AARC Research Grant Awardees 2022

A composite of multiple photos reflecting aspects of Asian American life

Faculty Awardees

Kazumi Hoshino, Public Health, “Asian American Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) Caregivers in Interracial Relationships”

Rapidly growing populations of Asian American Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) caregivers have been affected by structural racism. Asian American LGBTQ people who are married to older European Americans often provide care for their partners. However, little research has examined these interracial caregiving relationships, which have been formulated by historical, societal, and social contexts around the globe. This project will first identify caregiving relationships between Asian American LGBTQ caregivers and their partners as well as investigate the Asian American LGBTQ caregivers’ wellness via qualitative data analysis of interviews with 20 Asian American LGBTQ caregivers in the San Francisco Bay Area. Second, the research will clarify benefits and challenges of LGBTQ caregiving through qualitative data analysis of interviews with 20 representatives of LGBTQ community organizations in the Bay Area. Third, the research will propose a caregiving and caregivers’ wellness education program for Asian American LGBTQ caregivers.

Andrew Leong, English, “Tessaku Community Advisory Board and Translation Collective”

Tessaku (鉄柵, or “Iron Fence”) is a Japanese-language literary journal that was published by incarcerees in the Tule Lake Segregation Center. It consists of nine issues, totaling 751 pages, running from March 1944 to July 1945, and includes poetry, fiction, and essays composed by at least sixty distinct authors. All issues of Tessaku were published after the 1943 conversion of the “Tule Lake War Relocation Center” into a high security “Segregation Center” for Japanese Americans labeled “disloyal.” The post-1943 population of Tule Lake consisted of a roughly two-thirds majority of so-called “disloyals” from other Wartime Relocation Authority Camps and a remaining third of “loyals” who did not want to leave Tule Lake for other camps.
A facsimile edition of Tessaku was published by a Japanese research group in 1998. However, since the journal is entirely in Japanese, it has remained inaccessible to most descendants. Although English translations of Tessaku could be of enormous value to descendants as well as a broader audience of students and scholars, there are many sensitive questions regarding descendant memory, publication rights, and moral rights, that need to be addressed as a fundamental prerequisite to any prospective translations. These questions cannot be addressed through the lone judgement calls of any single researcher but require the work of a diverse collective of translators working under the oversight of a community advisory board. This project supports the formation and activities of this community advisory board and Tessaku translation collective.

Nancy Liu, Psychology, “Expanding the Lens of Psychotherapy Case Formulation for AAPI Mental Health”

Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) are underserved in mental health settings and often drop-out of treatment early, despite well-documented rates of mental health problems and heightened symptom severity (Takeuchi et al., 2007; Sue et al., 2021). Less often questioned has been the content of psychotherapy itself and potential harm that can result from existing frameworks (Wendt, 2015). Given 86% of psychologists are White (APA, 2015), it is possible that biases (Chou & Feagin, 2015) may occur through the process of psychotherapy itself. Indeed, some research suggests that providers may have implicit client preferences (e.g., verbal, emotionally aware, individually oriented) (Desai et al, 2021). This research seeks to further explore this issue and focus on bridging the gap of science and practice in improving AAPI mental health through developing an expanded framework for psychotherapy. This project focuses on the following questions:

  • What recent research about AAPIs particularly in the domains of racial identity, racism, emotion expression and regulation, intergenerational frameworks, interdependent relationships and similar notions has relevance for improving psychotherapy with this population? 
  • What are the practical ways that these deep understandings about AAPI challenges and well-being be addressed directly in psychotherapy among clinicians as it is currently practiced for AAPI clients?
  • How can the collated information above be integrated into applied clinical practice?

Using a mixed-methods approach, we will integrate information from expert scientists and clinicians in order to develop an expanded case formulation framework for delivering culturally competent therapy to AAPI clients with mental health concerns. Results from this study will be used to inform the development of a training workshop geared at clinicians in the community focusing on improving AAPI mental health.

Cecilia Mo, Political Science, Charles Crabtree (Dartmouth), John Holbein (University of Virginia) “Understanding and Remediating Bias Against Asian Americans”

Though many qualitative instances of hostility have been documented by the media and various social scientists, without systematic empirical testing we cannot know for sure just how many people across the US hold discriminatory views towards Asians. Moreover, we know precious little about how to address discrimination against those of Asian descent. One promising intervention that is gaining increased traction is the creation and implementation of historical, cultural and educational programs concerning people of Asian and Asian American descent. For example, several states are passing legislation to require Asian American history be taught in public schools, noting that such efforts are “a concrete way to prevent anti-Asian hate and support the mental health of Asian American children.” 
Our project’s key objective is twofold: 1) expand quantitative research on the scope and nature of discrimination against those of Asian descent in the US; and 2) examine the potential of Asian history curriculum highlighting the contributions of Asian Americans to remediate bias against Asian Americans and increase a sense of belongingness among Asian Americans.

