“Identity” is a term that simultaneously unites and divides Asian Americans. Those with Asian ancestry in the United States are united in this demographic label through the political reality of the history of racialization (exclusionary immigration and naturalization laws, restrictive marriage laws, mass xenophobic incarceration) that Asians in America have been subjected to (and continue to be subjected to) and by activist and academic beliefs in making visible the experiences and histories of Asian Americans within the larger U.S. society. Asian Americans are divided by the different types of identities that exceed this singular racial label—by differences of ethnicity, heritage, national origin, religion, race, class, immigration status, citizenship, able bodiness, sexuality, gender, region, education, language, age, and a host of other identitarian markers. Both the original (1976) and revised (1983) versions of Raymond Williams’s Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society do not include the term “identity,” which is telling for all the ways in which this word has evolved in meaning and importance in both popular discourse and academic scholarship. Where once a word like “identity” may have strictly been understood to describe psycho-social development, nowadays the word “identity” brings to mind phrases that have currency...

This essay may be found on page of the printed volume.

Works Cited
Permanent Link to this Essay