Why Don't South Asians in the U.S. Count As “Asian”? Global and Local Factors Shaping Anti-South Asian Racism in the United States*

Prema Kurien, Bandana Purkayastha

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

In a 2020 U.S. survey, more Asian Indians than Chinese indicated that they were worried about post-Covid-19 hate crimes. Yet, post-Covid violence against people of Asian background has been viewed as being directed against “Chinese-looking” individuals. This is just one example of how South Asians are overlooked in discourses about Asian Americans. This theoretical paper provides an expansion of the racial formation framework to explain this exclusion. We demonstrate how global factors, including the foreign engagements of the United States shaped the development of the Asian American group and category, and why, even though Asian Americans can be brown, yellow, white, or black, an East Asian phenotype is viewed as denoting an “Asian” body in the United States. We also discuss how the racialization of religion shapes anti-South Asian racism, a factor largely ignored in the literature on racial formation and Asian Americans. We end by calling for the inclusion of South Asians in Asian American literature to challenge many of the reigning paradigms regarding Asian America and anti-Asian racism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)351-368
Number of pages18
JournalSociological Inquiry
Volume94
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2024

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science

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