Two decades ago, Pei-te Lien’s groundbreaking work, the Making of Asian America through Political Participation, argued that a panethnic Asian American identity was developing within political coalitions. In recent years, however, we have seen sharp schisms between Asian American groups over issues such as affirmative action and policing. James Lai’s Asian American Connective Action in the Age of Social Media advances Lien’s groundbreaking insight by showing how social media has created greater opportunities for both pan-Asian American alliances and intra-Asian divides.
Lai argues that social media has contributed to the political empowerment of a population that has sometimes been depicted as politically quiescent. Using six case studies, he finds “two patterns of Asian American connective mobilization—one that is much more rooted in ethnic/community networks . . . and another that is progressive [and] tends to be more outward and panethnic” (158). Social media has enhanced the ability of activists to forge the panethnic alliances that Lien first documented, but it has also provided an alternative political path where organized interests can coalesce around ethnic or narrower community interests that are often more conservative.
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