Society and Identity
We propose a roundtable to articulate new frameworks for analyzing “race” in Asia. Panelists will draw on expertise that is interdisciplinary (including scholars of law, gender/sexuality and women's studies, architecture, and history) and transregional, sited in research across all regions Asia that includes racialized legal structures in Hong Kong; racialized architectural structures across Southeast Asia; religion, gender, caste, and race in India; Sinophone concepts of beauty, body, and race; and racialized commerce across US-Asia empires from South Korea to Taiwan.
Our starting contention is that representations of “race” in Asia are not simply derivative of Euro-American ideas of “race,” nor are they solely reducible to color differences. Furthermore, we contend that “race” in Asia cannot be examined as isolated national or regional concepts -- as in a “Chinese” or “Keralan” idea of “race.” Instead, “race” is deployed in Asia and by Asians in complex, interconnected, and often confounding ways. “Race” builds on Asian ideas of identity while playing off globalized ideas of modernity; “race” is weighty and corporeal but also slippery and unstable; “race” is embedded deeply in buildings and institutions but is also plastic, adapting to buttress new structures of hierarchy and status.
Thus, this panel will encourage conversation across borders, national groups, and cultures in order to understand these racialized networks of meaning and power. Panelists will discuss questions that include: How would our ideas of “race” in Asia change if we moved beyond the White/Black binary and analyses of Euro-American settler colonialism? How can we understand “race” as a legacy of, and contributor to, Asian status hierarchies in a world of shifting empires, borders, and power relationships? How have migration, diaspora, and cultural and commercial exchange inflected definitions of “race”? And how do Asian ideas of gender/sexuality, the body, religion, class, nation, ethnicity, and color interact with “race” in Asia? Panelists will use empirical contemporary and historical work as foundation stones, but will also work toward analytical frameworks that can be used across period, region, and discipline.