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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Negotiating With Agency: Towards an Intersectional Understanding of Violence and Resilience in Young Southeast Asian Men


Research regarding Southeast Asian youth violence often employs a risk and protective factors framework, portraying such behavior as a problem of maladaptation. However, violence also holds meaning for the youth who experience it. Cultural and gender theorists posit that violence is a tool young people use to construct their gender and racial identities. As adolescence is a key period of identity formation, understanding youths’ constructions of their gender and racial identities may inform more appropriate violence prevention strategies. As part of a research team, I conducted focus groups and semi-structured individual interviews with a diverse group (n=21) of young Southeast Asian men ages 13-17 recruited from a community clinic for Asian youth. Interviews elicited the role violence plays in their understanding of what it means for them to be both Southeast Asian and young men. Data were analyzed using a grounded theory approach. My findings document that violence is ubiquitous in the lives of these young men. Furthermore, resilience and identity formation should be understood as complex processes through which relations of power are mediated and navigated, as opposed to static traits that young people possess. Thus, I suggest that violence prevention programs should use a constructionist framework, as opposed to an ecological framework, to design interventions that speak to the lived realities of the youth they target.

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