Margins and Mainstreams: Asians in American History and Culture

Margins and Mainstreams: Asians in American History and Culture

Margins and Mainstreams: Asians in American History and Culture

Margins and Mainstreams: Asians in American History and Culture

Synopsis

In a thoughtful and stimulating contribution to the current debate about the meaning to the larger society of multiculturalism, Gary Okihiro explores the significance of Asian Americans in American history and culture. In six provocative and engaging essays he examines the Asian American experience from the perspectives of historical consciousness, race, gender, class, and culture.

While exploring anew the meanings of Asian American social history, the book argues that the core values and ideals of the nation emanate today not from the so-called mainstream but from the margins, from among Asian and African Americans, Latinos and American Indians, and women. Those groups in their struggles for equality, have helped to preserve and advance the founders' ideals and have made America a more democratic place for all.

Excerpt

In the spring of 1992, I delivered six lectures under the overall title "Margins and Mainstreams: Asians in American History and Culture" at Amherst College during my tenure there as the John J. McCloy '16 Professor of American Institutions and International Relations. With slight modification, this book consists of those lectures as I gave them. The writing, accordingly, bears the syncopation--the beat and stresses--of an oral reading.

Swirling around me, as I contemplated the theme for the lecture series, was fervent and oftentimes heated debate about the idea of a mainstream, about the core of American history and culture, about intellectual "ghettoization" and ethnic "balkanization." Pluralism and diversity, many argued, only served to divide and fracture the nation. The debate over the nature and primacy of Western civilization and its canon of "great books" on college campuses, they warned, was just the leading edge of a coming chill that threatened the "disuniting" of America. Implicit within the Eurocentric argument was the appeal, intellectual and otherwise, to those on the margins to join and be absorbed by the mainstream.

Margins and Mainstreams contends that the core values and ideals of the nation emanate not from the mainstream but from the margins--from among Asian and African Americans, Latinos and American Indians, women, and gays and lesbians. In their struggles for equality, these groups have helped preserve and advance the principles and ideals of democracy and have thereby made America a freer place for all. Herein lies the true significance . . .

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