Racialized Knowledge and Racial Triangulation: Two Cases of Asian-American Studies Programs

Hannah D'Apice, Stanford University

How have racially minoritized groups pursued academic legitimacy within universities as racialized organizations? What are the implications for both change in universities, as well as broader projects of racial identity formation? To answer these questions, I conduct a comparative archival case study of two Asian-American studies programs that pursued academic institutionalization through different forms: one, a discrete discipline, and the other, an interdisciplinary research center. I focus on Asian-American studies due to the triangulated position of Asian-American identity as both a racially valorized model minority and a civically ostracized ‘foreigner’/‘other’ (Kim, 1999). Applied to universities and academic knowledge, Asian-Americans may be similarly held up as a case of the success of racial diversity, while Asian-American studies itself may face siloing and under-resourcing within universities as racialized organizations (Ray, 2019). Methodologically, this study is modeled on prior work examining organizational processes (Colyvas & Powell, 2006) as well as disciplinary boundary-making processes (Small, 1999). I examine student newspaper articles, administrative meeting minutes, course bulletins, and other archival documents to analyze the conditions under which each program was founded, and subsequent development into the present form. Consistent with prior work, I find that the form of each Asian-American studies program was dialectically determined between internal practitioners and external constituencies, the latter of whom provide critical resources for institutionalization. However, I also point to how these processes essentialized Asian-American identity and exacerbated its racial triangulation, in part by artificially imposing conditions of resource competition with other identity-based programs. I argue for the concept of ‘racialized knowledge’ to help explain how knowledge and academic programs associated with racially minoritized groups pursue legitimacy within universities as racialized organizations, with implications for broader identity-formation. This paper contributes to literature at the intersection of historical sociology, the sociology of science, and ethnic studies.

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 Presented in Session 155. Educational Institutions and Student Well-Being