Abstract: AAPI Environmentalism

Abstracts for “Special Issue on Tenth Anniversary and Asian American & Pacific Islander Environmentalism: Expansions, Connections, & Social Change“11:1 & 2 (2013)

Part I: Reflection on Ten Years of AAPI Nexus: Vision, Realities, and Challenge

Centering Student Voices: A Mixed-Method Study of Strengths and Challenges for Asian American Studies
By: Matthew R. Lee and Jennifer Y. Chung

Abstract: This research study examines Asian American student perceptions of Asian American Studies courses from a large Midwestern university using survey data (n = 761) and in-depth interviews (n = 12). Student voices and perspectives are centered in order better understand strengths and challenges of Asian American Studies beyond identified institutional factors.

Support Networks, Ethnic Spaces, and Fictive Kin: Indian Immigrant Women Constructing Community in the United States
Namita N. Manohar 

Abstract: Framed within the segmented assimilation perspective, this paper examines community construction by middle-class, professional Tamilimmigrant women in Atlanta, Georgia. It argues that community building is a fundamentally gendered settlement activity predominantly performed by Tamil women. Using gendered labor, they construct a dynamic community across the settlement process, encompassing formal and informal, ethnic and non-ethnic components and sites, to take the form of wives’ support and women’s networks, cross-cultural friendships, ethnic spaces and fictive kinship. With the emergent bonding and bridging social capital, they chart their segmented incorporation as model minorities who are ethnic. In the process however, gender, race/ethnic and class hierarchies are often reinforced.

In this article, I discuss community1 construction by middle-class, professional Tamil2 immigrant women in Atlanta, Georgia. Framed by the segmented assimilation perspective on immigrant incorporation, this article asks three questions: (1) what are the forms of community constructed by Tamil women, (2) how is community building gendered, and (3) how does the constructed community facilitate their incorporation into America? By focusing on middle-class Tamil immigrants, this article advances the scholarship in several ways: (1) by theorizing community formation among South Asians it nuances our understanding of the ethnic landscape of Asians in the United States that has predominantly focused on East Asians; (2) by conferring visibility on a little-studied Indian regional group, it challenges the dominant imaginary of a homogenized Indian diaspora in the United States as being predominantly North Indian (Gujarati/Punjabi); and in so doing (3) is attentive to the interactions and reconstitutions of stratifications of class, caste, and gender in shaping the Tamil experience in the United States.3 I argue that community building among professional Tamils is predominantly performed by Tamil women. They construct a dynamic community that takes the form of wives’ support and women’s networks, cross-cultural friendships, ethnic spaces, and fictive kinship. Although the emergent bonding and bridging social capital facilitates their segmented incorporation as model minorities who are ethnic, the process also reinscribes gender, race/ethnic, class and caste hierarchies.

Guestploitation: Examining Filipino Human-Trafficking Guest Worker Cases through a Culturally Competent Practitioner’s Model
By: Cindy C. Liou, Jeannie Choi, and Ziwei Hu

Abstract: The trafficking of Filipino guest workers into modern-day slavery in the United States is an epidemic that demands an immediate response from both the American and Filipino governments. Often, law enforcement and service providers are not from the same linguistic and cultural background as trafficking survivors, especially given the variety of immigrant communities affected by human trafficking. With this article, we propose a service model for survivors of human trafficking that recognizes and addresses cultural differences. As a model on how to create such a framework, in this article, the authors use the example and describe this phenomenon of “guestploitation”—a system that victimizes Filipino guest workers through the Philippines’ labor export system and United States’ convoluted guest worker program—and how the problem is compounded by cultural barriers, communication difficulties, and the complexity of the American legal system. They draw upon their own casework and experiences to put forth several legal and policy recommendations aimed at assisting Filipino guest worker trafficking victims and preventing this widespread abuse. The authors use a culturally competent working model to inform effective ways to combat human trafficking with the goal of encouraging similar culturally competent methods of working with other trafficking victims from other immigrant communities.

Part II: Asian American and Pacific Islander Environmentalism: Expansions, Connections, and Social Change

Ethnic Variation in Environmental Attitudes and Opinion among Asian American Voters
By: Paul M. Ong, Loan Le, and Paula Daniels

Abstract: Asian Americans are increasingly recognized as an important constituency in electoral politics and yet there is a glaring gap in information about ethnic differences in public opinion. 1 Using a unique survey of Asian American voters conducted by the California League of Conservation Voters, we add to the nascent literature on environmental attitudes and public opinion among Asian Americans. We find systematic ethnic differences in the distribution of responses related to self-reported “environmentalist” identity, support for environmental policies, and environmental concerns such as climate change. Asian Americans are strongly proenvironment overall; nevertheless, the findings suggest that any mobilization related to environmental politics should be sensitive to ethnic differences, as well as commonalities that transcend subgroups.

Engaging Vietnamese American Communities in California in Environmental Health and Awareness
By: Tina Duyen Tran, Jacqueline H. Tran, My Tong, Lisa Fu, Peggy Reynolds, Vinh Luu, and Thu Quach

Abstract: Vietnamese immigrants tend to cluster in targeted geographic areas and occupations with resulting disproportionate exposure opportunities to hazardous environmental chemicals and neighborhood stressors; yet there is little research on environmental health in this population. Vietnamese communities in Alameda, Marin, Santa Clara, and Orange counties in California conducted community mapping audits (i.e., collecting air-contaminant data, observational survey information, and photovoice documentation) in neighborhoods where they live, work, and play. This paper describes the community-based participatory research process that helped to raise awareness about the environment for participating communities, and looks at how community engagement can lead to action for change.

Building a 21st Century Environmental Movement That Wins:  Twenty Years of Environmental Justice Organizing by the Asian Pacific Environmental Network
By: Roger Kim and Martha Matsuoka

Abstract: Over the past twenty years, the Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN) has engaged in innovative strategies for building grassroots leadership in Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities to bring important perspectives to the movement for environmental justice. Founded in 1993, APEN strategies include community organizing and leadership development, policy development and advocacy, multiracial movement building, and, most recently, electoral organizing and civic engagement to affect state climate and energy policy.

This article reflects on lessons learned in organizing to elevate the power of AAPIs to influence the public debates over the environment and influence public policy that affects where AAPIs live, work, play, and go to school. We focus on a case study of the successful defeat of Proposition 23, a California ballot initiative that would have suspended the nation’s toughest state-level greenhouse gas emissions program and point to the increasing role and power of AAPIs in determining state and national climate policy. For organizers, policy makers, and environmental advocates in particular, the campaign illustrates the importance of integrating an electoral strategy with community organizing work to educate and turn out voters to advance progressive environmental policy change.

Lessons from APEN’s twenty years illustrate the past and current role of AAPIs in environmental activism and policy and the strategies necessary to tap demographic changes in order to strengthen a comprehensive strategy to combat climate change, accelerate the development of an equitable clean energy economy, and ensure a livable planet for future generations.

Native Hawaiians Getting Back to Mālama `Āina
By: Leslie Kahihikolo

Abstract: Historically, traditional Native Hawaiian values and survival were rooted in the practice of mālama `āina – caring for the land.  Urbanization and development of the land over time, however, have disconnected Native Hawaiians from their traditional practices and land.  In an effort to get back to mālama `āina, Native Hawaiians are incorporating cultural history and identity into addressing environmental problems by taking responsibility to reclaim and restore the `āina for future generations.  Once such example is the Ka Wai Ola O Wai`anae project in which the Wai`anae Coast community is using federal funding to build capacity to understand and take effective actions that mitigate pollutants in the environment, with the goal of getting back mālama `āina.