Civic Engagement, Contested Issues, and Emerging IdentitiesJames S. Lai
Social media provides ethno-racial immigrant groups—especially those who cannot vote due to factors such as lack of citizenship and limited English proficiency—the ability to mobilize and connect around collective issues. Online spaces and discussion forums have encouraged many Asian Americans to participate in public policy debates and take action on social justice issues. This form of digital group activism serves as an adaptive political empowerment strategy for the fastest-growing and largest foreign-born population in America. Asian American Connective Action in the Age of Social Media illuminates how associating online can facilitate and amplify traditional forms of political action.
James Lai provides diverse case studies on contentious topics ranging from affirmative action debates to textbook controversies to emphasize the complexities, limitations, and challenges of connective action that is relevant to all racial groups. Using a detailed multi-methods approach that includes national survey data and Twitter hashtag analysis, he shows how traditional immigrants, older participants, and younger generations create online consensus and mobilize offline to foment political change. In doing so, Lai provides a nuanced glimpse into the multiple ways connective action takes shape within the Asian American community.
“Lai’s timely book provides a nuanced analysis of the ideological and other divisions among Asian Americans, scrupulously refusing to homogenize or essentialize them. He uses the generative concept of ‘connective action’ to enhance our understanding of how social media participation has transformed Asian American civic engagement. Charting the political mobilization of first-generation, affluent Chinese Americans in support of conservative political causes, Lai’s argument that social media enables this largely foreign-born population with limited English proficiency to bypass formal organizations, develop new forms of collective action, and grow new subjectivities as political actors is persuasive and important.”
—Claire Jean Kim, Professor of Political Science and Asian American Studies at the University of California, Irvine, and author of Dangerous Crossings: Race, Species, and Nature in a Multicultural Age
“In Asian American Connective Action in the Age of Social Media , James Lai convincingly shows why he is a leading scholar on Asian American and ethnic politics. Exploring the causal linkage between social media use and offline political mobilization in the immigrant-majority community, Lai breaks new ground in studying Asian American political behavior by combining case studies and elite interviews with Twitter hashtag analysis. Smartly labeling it as connective action, Lai argues that this relatively new form of political action has afforded the largely foreign-born and politically marginalized population a new tool to influence policy and politics.”
—Pei-te Lien, Professor of Political Science and of Asian American Studies, Feminist Studies, and Black Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and author of The Making of Asian America through Political Participation
"Lai finds that Asian Americans have used social media to mobilize swiftly and effectively, overcoming barriers to political participation that might otherwise pose major stumbling blocks to largely immigrant populations.... Lai’s case studies examine both conservative and liberal causes, deftly expanding understanding of the political diversity of Asian Americans. Students will be fascinated to see how media familiar to them can be politically potent and how important timing is.... This work is a major contribution to the understanding of political participation, new media, and racial and ethnic studies. Summing Up: Highly recommended."
"Lai does a remarkable job of encouraging the reader to focus on understanding how connective action played a role for Asian Americans on either side of the dividing line.... (F)or those who are interested in better understanding the broadening landscape of Asian American activism—both progressive and conservative strands—and the ways that they utilize social media for activist purposes, Lai’s book is a fruitful and extensive starting point."
"(A)n informative, detailed portrait of the many complicated layers that characterize Asian American politics in the twenty-first century.... One of the most useful resources that can be taken from this book is the collection of six case studies of recent political activism exercised by Asian Americans.... Lai uses these cases to help readers better understand the complex modes in which Asian Americans have entered political debates on racial justice in recent years."
—Perspectives on Politics
The Racial Logic of PoliticsThomas P. Kim