'Obnoxious to Their Very Nature': Asian Americans and Constitutional Citizenship
Citizenship Studies, Vol. 5, No. 1, 2001
18 Pages Posted: 21 May 2001 Last revised: 10 Aug 2012
Date Written: August 9, 2012
This essay examines the curious juxtaposition of the terms Asian American and American citizenship. While the latter might be thought to easily embrace the former, historically this has not been the case. Recent events suggest that there still exists a contradictory relationship between Asian American racialization and the idea of citizenship. The essay examines four different discourses of citizenship: citizenship as legal status, citizenship as rights, citizenship as political activity, and citizenship as identity/solidarity, and investigates how race fractures the promise of each of these discourses. The racialization of Asian Americans seems especially at odds with two of these discourses. The racialization of Asian Americans as disloyal and politically corrupt contradicts the idea of citizenship as produced through political activity, which might cast skepticism on recent calls for a renaissance of civic republicanism. And Asian Americans are not thought to represent the United States citizenry as a matter of identity. This suggests that citizenship as identity is ontologically separate from citizenship as a legal matter, in other words,access to citizenship in the form of formal legal status or in the form of rights, does not guarantee full citizenship.
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