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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.

Illuminating Lived Realities

Issue cover
For our second publication, we set out to create a platform for students to submit works that address the ways in which Asian American communities have been affected by the global pandemic. As the world moves forward in unpredictable trajectories and rattles communities, the AARJ supplies an outlet to recognize and validate the lived experiences of Asian Americans, stepping away from the presupposed assumptions and narratives that have been painted upon them. We collected submissions that reflect the need for debunking sociocultural stereotypes, reclaiming histories, and attending to our communities, breaking out of the margins in which we have been historically situated.


Chief Editors' Note

To the community,

The Asian American Research Journal was founded in the Fall of 2020, amidst a year of reinforced stereotypes and rising violence against Asian Americans as the COVID-19 pandemic began to become embedded into everyday life. A year later, we continue to witness and experience the harm inflicted upon our communities. We have all been awaiting the day this hostility comes to an end, but with further investigation of our histories as immigrants and descendants of immigrants, we are certain that the same question has been pondered by generations of Asian Americans throughout the course of economic, legal, and social injustices they have had to endure since their arrivals: When will things change? Adversity seems to persist regardless of the time period. However, alongside the pain, we become more conscious and confident about our own existences and identities. As we learn more about ourselves, our families, our communities, and our histories, we grow as we assertively march onwards into our futures.

Now, with a platform to engage in and publish research, we have worked towards our second publication. Taking into great consideration the context of the global pandemic, our theme “Illuminating Lived Realities” seeks to bring light to and to validate the vast diversity of Asian American experiences. With proper attention to their lives, we debunk stereotypes, reclaim histories, and attend to our communities, breaking out of the margins in which we have been historically situated.

We are honored to have had the opportunity to put this volume forth with the guidance of the co-founders and chief editors of the AARJ’s first volume, Anh-Tu Lu, Austin Le, Gabrielle Nguyen, and Richie Chu. We also extend our thanks to the authors, designers, editors, faculty, and community members who have supported the journal the entire way through, and we cannot wait to continue seeing this academic community bloom and thrive. We especially thank the tremendous efforts of our journal-building community: Julianne Han, our executive editor, Antonia Mou, our executive editor and chief designer, and Frances Chai, our communications chair. Finally, thank you to Rachel Lee and the eScholarship team, and our warmest gratitude to our endlessly supportive faculty sponsors, Dr. Khatharya Um and Dr. Lok Siu.

Please enjoy “Illuminating Lived Realities”!

In Solidarity,Gun Ho Moon and Yi-Shen Loo Chief Editors 2021-2022

COVID-19 is a “Yellow Peril” Redux: Immigration and Health Policy and the Construction of the Chinese as Disease

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Asian Americans have endured a stark rise in discrimination, harassment, and violence. Public discourse regarding COVID-19 has also been filled with anti-Asian and xenophobic rhetoric, including former President Donald Trump’s usage of racially charged epithets like “China Virus” and “Kung Flu.” However, this is not the first time that Asian Americans, and specifically Chinese Americans, have been condemned as a public health threat. In the late 1800s, Chinese immigrants were stereotyped as the “Yellow Peril” and dirty disease carriers amidst growing anti-Chinese sentiment, culminating in the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act. Additionally, San Francisco Chinatown was intentionally and unfairly targeted by public health officials in attempts to purge the bubonic plague at the turn of the century. While court cases like Wong Wai v. Williamson (1900) and Jew Ho v. Williamson (1900) determined that such public health campaigns violated the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause by singling out Chinese individuals, their legal outcomes do not represent the overall social consensus, both historically and today. Thus, our current moment of surging anti-Asian rhetoric and racism must be contextualized within America’s long history of branding Asian and Chinese people as unwanted, filthy vectors of contagion to be excluded. This paper argues that the uptick in anti-Asian racial violence during the COVID-19 pandemic is a direct extension of xenophobic scapegoating, racial formation, and sociocultural representation of Chinese immigrants as harbingers of disease that rationalized the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act and San Francisco’s racist public health measures in 1900. Ultimately, I argue that America's historical intersection of exclusionary immigration law and discriminatory health policy set the stage for COVID-19 to play out as a “Yellow Peril” redux.

Infantilization of the Asian American Elderly and the Nature of the Media

As hostility towards Asian Americans has been on the rise since the start of the global pandemic, Asian American elders have been particular targets of public brutality. While Asian Americans have historically been defined and positioned with varying stereotypes depending on their context in America, including the duality of the model minority myth and the international threat, the Asian American elderly do not seem to be registered in either of these categories but continue to exist as victims to these violences. Rather, there seems to be a uniquely intersectional position the Asian American elderly occupy in consequence to them being infantilized that causes Americans to desire to inflict harm upon them. The media has been devoutly displaying the news of these assaults, rampantly spreading them as widely as they can for the nation to see, but there seems to be something cynical about their obsession with images of violence.