Poulomi Saha, English, “Fascination: America's ‘Indian’ Cults”

This book project considers the allure and scandal of so-called Indian spirituality in America. It argues that our conception of Indian spirituality, whether the daily raptures in praise of yoga and meditation or enthralled terrors of cultic communes, is an experiment in American self-invention. One which reveals shifting concepts of the individual, kinship and family, race, sexuality, and law. America’s obsession with this “foreign” possibility is the fantasy of transcending the bounds of the self, a possibility that must simultaneously be racialized and pathologized. It is the foil against which the dramas of the modern, secular American self are continually played. And this story is more local still, as circuits of Indian-accented spirituality centripetally flow back to California, the imaginative and historical home of many an experiment in intentional communities and new religious formations. "Fascination" offers an episodic genealogy of homegrown communities and figures whose claims to mystical Vedic or Indian practices have fundamentally shaped America’s racial and spiritual self-conception.

Graduate Student Awardees

Tu Moua Carroz, Education, “Exploring the Risk and Resilience Factors for Asian American Women as School Superintendents”

Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) women are the most underrepresented minority in school leadership, particularly in the role of K-12 school superintendency. The American Association for School Administrators found that women school superintendents increased only minimally from 24% in 2010 to 26% in 2020 (Rogers & Tienken, 2020). Additionally, a new report by the ILO Group, a women-owned business dedicated to improving educational equity, found a decline in female superintendents during the pandemic (Arundel, 2022). Previous research points to the continued individual and systemic biases that favor white men, including the lack of a clear career path for women aspiring to serve as superintendents and the lack of access to mentors. This pilot study is meant to highlight the lived experiences of Asian American women leaders, aspiring to serve in the superintendency or sitting in the superintendency. Major themes from this pilot study will be shared, including potential gaps that may lead to further research. This project will be significant as it will provide clear recommendations that attend to the intersectionality of race and gender, for school boards, search firms and superintendent preparation programs. In addition, this project will contribute to the larger study of the researcher’s work around the phenomenological study of women of color in the role of the superintendency.

Claire Chun, Ethnic Studies, “Ugly Bodies and Curative Promises: Transpacific Ecologies of Korean Beauty”

My dissertation, "Ugly Bodies and Curative Promises: Transpacific Ecologies of Korean Beauty," critically historicizes and theorizes Korean beauty through modalities of ugliness and monstrosity. In so doing, I conceptualize Korean beauty as a dynamic network of bodies, desires, militarized ecologies, aesthetic practices, and digital technologies. I suggest that this network is made meaningful through the ways that it refigures erroneous and debilitated bodies and landscapes as reparable and capacity-laden. In this way, Korean beauty is signified as a curative promise. 
My dissertation animates an alternative genealogy of beauty that demonstrates how the enduring afterlives of the Cold War and US militarism produce monstrous objects, bodies, environments, and histories that scaffold and make possible the very vitality of Korean beauty—its promises of repair and futurity. As such, my project moves away from the question of “what does beauty look like?” to “what is beauty doing?” and “what does beauty require?” 
Through a multi-sited and multi-media examination, I explore how beauty, race, and war intimately inform embodied practices of repair and enhancement, from cosmetic surgery to contemporary wellness culture to diasporic cultural works. Thus, my project activates an alternative genealogy of race-making and Asian racialization that reveals how curative ideas of beauty actively (re)shape understandings of race in the ongoing acceleration of American militarized security. Crucially, I demonstrate how non-normative and non-assimilable subjectivities and ecologies push back against militarized and humanitarian logics that sanitize, which is to say, beautify historical and ongoing social violences.

Jessica Jiang, Ethnic Studies, “'The Scene of Downright Lawlessness': Chinese Migrants and Indigenous Nations at the U.S.-Canada Border”

With the passing of the first Chinese Exclusion Act, 1882 officially marked the beginning of the Exclusion era for Chinese communities in the United States. Yet the law did very little to stem the flow of Chinese immigrants over the next few years, as migrants developed a range of tactics to subvert the attempted restrictions. This project examines the role that Pacific Northwest Indigenous communities played in Chinese attempts to covertly enter the United States via Canada at the turn of the twentieth century. Examining newspaper and government archives as well as historical accounts from Chinese and Native communities, I construct a timeline of Coast and Interior Salish participation as both accomplices to migrant smuggling efforts, and informants for U.S. customs officers. I pay particular attention to how racial and gendered discourses about Chineseness and Indigeneity recombined in the discourse surrounding these incidents, hinting at the threats posed by migrant queerness and Indigenous notions of intimacy and space. I argue that the interracial fears stoked by narratives of Chinese-Indigenous proximity reflected broader anxieties about the porosity of settler colonial territoriality, and that Indigenous engagements with Chinese migrants should be understood on their own terms as extensions of Indigenous geographies and immigration practices. Chinese migrants thus experienced the Pacific Northwest borderlands as a palimpsest of overlapping settler colonial and Indigenous geographies, and the nation’s first racially restrictive immigration policy was shaped by the relational threat posed by Chinese-Indigenous interraciality.

