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SEA Us Rise: Feminist Praxis of Intimacy in Southeast Asian American Youth Organizing


The everyday lives of Southeast Asian Americans are filled with the complex connections to the historical trauma in Southeast Asia, absence of memories, and silences in intimate spaces. A new political generation comprised of the 1.5th generation and 2nd generation are rising to address the issues in the community through a refugee feminist epistemology. Their youth organizing uses strategies of resilience and healing that are both transformative and empowering. This thesis examines the ways in which youth-centered organizations such as Khmer Girls in Action in Long Beach, California and the Southeast Asian Student Association at the University of California, Irvine are crucial for these processes to occur. I emphasize themes of memory, intimacy, and intergenerational transmission in the analysis of the organizations’ cultural productions in order for Southeast Asian American youth to make meaning of their lives. Not only are they talking about their families’ culture and history, they are creating intimate relationships in these community spaces. In addition, the predominately female leaders and activists in these organizations are performing gendered care, carrying on the responsibility of emotional connection and social reproduction. Hence, this thesis is centered on the resilient spirit of Southeast Asian American youth, with a particular focus on women and girls, who perform the gendered care of fostering intimacy for Southeast Asian American youth to enable them to connect with their families and communities.

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