generalizations that invalidate the individual experience. Although the myth of the model minority is perceived as a “positive” stereotype, the myth causes high mental health issues among Asian Americans and obscures the inaccessibility to healthcare services, especially in light of COVID-19. Because the myth has become ingrained in American society, a racial hierarchy continues to establish social norms that silence the voices of all minorities. In order to change the positive perceptions surrounding the myth, researchers and healthcare practitioners must be wary of the way in which stereotypes influence diagnoses as well as understand that culture and its connection to the individual is flexible and varies among patients.

The Need for Asian American Data Disaggregation

What would data disaggregation for Asian Americans look like, and why does it matter? Disaggregating the broad category of “Asian” or “Asian American” into subgroups which take national or ethnic origin into account can help to illuminate the disparities present between different Asian American communities. This would allow for a more accurate assessment of need and thus equitable resource allocation for historically disadvantaged groups, for instance Southeast Asian refugee populations such as the Lao, Cambodian, Hmong, and Vietnamese. In this paper, I will discuss the concept of Asian American panethnicity and how it negatively impacts marginalized subgroups by perpetuating the “model minority” myth, masking the disparities revealed in disaggregated data on educational attainment, for example. I will then use Rhode Island’s 2016 “All Students Count Act” as a case study to explore the debate surrounding this issue, arguing that data disaggregation to substantiate the need for affirmative action should not be considered race-based discrimination, but a race-conscious practice that can support and facilitate success in more disadvantaged Asian American communities.

The Path to Asian American Representation

Asian Americans have made substantial progress from being seen as a foreign threat during times of high anti-Asian sentiment to their current image as legally recognized U.S. citizens that can vote and run for office; however, there still exists significant representation challenges created from electoral policies and politics that pose barriers between Asian Americans and elected office. This article will analyze the progress and struggle of Asian American political representation through a legal, political, and electoral lens and support solutions that break down these barriers to Asian American political power. Much of this discussion about obtaining Asian American political power requires familiarity with the racial stereotypes of Asian Americans such as the “perpetual foreigner” and the “model minority” stereotypes, since many voters often incorporate stereotypes into the evaluation of their candidates. Three strategies (multiracial campaign platforms, panethnic campaign fundraising, and Voting Rights Act expansion) will be presented that will take these stereotypes into account and provide a path to Asian American representation.

Tracing War Bride Legislation and the Racial Construction of Asian Immigrants

Many historical studies of Asian immigration in the United States focus on the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) of 1965, since this Act led to a dramatic increase of Asian immigration and significantly revised former immigration policies. However, war bride legislation—laws governing the immigration of the foreign-born wives of American servicemen—represents an interesting area of political and legal analysis. Between the 1924 Johnson-Reed Act which established highly restrictive national-origin quotas and the 1965 INA, thousands of Asian women immigrated to the United States as war brides, unrestricted by quotas. Their immigration represents a complex period of history during which the category of “immigrant” was consistently revised, racialized, and expanded. My paper surveys the history of these Acts and Amendments and argues that this legislation aimed to replace the perpetual foreigner myth with a gendered and “colorblind” myth about immigrant spouses—a precursor to the model minority myth.

Vietnamese America: On ‘Good Refugees’, Fake News, and Historical Amnesia

Vietnamese Americans are at a crossroads: the rise of mainstream misinformation and pro-Trump sentiment in their communities is not a historical aberration, yet attempts to explain it draw exclusively upon the good refugee narrative and fail to interrogate the legacy of imperialism and liberalism that all Americans inherit.


Names and biographies of all the folks who made this journal possible