Jin Hyung Lim, Education, “Changes in Mental Health and School Adjustment of Chinese American Adolescents during COVID-19: The Ongoing Impact of Daily Discrimination”

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, there has been a drastic increase in discrimination against Asian American, particularly targeting Chinese American communities. More so, Chinese American adolescents who are in a unique developmental stage of forming identity are mired in “double jeopardy” - jeopardy from the social disruption derived from the pandemic and the subsequent daily discrimination, which have caused discouraged interactions with peers in other racial/ethnic groups and higher levels of internalizing problems. In response to the heightened risks in mental health and school adjustment of Chinese American youths, this project aims to investigate changes in mental health and school adjustment of Chinese American adolescents during the COVID-19 pandemic and how daily discrimination impacted those changes. By using a latent transition analysis, a combined method of longitudinal and person-centered approaches, the proposed project will be able to show a more nuanced investigation of how Chinese American adolescents’ mental and adjustment problems are developed in interaction with discrimination experiences. Ultimately, the findings could provide concrete information about what kinds of clinical interventions are appropriate for promoting mental health and school outcomes of Chinese American youths and establish a new support system for larger Asian American youth communities in the post-pandemic era.

Pa Vue, Education, “Hmong Language Youth-Participatory Action Research Project”

Drawing from my previous work in the Hmong community in Chico, California, I propose a youth-participatory action research project that will engage Hmong college and high school students in a critical scientific inquiry on Hmong language reclamation and revalorization. Today, an estimated 327,000 Hmong refugees and their descendants live in the US. Forced displacement from their ancestral homelands, minoritization, and assimilation processes have disrupted generational transmission of culture, traditional lifeways, and epistemologies. Recent research reports Hmong language shifting with Hmong American students preferring English over Hmong and becoming English monolinguals. When a group of people stops speaking their heritage language, they lose the (social, cultural, historical, political) knowledge that is transmitted through that language. This can be detrimental to a group like Hmong people who have a strong oral tradition and have only recently started using a writing system widely (the Romanized Popular Alphabet was created in 1952). Without a common language, parents will not be able to pass down values, history, and social customs. Additionally, as elders pass away, there is a real risk of losing history and cultural practices. The aims of this project, then, are to (1) reconnect Hmong youth with their heritage/ancestral language, histories, culture, and community, (2) engage Hmong youth in organizing and advocating for a more just future where Hmong language is thriving, and (3) develop multi-generational collective inquiry.

Derek Wu, Ethnic Studies, “The Afterlives of Asian American Resistance to Proposition 13 in the SF Bay Area”

In 1978, California’s Proposition 13 dramatically reduced property taxes and, as a result, stymied urban development programs relying on property tax revenue. Behind Prop. 13 was the racialized process of state-determined urban disinvestment. In the SF Bay Area, Black resistance against state discrimination took the forms of local political engagement and social service organizing. As Self (2003) argues, these were hallmarks of Black power after the Civil Rights movement. Expanding this narrative, my project adopts a relational approach to situate Asian Americans within the racialized spatial politics of the Bay Area post-1978. I examine two major organizations that responded to the immediate effects of Prop. 13: Chinatown Community Development Center (CCDC) and East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation (EBALDC). 
My two-part study begins with the hypothesis that the complex neighborhood development projects emerging in the late 1970s were sustained by inter-organizational network ties. In Part I, I conduct oral history interviews and archival research to examine the dependence of CCDC and EBALDC efforts on network ties in the aftermath of Prop. 13. I ask, How and why were strategic partnerships formed across racial/ethnic lines? Part II focuses on the “afterlives” of these partnerships. Using ethnographic methods, I examine the dependence of contemporary CCDC and EBALDC activism on past network ties. This study has two theoretical goals. One, I seek to specify how cross-racial urban networks structure access to housing-related services in a region with rapidly changing racial demographics. Two, I explore how Asian and Black communities in the Bay Area co-developed a liberative spatial politic under racialized urban disinvestment processes post-1978.

Wangyuxuan Xu and Zhe Wu, Journalism, “Green Gold Rush: Investigative Reporting on the Asian American Community in the U.S. Cannabis Cultivation Industry”

Across the United States, Asian American immigrants are entering the cannabis growing business. From Hmong farmers in North California to Chinese farmers in Oklahoma, Asian cannabis growers face pushback over land rights, culture and illegal activities from the local communities and law enforcement. Meanwhile, many immigrants involved in the business are being exploited for their labor, scammed of their money and even land in jail for breaking laws they didn’t know existed. The goal of our project is to produce a multimedia journalistic piece, including a documentary, an audio podcast and a print story, to investigate whether this “Green Gold Rush'' is a true entrepreneur opportunity or a new form of sharecropping. By revealing the business model of the industry, we will examine how the system failed to protect immigrant survivors, and instead targeted immigrant businesses.