Body Image: A Handbook of Theory, Research, and Clinical Practice

By Thomas F. Cash; Thomas Pruzinsky | Go to book overview

28
Asian American Body Images

KATHLEEN Y. KAWAMURA

In describing Asian American experiences, a differentiation is often made between Asians and Asian Americans. The term "Asian" is generally used either as a broad racial descriptor for any person of Asian or Pacific Islander descent or to refer to a person of Asian or Pacific Islander descent who is a resident of an Asian country or one of the Pacific Islands. The term "Asian American" is often used as an ethnic description of a person of Asian or Pacific Islander descent who is a resident of the United States. Although some of the information presented in this chapter may be generalizable to Asians, the focus is on the body image experiences of Asian Americans.

Over 30 different ethnic subgroups make up the Asian American population, including, though not limited to, people of Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Indian, Hawaiian, Thai, Guamanian, and Samoan descent. Asian American subgroups are diverse not only in ethnicity but in cultural traditions, languages, and values. There is tremendous intragroup and intergroup variability among members of Asian American subgroups in terms of degree of acculturation, generation, and immigration experiences. Despite this variability, there also exist similarities in terms of traditional cultural values, physical appearance (which may differ from Western notions of beauty), and status as an ethnic minority group. This chapter discusses salient differences between Asian Americans and Caucasian Americans in those areas that may affect the body image development of Asian Americans. In addition, this chapter delineates ways in which intragroup differences in acculturation and ethnic identity may influence the body image experiences of Asian Americans.

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