College of Education Theses and Dissertations

Title

Finding Home: An Autoethnographic Tale of Borders and Identity

Date of Award

1-2006

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Education

Abstract

The purpose of this thesis is to understand the complex social and discursive spaces of growing up First Generation Asian American. I explore the context in how the intersections of my borderlands and contradictions have shaped my sense of self and how this in turn affects the way I understand race, culture, and identity. I use my journals from Thailand, December 2002 as textural artifact as it is in traveling that I became more self-aware of the challenges of a border identity. I also include journals I have written since I was young as artifacts as the show constructions of identity. These journals provide clues to how being Asian and American and Asian American have and have had very different and very powerful meaning. This experience is more than a social and cultural construction, for it is also a product of my own agency. The categories that have been assigned to me and those I put upon myself and play into are influenced by the discourse of race as well as my own social and cultural histories. Playing into the hierarchy of race, I have been unknowingly colonizing my own self.

In the following chapters, I explore the cultural frameworks in which I have been raised and the intersections of race, culture, and identity throug h critical race theory, postcolonial criticism, and feminist theory. Each chapter focuses on attitudinal shifts in my life, although each are not necessarily separate and distinct, but rather part of a whole picture. These shifts resemble the identity path of Eduardo Mori in Daniel T. Linger's ethnography "The Identity Path of Eduardo Mori." I examine the emancipatory potential of shared knowledge and collective experience in regards to what others may learn from my self-exploration. The examination of my journals is more than just sharing a personal story; it is a critical analysis of my experience as a First Generation Asian American, mariginalized woman of color, my choices, and the frameworks in which I have been raised and have been made aware. My primary focus on race and how it affects my culture and identity is not only die to space constraints of this thesis, but more so because these categories have been more salient and more outspoken than others (i.e. class, sexuality) in my experience. It is not to deny the importance of gender and class as part of my identity construction.

I place myself at the senter of critque and exchange. Critical race, postcolonial, and feminist theory unpack hegemonic discourses of whiteness, race, and other constructs of inequality. By braiding these theories together, I use my experience to help me remain true to my core, to my race, culture, and identity, and in turn yield power over hegemony. I use my failures and learn from my mistakes, I look to the sources of my contradictions. For years I stood on the margins, yelling at those with me to join the "higher forces." I have learned to listen.

These three theoretical frameworks allow me to put my race, culture, and identity at the forefront of my research. I have chosen critical race theory as my race informs the way I see and interpret the world. As an Other, an orientalizes person, and a person in search of a home, I highlight my Otherness so I am both named and visible. With postcolonial theory, I focus on my tendencies of a colonized person to reproduce that into which I have been socialized, such as internalizing demonized images of self or accepting notions of the exploited Other. And, I highlight feminist theory as it challenges false dichotomies, structures of power, and humanizes my Otherness. Judith Butler, regarding feminist critique, says that we should "explore the totalizing claims of a masculinist signifying economy, but also remain self-critical with respect to the totalizing gestures of feminism." Similarly, through engaging in subversive tactics (as Butler suggests), feminist theory displaces naturalized and reified social constructs, argues for basic human rights, and places women in a fundamental role.

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