Boundary Claims and the Emergence of New Categories: Asian and Hispanic Panethnicity Compared

Prof. Dina Okamoto

Past research on group boundaries and boundary making has typically focused on the broader conditions that brighten or blur boundaries, allowing group members to contest or maintain social inequalities. Here, I ask how emergent ethnoracial boundaries – those still in formation but not yet adopted by mainstream institutions – are deployed and substantiated. Analyzing the Asian and Hispanic cases, I examine how pioneering social movement publications in the 1970s developed early claims about the boundaries of panethnicity. I investigate the different ways that panethnicity is expressed within Asian and Hispanic communities respectively, while also providing theoretical insight into the common discursive practices that reify new categorical identities. The end result is a new analytical framework for understanding how emergent ethnoracial boundaries are substantiated, which can be used beyond U.S. cases.

Dina Okamoto is Class of 1948 Herman B Wells Professor in the Department of Sociology and Director of the Center for Research on Race and Ethnicity in Society (CRRES) at Indiana University. She received her PhD in sociology from the University of Arizona in 2001. Her research examines how group boundaries and identities shift and change, which has broader implications for immigrant incorporation as well as intergroup conflict and cooperation. Her current projects investigate the social underpinnings of panethnicity, the civic and political incorporation of immigrants in the U.S., and the ways youth-serving community organizations deal with increasing ethnic, racial, and language diversity.  She is author of Redefining Race: Asian American Panethnicity and Shifting Ethnic Boundaries (Russell Sage Foundation, 2014) and is currently completing a book on how increasing ethnoracial diversity in the U.S. shapes intergroup perceptions and attitudes in the 21st century.