‘Just Asian’? Inscribing East Asian mixed race in Australia
As of 2011, reportedly 12% of Australians are of Asian descent. Much research has been done on Asian migrant communities and diasporas, noting both their scripts of assimilation and the agentic preservation of their Asian roots. Within Race & Ethnicity studies, some research has focused largely on Asian-Australians where a biracial person has parents of Anglo-saxon descent and Asian descent respectively. In such cases, the biracial person’s phenotype is likely to signify their ethnic diversity. This paper looks at mixed-race persons in Australia with both parents of Asian descents, specifically, from East Asian contexts where persons are likely to have fair skin (i.e. Chinese, Japanese, Korean). In these instances, a biracial person’s visual makeup is less likely to denote their racial hybridity, and instead they ‘pass’ off as monoethnic Australians of Asian descent. What has up till now been underdocumented is how these persons of mixed East Asian ‘race’ self-identify and negotiate their ethnic-diversity, despite their categorial assimilation into a simplistic perception of being ‘just Asian’ in multicultural Australia. Through in-depth interviews with seven fair-skinned, self-identifying mixed East Asian ‘raced’ men and women who have lived in Australia, this paper adopts a biographical narrative approach in documenting biracial strategies of marking ethnicity, particularly in the Australian context where they are likely to be glossed over as ‘just Asians’ despite the country’s multicultural demographic. It seeks to account for the praxis of marking racial identity that these ‘hybrid’ individuals engage in with others who fail to recognize their heritage.
Abidin, C. (2015) “‘Just Asian’? Inscribing East Asian mixed race in Australia” Mixed Race in Australia and the Region Symposium, University of Western Australia (UWA), Perth. Jun 9, 2015.