Racing Romance: Love, Power, and Desire among Asian American/White Couples

Racing Romance: Love, Power, and Desire among Asian American/White Couples

Racing Romance: Love, Power, and Desire among Asian American/White Couples

Racing Romance: Love, Power, and Desire among Asian American/White Couples


Despite being far from the norm, interracial relationships are more popular than ever. Racing Romance sheds special light on the bonds between whites and Asian Americans, an important topic that has not garnered well-deserved attention until now. Incorporating life-history narratives and interviews with those currently or previously involved with an interracial partner, Kumiko Nemoto addresses the contradictions and tensions- a result of race, class, and gender- that Asian Americans and whites experience.

Similar to black/white relationships, stereotypes have long played crucial roles in Asian American/white encounters. Partners grapple with media representations of Asian women as submissive or hypersexual and Asian men are often portrayed as weak laborers or powerful martial artists. Racing Romance reveals how allegedly progressive interracial relationships remain firmly shaped by the logic of patriarchy and gender inherent to the ideal of marriage, family, and nation in America, even as this ideal is juxtaposed with discourses of multiculturalism and color blindness.


WHY DO WE FALL IN LOVE? What are the components that constitute love and desire? How do we develop and sustain feelings of love for another person?

Having an intimate relationship with another person is seen as a decidedly private activity in our culture. Yet desire and passion for other people is shaped socially and culturally, and often reflects a person’s desire for self-realization and a social identity, and by extension a person’s craving for certain social and cultural powers. The promise of self-realization can be seen fleetingly in one’s identification with another person, who is seen both as a source of pleasure to identify with and as a power to possess. Intimacy is a cultural and social device of self-making. One’s views of oneself transform through the exchange and confirmation of one’s recognition. Intimacy allows us to fashion ourselves and determine our futures through identification with others, and these others’ powers and identity are constituted by race, class, and gender.

Many social theorists have pointed out the paradox of sex and love—they can bring a person simultaneously empowerment and conformity. Michel Foucault discusses the powerful nature of sex as an essential part of individual identity, as sex has historically been under the modern state’s management and control: “It is through sex, an imaginary point determined by the deployment of sexuality—that each individual has to pass in order to have access to his own intelligibility, to the whole of his body … to his identity.” Elizabeth Povinelli similarly writes that modern love is a project critical to modern enlightenment, providing a liberal subject with a sense of freedom and sovereignty, and simultaneously inculcating the subject with social ideologies. Judith Butler describes the sublimation of our desire as “the desire to be known, to come into being through the look of the Other,” and this is precisely the moment when “liberation paves the way for new power relationships.” In this book, I explore these two sides of intimate relationships: their potential for empowerment and their ability to instill conformity to social and cultural discourses. The book is . . .

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