Centering Nativist Racism: How Doing So Helps Us Grasp New Forms of Citizenship & Would’ve Predicted Trump

April 11, 2019
4:30pm to 6:30pm

CUNY Graduate Center
365 Fifth Avenue, 6th Floor, Room 6112, Manhattan

This talk will address how US racism pivots as much on nativist injustices – suffered mostly by Latinx, Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI), and Middle Eastern ethnics – as it does on injustices specific to Black Americans. Prof. Nadia Kim evidences the point by way of research on Latinx and AAPI immigrant activism, as well as an analysis of the rise of Donald Trump. Although sociology has certainly given a nod to nativistic racism, mostly in relation to the Latinx population, its core theories, frameworks, and methodologies have not centered “the citizenship line”; as such, it has not defined sociology the way the color line has. Yet, the racialized insider/outsider axis has long separated “us white Americans” from the brown brother, terrorist, war-time enemy, socioeconomic threat (e.g., academic threat), exotic seductress, anchor-baby maker, and maternity tourist. As this list of representations reveals, gender, class, and the body are also interrelated with race, and all are vital to the remaking of citizenship by the mostly Mexican and Filipin@ immigrant activists whom Prof. Kim studies in Los Angeles. Not only would a citizenship-centered sociology best grasp their efforts and the implications thereof, but, in my view, would have also predicted the arrival of the Trump era, the other focus of her talk.

Prof. Kim contends that, despite our discipline’s concern with anticipating social trends and with predictive statistics, mainstream sociology did not foresee resurgent racism in the United States, and certainly not in the form of white nationalism; it was fixated instead on the “black/nonblack” divide or the inclusion of Latinx, Asian, and Middle Eastern ethnics into the White racial category. Among others, we should have been interrelating the following processes of nativist racism, and doing so within the context of neoliberal economic neglect: the ascendancy of European far-right populism (which I argue Trump mimicked); the anti-immigrant and “Black-lash” sentiment of the Tea Party movement (including anti-Muslim/birther racism against Obama); the popularizing of the “majority-minority America” statistic; and the related rise in hate activity online, in hate group formation, and in hate crimes. Critique of the discipline, Prof. Kim concludes, will only serve to strengthen it.

CUNY Graduate Center Immigration Seminar Series

Presented By:

Nadia Y. Kim is Professor of Sociology at Loyola Marymount University and the 2018-2019 Thomas Tam Visiting Professor at The City University of New York's Graduate Center. Her research focuses on transnational experiences of US race and citizenship inequalities among Korean/Asian Americans and South Koreans in the (neo)imperial context, and among Asian and Latin@ activists for Environmental (Health) Justice as well as immigration and education reform in Los Angeles; she also specializes in race/gender/class intersectionality, cultural globalization, and race theorizing.

Prof. Kim is author of Imperial Citizens: Koreans and Race from Seoul to LA (Stanford University Press, 2008), an exploration of how Koreans and Korean immigrants have navigated American (neo)imperial race inequality and ideology since World War II and by transnationally connecting both societies. In addition to garnering two American Sociological Association book awards for Imperial Citizens, she has won multiple best article awards, early career awards, and teaching honors.

Prof. Kim is nearly done completing her current book, We the Polluted People: Immigrants Remap Race, Class, Gender & the Body to Remake Citizenship (Stanford University Press), which examines how documented Asian and unauthorized Latin@ immigrants fight nativist racism by way of a new politics of citizenship, one that prioritizes transnational, communal, embodied, and emotive politics.