ExEAS Teaching Unit
Not color Blind: Race, EthnIcity, and Nationality in East Asia
Aya Ezawa, Swarthmore College
Lisa Fischler, Moravian College
TJ Hinrichs, Southern Connecticut State University
Bakirathi Mani, Swarthmore College
Grace Mitchell, College of Staten Island, CUNY
Kazuko Suzuki, Texas A&M University
Xiaodan Zhang, Columbia University

This collection of teaching units treats ethnicity, race, and national identity as social constructs, that is, as aspects of group identity which shift over time and are shaped by economics, politics, and society. These units explore the meanings of identity in different historical, political, and social contexts in East Asia and Asian diasporas. Together these materials can be used to structure a semester long syllabus or can be used as individual teaching units.


The Units

“Chinese” Perspectives on Identity Before the Nation presents strategies and primary and secondary sources for teaching about how identities and differences that we would recognize as analogous to those of the modern notions of ethnicity or nation were constructed in China before the twentieth century.

Competing Views of Nationalism and Identity in Contemporary China explores official and popular nationalism and the many meanings of “Chineseness” in the contemporary People's Republic of China .

Multiethnic Japan : Nation-building and National Identity examines the origins and multi-ethnic character of the modern Japanese nation-state and explores how “minority” groups are defined in different historical periods and how the state has tried to assimilate them through the reform of language and customs. The unit also looks at how marginal groups define themselves and come to terms with what are often dual or competing national and ethnic identities.

Nationalisms, Ethnicity, and Identity in Contemporary China explores the concepts of nationality, nationalisms, and national identity in the contemporary People's Republic of China through such specific topics of comparative significance as “the invention of tradition;” “imagined communities;” the relationship between the nation-state, ethnicity, politics, and culture; and ethnic minorities.

Okinawa: Beyond the Ethnic Other focuses on the identity struggles of Okinawans and explores the complex question of Okinawa 's place within the Japanese nation-state.

Race and Ethnicity in Asian America provides a general introduction to Asian immigration to the United States , with a specific focus on issues of racial, national, and cultural identity.

Race, Ethnicity, and National Identity: America, Korea, and Biracial Koreans explores the role of U.S. militarism in Korean national and diasporic identity formations. Specifically, the unit looks at the “yanggongju” (“western princess”/ “yankee whore”), the woman who sexually services American GIs stationed in Korea, as a figure that is fundamental to identity formation, but one that also troubles it. 

Zainichi Koreans (Koreans in Japan) provides historical background on Korean migration to Japan and the subsequent discrimination against Koreans in Japan.  It also addresses issues of identity and the integration of minorities.

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