Anti-Asian Racism in Canada: Historical, Social, Economic, Cultural, and Political Processes II

Tuesday May 17 1:00 pm to 2:30 pm (Eastern Daylight Time)
Virtual Platform

Session Code: RAE4B
Session Format: Regular Session
Session Language: English
Research Cluster Affiliation: Race and Ethnicity
Session Categories: Regular Session

Since the global outbreak of COVID-19 in 2020, assaults on individuals of Asian descent have increased dramatically in Canada and other western countries. The rise of anti-Asian racism and the experiences of racism by Asians during the pandemic are rooted in historical and institutional structures that are xenophobic and exclusionary. These two sessions bring together papers which explore the historical, social, economic, cultural, and political processes which inform and are informed by anti-Asian racism, as well as the impact of anti-Asian racism on Asians and Asian communities using diverse theoretical frameworks and methodological approaches. Tags: Race and Ethnicity

Organizers: Guida Man, York University, Alvin Yang, Universität Kassel and University of Ottawa; Chair: Alvin Yang, Universität Kassel and University of Ottawa


Janice Phonepraseuth, York University

Anti-Asian Racism and COVID-19: Experiences of East and Southeast Asian Youth

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Asians continue to encounter racialization, racism, and stigma from those who believe that they are to blame for COVID-19 and its outcomes. Drawing on interview data with East and Southeast Asian youth (ages 18 to 35), this presentation examines their experiences by asking: 1) how does anti-Asian racism during COVID-19 impact the identities and interactions of Asian youth and 2) in what ways do they challenge the discrimination they face? Asian youth explain the racism, stigma, and anxiety that they face when going out in public. Additionally, youth discuss how others disregard ethnic differences and assume that all Asians are Chinese, thereby redefining their identities and linking them to the virus. To cope with these challenges, Asian youth use several strategies, such as avoiding or challenging anti-Asian racism. The findings from the study contribute to the growing literature on anti-Asian racism during COVID-19. 

Guida Man, York University; Keefer Wong, York University; Victoria Ogley, York University; Ernest Leung, York Univeresity; Elena Chou, York University

Anti-Chinese/Asian Racism in the time of Covid-19: Experiences and Strategies for Change in the GTA

Anti-Chinese/Asian racism in Canada has historically been centred on the othering of Chinese/Asian bodies as the “Yellow Peril,” whereby persons of Chinese/Asian descent were seen by white settlers as the carriers or vectors of disease and as diseased bodies. With the recent SARS (2003) and H1N1 (2009) pandemics, “Yellow Peril” has made a resurgence in the racialization of Chinese/Asians once again as diseased bodies and as carriers of disease. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues into 2021 and the foreseeable future, preliminary findings are slowly emerging on the social and economic well-being of Chinese who have been the targets of anti-Chinese/Asian racism, and the ways in which they attempt to deal with or manage the stress and trauma of racism and xenophobia. Based on in depth interviews from an ongoing SSHRC funded research and using an intersectional analysis, our paper is exploratory, and it will examine the experiences of anti-Chinese/Asian racism and racialization during the COVID-19 pandemic from the perspective of ethnic Chinese in the Greater Toronto Area. We will put individual interviewees as the subject of the research, and embed their experiences of racism/racialization in the historical, social, political, economic, and cultural processes of Canadian society to investigate how their experiences of racism/racialization are shaped by these processes. As well, we will explore the various strategies the interviewees adopt to cope with or to mitigate their experiences of racism. 

Qingyan Sun, University of Alberta

Anti-Asian Racism and the Politics of Bottoming-Notes on Power and Intimacy

Owing to the location of Chinese labourers in the settler-colonial economy and the anti-Chinese racism that harnessed dynamics of gender and sexuality towards the end of the 20th century, Chinese men and other men of East-Asian descent were discursively constructed to be homosexual, asexual, and at times, sexually deviant within Canada. This stigmatization of East-Asian men’s sexuality continues till the present day. As such, in queer sexual politics in the US and Canada alike, East-Asian men are represented in diverse media as effeminate and appropriate only to occupy the sexual position of the bottom, representing passivity and not agency. This gendered racism, however, has not been sufficiently examined empirically. In this paper, I adopt an autoethnographic approach to interrogating anti-Asian racism in Canada with a focus on the coupling of white men and men of East-Asian descent. Specifically, I collect and analyze my experience(s) as a queer Chinese man and a foreigner aspiring to be free of sexual stigma in a Canada advertised as the benevolent multicultural state. Building on the feminist philosophies of Sarah Ahmed and Judith Butler, queer studies, and intersectional feminism, I argue that the passivity in romantic encounters constructed for East-Asian men in the so-called private domain parallels and interacts with the power dynamics and racial politics of Canada’s public domain. Through this analysis, I outline that the public-private division is artificial and unable to be sustained: critical analyses of racism and power are thus incomplete without considering the private sphere where power is never not present. Therefore, critical ethnic and antiracist studies must also consider the private sphere/space if they intend to expose the ways ideologies of race, gender, sexuality, and ability covertly travel and liaise in the maintenance of a settler-colonial infrastructure.