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Familiar Foreigners: Multicultural Rhetorics of Asian American Racialization

Sugino, Corinne Mitsuye (2022) Familiar Foreigners: Multicultural Rhetorics of Asian American Racialization. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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My dissertation explores the contradictions of Asian American racialization in the contemporary context of U.S. multiculturalism. I theorize “multiculturalism” as a mutable regime of power in the post-civil rights era that has not eliminated but reconfigured racism in flexible terms. My research responds to the research question: how do flexible rhetorics of Asian American inclusion and exclusion interact to racialize Asian Americans, and what vocabularies might we produce for critiquing and/or thinking beyond these logics? In doing so, I draw on intersectional communication scholarship, critical scholarship on liberal multiculturalism, Asian American studies, and Black radical theorizing on the construct of the human. I examine four case studies in the last decade: the Hollywood film Crazy Rich Asians, “niche” dating websites designed to connect users with Asian partners, the rhetoric surrounding the affirmative action case Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard (SFFA), and media and institutional discourses about Asian Americans amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Weaving together sources from media, law, and popular culture, I engage in what Louis M. Maraj calls an “inter(con)textual reading,” or drawing connections between disparate environments, bodies, and sources to apprehend how they intersect as rhetorical sites of meaning-making. I argue that contemporary racial discourse figures Asian/Americans through the trope of the familiar foreigner, which figures Asian/Americans as both mimicking and anathema to Western Man. I consider how Asian/American racialization troubles the boundaries between familiar and foreign, subject and object, contending this slippery quality of the category “Asian/American” functions as a key nexus point around which multiculturalism revolves. Moreover, I intervene in scholarship discussing discourses such as colorblindness and post-racialism by identifying a related, yet distinct discourse I term “multicultural anti-racism,” which co-opts the language of anti-racism to expand racial violence. Finally, rather than consider Asian/Americans in a vacuum, my dissertation demonstrates the importance of a comparative approach to racialization that considers the entanglement between anti-Asian, anti-Black, and colonial racism(s).


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Sugino, Corinne Mitsuyecms323@pitt.educms323
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairJohnson,
Committee MemberBruce,
Committee MemberMalin,
Committee MemberMaraj,
Date: 6 June 2022
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 28 March 2022
Approval Date: 6 June 2022
Submission Date: 31 March 2022
Access Restriction: 2 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 2 years.
Number of Pages: 254
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Communication: Rhetoric and Communication
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Asian American; racism; communication; multiculturalism
Date Deposited: 06 Jun 2022 15:55
Last Modified: 05 Feb 2024 13:01


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