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Passing for Model Minority

Event Type
Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory and the Department of Asian American Studies
Mar 3, 2022   5:30 pm  
Erin KhuĂȘ Ninh (UCSB)
Originating Calendar
Asian American Studies

“Passing for Model Minority” is based on an ongoing project taking to task the systems both public and private that together manufacture a particular kind of good, capitalist subject: Get your filial child, your doctor/lawyer, your model minority here. This project that has meant holding Asian American studies accountable for their field’s dogmatic refusal to see the model minority as real, even as it lives and breathes and dies in front of us: in competitive high schools and colleges, disproportionately represented in their student bodies and, further still, in their suicide tallies. Ninh's Passing for Perfect: College Impostors & Other Model Minorities (Temple UP 2021) instead accepts the empirical evidence of that racial identity, and feels for the often invisible costs of its manufacturing process: When you are raised in a box, what hurts? The talk will lean on work by sociologists Jennifer Lee and Min Zhou, arguing that Asian Americans are measured by their proximity to a tightly defined “success frame”: “earning straight A’s, graduating as the high school valedictorian, earning a degree from an elite university, attaining an advanced degree, and working in one of four high-status professional fields: medicine, law, engineering, or science.” For the children of Asian immigrants, this strict plotline and its orthodox tropes constitute cultural identity, such that to fall short in any particular is to be inauthentically Asian American.

This lecture is a part of the series "In Plain Sight: Reckoning with Anti-Asian Racism," funded by the University of Illinois Chancellor's Call to Action to Address Systemic Racism and Social Injustice Research Program.

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