Revisiting Panethnicity: Emerging Political Contours in Asian Pacific American Politics

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Cambridge University Press


The contemporary Asian Pacific American (APA) community consists of more than 30 ethnic groups with none representing a majority of the total APA population. 1 With the importance of racial group consciousness in US politics through power in numbers, the salience of panethnicity to APA politics remains unabated. Since Espiritu’s (1992) influential work, past scholarship in the past two decades in the field of APA politics has examined the influence of APA candidates and elected officials on panethnic APA voter turnout and campaign contributions (Cho 1999; Lai 2000; 2011; Lai et al. 2001; Min 2014). Other studies focused on the racial positionality of APAs through statewide and national public opinion and voting behavior on issues that shape APA group consciousness (Junn and Masuoka 2008; Wong et al. 2011). The panethnic question often posited in these studies is whether APA ethnic groups will find common interests and ideology that bind a couple or several of them together or will they go it alone.

Future scholarship on APA panethnicity must continue to interrogate these critical perspectives while examining newly emerging political contours that facilitate or inhibit panethnic identity, such as rising class disparities, emerging ideological movements on social-media platforms, and persisting transnational identities. Instead of framing the panethnic question as to whether APA ethnic groups can coalesce on issues and candidates in progressive, unified racial coalitions rather than going it alone, future studies should consider these political contours that embody the diversity of the larger APA community. In doing so, we can consider a future that is not limited to political cohesion as a single unified racial group but one in which there could be competing APA panethnic coalitions representing different political positions along the entire ideological spectrum.