What is an ‘Asian’ in New Zealand?

I think it’s worth drawing attention to certain discourses, as Ip and Leckie do, when they write “of the dilemmas of essentializing Asians who originated from different regions of Asia. In New Zealand, [they explain,] the assumption of a common Asian ‘race’ can be traced to the late nineteenth century when ‘Chinamen’ and ‘Hindoos’ were discursively lumped together as undesirable aliens or Asiatics. Over a century later and less racially inflected, but still generalizing about an Asian presence, was hype about the Asian vote during the 2009 New Zealand parliamentary elections. Statistics New Zealand also presents Asians as a separate demographic. Not only can this gloss over the different identities within Chinese and Indian identities, but it can also mask internal differentiations such as region, language, religion, caste, clan and kin.”

(Ref: p.160, Ip, Manying and Jacqueline Leckie (2011) ‘‘Chinamen’ and ‘Hindoos’: Beyond stereotypes to Kiwi Asians’ pp.  ?-149 in (eds) Paola Voci and Jacqueline Leckie Localizing Asia in Aoteroa. dunmore Publishing: Wellington.)

Think of this next time you fill out one of the many forms for the Ministry of Education that lump learners together on the basis of race!


Consider also that ethnicity, as Bella Adams explains, “is relevant to all groups, not just marginal ethnic groups. That dominant groups typically envisage themselves apart from ethnicity ultimately functions to safeguard their privilege.”[1]

[1]P29 (footnote 2) Bella Adams (2003)Representing History in Amy Tan’s “The Kitchen God’s Wife” MELUS, 28(2)Summer,  pp. 9-30

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About backyardbooks

This blog is a kind of electronic storage locker for ideas and quotes that inform my research... literary research into fiction for young adults (with a special focus on New Zealand fiction). Kiwis are producing amazing literature for younger readers, but it isn't getting the academic appreciation it deserves. I hope readers of this blog can make use of the material I gather and share by way of promoting our fiction. Cheers!
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