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TitleManaging Multicultural Lives: Asian American Professionals and the Challenge of Multiple Identities
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Document Text Contents
Page 1

Managing Multicultural
Lives

Pawan Dhingra

Stanford University Press

Page 2

Managing Multicultural Lives

Page 164

Multiculturalism on the Job 151

clients. � e ability to act on one’s marginal status while supporting an em-
ployee status represents another instance of a lived hybridity.

Because they were in Dallas, a disproportionate number of Asian Ameri-
cans worked in the telecommunications and computer industry. � ey have
stood out as competent yet may still encounter a glass ceiling (Fernandez
1998). Nevertheless, interviewees believed that they would face fewer handi-
caps in this � eld than in others given Asian Americans’ strong representation.
As Laura said:

I think it might even be a plus, just to be Asian. In an environment where it’s es-
pecially IT, they automatically assume sometimes that Asians are good program-
mers or whatever because predominantly, you go into that major and you will see
predominantly Asians there, you know. So, it could probably work for the best.

Sanjay even commented that he likely received an easier time getting hired
because he was seen as an ethnic employee:

� e educational background is known. And I think that [in] the overall industry
I’m in, technology, Indians are seen as the forefront. You got a whole lot of talent
out there: so� ware developers, hardware, entrepreneurs. Indians go across the
ranks. People attribute some competence [to you] without looking at [your] pa-
per résumé. � e managers and directors see that I will see it through, and I think
being Indian may have something to do with that.

Respondents prided themselves on having attained their success via merit
(as opposed to those who supposedly rely on set-aside programs), yet many
were happy to receive assistance based on the model-minority stereotype be-
cause they saw it as well-deserved for Asian Americans generally. Samantha
commented:

Most people know Asians are hardworking. My parents could have gone on wel-
fare, and they didn’t. You have to admire that. � e stereotype will follow you. � e
stereotype of being smart, work hard, always valedictorian of class. If that image
follows you, you can’t help it. [Laughs]

Worth noting is her choice of words: that most people “know” rather than
“think” that Asian Americans work hard.

Asian Americans have tried to use stereotypes to their advantage and to
demonstrate those “Asian” traits that suited organizational goals and thus ad-
vanced their own mobility. James illustrated this e� ort with a quote in chap-
ter 1: by wearing glasses as props to portray himself as “Asian” and as “good
with numbers,” and then donning contacts on the weekends. In the process

Page 165

152 Multiculturalism on the Job

he acted on multiple identities simultaneously despite their assumed contra-
dictions. He in e� ect reversed the expectation and acted Asian at work and
American at home. Gautum, quoted earlier, enjoyed appearing as an Indian
American doctor while he avoided other displays of his ancestry. � is image
may continue to mark actors as racially apart but it did so in a way that � t the
workplace goal of promoting productivity as well as the capitalist role of Asian
Americans as high-skilled laborers (Ong, Bonacich, and Cheng 1994).

Along with positive racial images, individuals considered the current
stress on diversity in the workplace to help them and other minorities (Kim
2004). Many were glad to bene� t from this trend. Alice said she and an African
American co-worker spoke of the shi� ing impact of being a woman of color
today:

Historically ethnicity has been a constraint, but now we see it could bene� t us
because the business world realizes that to be successful, you need to integrate a
diverse group of people in terms of ethnicity and gender.

Anu typically avoided an “Asian” image at work unless she could bene� t from
the cultural capital that came along with being “ethnic” in some circles, re-
ferring not to the model-minority stereotype but to her cultural ancestry
(Bourdieu 1984). She was quoted earlier as not � nding ethnicity relevant at
work and said that she would not discuss her ethnicity with co-workers. She
even skipped the question on surveys regarding ancestry:

� ere’s a rule, an unspoken rule that you do not discuss your personal life [at
work]. I think it’s di� erent in Dallas, and I think it’s di� erent in New York City.
Especially when you’re in a fairly senior, high-pro� le position, you do not discuss
your personal life [in New York City]. . . . When I � ll out applications at work, I
do not � ll that out. Well, I mean, why are you putting more variables into play
if you don’t have to? As a businessperson you’re focused on the bottom line, and
you’re focused on business [, not ethnicity].

She would not accentuate her background

unless it bene� ts [me] in some way. I mean if you’re working at a � rm and one of
the partners is a man, and he’s very much into his Indian culture, and he talks
about it because you have something in common and that can open the door for
you, yeah. But I certainly wouldn’t do it for any other reason.