Language and Ethnic Belonging: Identity by Way of Language

Language and ethnic belonging are topics that intertwine with one another. 1.5 and second generation Asian Americans experience a struggle in the maintenance of their ethnic language as they navigate the USA with the English language. This paper examines this relationship by investigating how language proficiency impacts an individual’s degree of ethnicbelonging within the Asian American experience. This investigation utilizes the narratives of eight 1.5 and second generation Asian Americans. Drawing from these narratives, proficiency in the ethnic language can impact ethnic belonging via personal identification, coethnic acceptance, and cultural connection.

Settler Colonialism by Settlers of Color: Understanding Han Taiwanese Settler Colonialism in Taiwan through Japanese American Settler Colonialism in Hawai’i

My paper evaluates the United States settler colonial framework in relation to Han Taiwanese citizenship, independence, and rights to the island now called Taiwan. I use parallels from the Japanese American occupation of Hawai'i to investigate how white settler colonial logics, such as multiculturalism and the settler-colonial Unconscious, are instilled in East Asian settlers through the promise of democratic rights and sovereignty. Settlers of color, therefore, complicate the binary between the “colonizer” and “colonized” as demonstrated through the simultaneous oppression of people of color by the white settler state and the oppression of Indigenous peoples by settlers of color. With this, I reflect on the following questions: What does it mean to claim independence on land that is stolen Indigenous land, and how is this narrative further complicated when these settlers are people of color? Similar settler colonial tactics and commitments to capitalism are utilized by both the U.S. and Taiwan; therefore, it is imperative for Taiwanese and Taiwanese American people to recognize this and reject the white settler colonial framework to truly be in solidarity with Indigenous peoples.

The Auntie Sewing Squad and Asian American Women’s Craftivism

The Auntie Sewing Squad, founded in March 2020 by Kristina Wong, sews cotton masks to help those in need during the time of COVID-19 and follows a legacy of “craftivism,” or craft activism, being used for health justice in the United States. In the age of COVID-19, crafts, particularly the sewing of masks, have served a purpose for not only political health justice work, but for survival. For the Auntie Sewing Squad, their work in seeking to provide proper PPE, or personal protective equipment, to vulnerable communities is necessarily political due to the failure of the United States government to provide basic health equipment for all individuals during this global pandemic. This paper explores the ways in which the Auntie Sewing Squad’s work connects to the narrative of Asian American women participating in craftivism during the current health crisis of COVID-19 to not only provide masks to communities in need but also to create a collective network grounded in ideas of care. Analyzing four interviews conducted with members of the Auntie Sewing Squad revealed themes of mutual aid in a time of scarcity, transgenerational implications of care and knowledge, and health justice work. Thus, the Auntie Sewing Squad provides a counternarrative to the idea that Asian Americans are apolitical through its members’ health justice craftivism and centers the often marginalized narratives of Asian American women.

The Punjabi Pioneers

On a warm day in Imperial Valley California, visitors and residents alike can indulge in a fascinating cross-cultural dining experience: chicken curry enchiladas. The only aspect of this dish more enticing than its expert mix of flavors lies in its rich cultural history. Each bite conveys a story, stories of enterprising migrants from Punjab who married Mexican-American women and fiercely defended their ability to establish roots in their new homeland, despite a host of discriminatory legislation and the barriers of a foreign legal system. Building on primary source material uncovered by renowned anthropologist Karen Leonard in her book “Making Ethnic Choices,” I argue that the Punjabis achieved their success by pulling from a host of familiar strategies, including litigation, marriage, and cross-cultural networking, all learned from their interactions with the British Raj. I chart a path through historiography by examining how Punjabi farmers navigated a unique system of land ownership within Punjab before drawing on the experiences of Punjabi soldiers and laborers in the imperial service. I then delve deep into the lives of Punjabi immigrants in the United States, in which critical relationships with Hispanic women and local officials allowed them to circumvent the Alien Land Laws and maintain their status as landowners. This paper will illuminate how the unique experience of being a colonial subject has influenced, and continues to directly influence, how South Asian immigrants establish deep economic and agricultural roots in the Western United States.

The Risk Factors of Poor Mental Health Outcomes in Second-Generation Asian Americans

Poor mental health is a prevalent public health issue, especially among Asian American populations. Due to cultural barriers, Asian Americans may not understand the concept of mental health and may underutilize mental health resources. With Asian Americans being the largest and fastest-growing racial group in the United States, mental health research is essential to improving the well-being of future generations of Asian American generations. Having a better understanding of the determinants for poor mental health in Asian American communities is critical for effective public health interventions. This qualitative study examined how cultural and social expectations, gender roles, intergenerational trauma, and evolving attitudes influenced the mental health outcomes of six second-generation Asian Americans, one White American, and one Latinx American. Our findings suggest that Asian Americans have a greater burden to succeed academically compared to their white and Latinx counterparts. Furthermore, our study suggests that gender roles and intergenerational trauma may increase the risk of poor mental health outcomes for cisgender females Asian Americans and Southeast Asian Americans, respectively. Finally, our findings suggest mental health is becoming normalized which would ultimately improve mental health outcomes.


Names and biographies of everyone who made this journal possible.