Her decision of whether and how to display her heritage rested partly on the
domain schema. In a twist of the informal network that keeps minorities out
of management, Asian Americans could imagine using ethnicity to connect

Page 328

Index 315

post-ethnicity, 82, 273n35
poverty rates: Dallas County, 35, 35; Indian

Americans, 26, 26, 35, 35; Korean Ameri-
cans, 26, 26, 35, 35

Preston, James, 125– 126
private versus mainstream spaces, 242– 243
profanity, sharing with co-workers, 146– 147
Punjabis, 19. See also Indian Americans

racial identity, de� ned, 13, 273n1
racialization, 16– 24; of culture, 103– 105;

Indian Americans, 18– 20; Korean
Americans, 21– 24

racial pro� ling, 100, 116– 117
racism: African Americans’ reaction to, 109,

281n3; death penalty as, 260n8; domain
integration and strati� cation, 238– 240;
in leisure spaces, 192– 193; responding to,
119– 121; as xenophobia, 107– 109

reading materials, popular, 204
religion: choosing whom to marry, 169– 170;

community connection to ethnic
identity, 67; di� erences in, 244, 245,
247, 278n7; Indian Americans, 32, 59, 61,
103– 104, 266n18, 271n21; and Internet,
278n11; Korean Americans, 31, 58– 59,
61, 271n21; open-door policy, 213– 214;
prescribing ethnic social identity, 56;
teaching moral life and cultural heri-
tage to second generation, 58– 60, 61,
271n21; women in leadership positions,
271n22

repertoires, cultural, 162, 262n13
residential segregation, 112– 113

safe space, searching for, 206– 209
safety fears, 47– 49
salience, of an identity, 261n12
sample population, 39– 43
scholarships, college, 219– 221
second generation: community connection,

66– 70, 67; family connection, 76– 81,
77; � tting in connection, 70– 76, 71;
identity work, 63– 81; internal con� ict
between ethnic and American interests,
3– 4, 259nn2– 3; teaching moral life and
cultural heritage to, 58– 62. See also
identity work

segregation, residential, 112– 113
self, in symbolic interactionism, 275n10
self-presentation, 53

Sep tem ber 11 attacks: e� ect on Indian
Americans, 99– 101, 116– 117, 278n7; hate
crimes a� er, 99, 117, 215, 269n8; Indian
American response to, 55, 116– 118

settlers, 273n31
sexism, 179, 280n15. See also gender roles
sexual explicitness, in television and movies,

195
sexuality, women’s, 60, 181– 182
shame, 259n1
singles ministries, 170, 280n9, 282n10
social identities, de� ned, 12– 13
social justice, minority e� orts toward, 5,

261n9
socioeconomic progress, 92– 96
sojourners, 273n31
South, 28. See also Dallas; Texas
South Asian Americans, 116– 119, 117. See also

Indian Americans
Southern Baptists, 48, 53– 54, 244
spelling bees, 219
sports stars, 72– 73
stage progression model, 273n32
state, demonstrating support of the, 214– 217
stereotypes: educational attainment, 92,

93– 94; middle-class-speci� c, 5; women
in leisure domain, 193; work ethic,
91– 92, 95. See also model-minority
stereotype

study population, 39– 43
survey questions about ancestry, 99, 152,

275n14
Swaminarayan temple (pseudonym), 54,

59, 61, 271n24, 272n30. See also Hindu
temples

swear words, sharing with co-workers,
146– 147

symbolic interactionism, 224, 275n10
symbols, cultural, 60– 62

teachers, 74– 75, 154– 155
telecommunications industry, 151, 154
television, 195, 202, 217
Texas: Asian Americans in, 28; Chinese

Americans in, 29, 34; conservatism in,
12; demographics, 34, 34; Indian Ameri-
cans in, 31– 32, 34; Korean Americans
in, 29– 30, 34; perceived as racist state, 5,
260n8; racial diversity in, 29; Vietnam-
ese Americans in, 34, 266n24. See also
Dallas

Page 329

316 Index

� anksgiving celebrations, 58– 59, 262n15,
282n7

� ind, Bhagat Singh, 18– 19
third space, 229, 278n12
traditions, family, 7
transnationalism, 64, 67, 116– 118, 272n27,

272n30

vegetarianism, 199, 278n7
Vietnamese Americans, 34, 35, 221– 222,

266n24
Vo, Hubert, 28
Vrooman, Robert, 276n25

West Indian immigrants, 275n14
white-collar occupations, 262n14
Whites: dating, 172– 173, 176; intermarriage

with, 180– 181; in leisure domain, 198. See
also European Americans

women: African American friendships,
278n10; dating outside ethnic group, 175;
education, 184, 279n6; home and career
con� icts, 131– 132; in home domain, 179,
181– 183, 184– 186, 279n5; leisure domain
stereotypes, 193; opting not to have
children, 3; sexuality, 60, 181– 182; in

work domain, 133– 134, 139– 140, 284n5;
working versus stay-at-home mothers,
184– 186. See also gender roles

Wong, Martha, 28
work domain, 124– 156; censuring expres-

sions of di� erences, 141– 144; clothing in,
142, 149– 150, 154– 155; cultural code of,
124– 125; cultural values in, 134– 136; dis-
comfort and mobility worries, 129– 136;
diversity management, 125– 129, 132,
277n2; elders in, 148; expressing di� er-
ences, 144– 155; family issues in, 130– 132;
food in, 148– 149; gay men in, 278n8; lan-
guage in, 143, 145, 146– 147, 150; lifestyle
di� erences in, 132– 134; model minority
and mobility, 136– 141, 240; religious
di� erences in, 278n7; study participants
treated as ethnic workers, 240– 241

work ethic stereotypes, 91– 92, 95
World Gathering English Ministry (pseudo-

nym), 59– 60, 282n10. See also English
Ministries (EMs)

xenophobia, racism as, 107– 109

yellow peril, 5, 17– 18, 46– 49, 241

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