Mormon and Asian American Model Minority Discourses in News and Popular Magazines
News and popular magazines’ coverage of Mormons and Asian Americans in the past several decades have helped to construct a model minority stereotype of Mormons and Asian Americans. Journalists emphasize the economic success and apparently thrifty, hardworking, and self-reliant nature of members of both the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Asian American community. At the same time, journalists portray both groups as deviating from mainstream American culture and discursively place them as others, when compared to American norms. Unlike most negative stereotypes (“greedy Jews,” “criminal blacks,” “fighting Irish,” “savage American Indians,” “cunning Asians,” etc.), the model minority stereotype appears to celebrate both minority groups through depicting their success, hard work, and self-reliance. Positive stereotyping is preferable to negative stereotyping, yet still may be problematic in significant ways. At the same time the model minority stereotype seems to praise Mormons and Asian Americans, it also distances the groups from American norms and posits them as others who do not entirely belong within mainstream America.
“Dr. Chiung Hwang Chen does not shirk the responsibility of a scholar to tackle tough issues. Her concern is with how media construct our images of minorities in this country. In terms of media, she looks at magazines. In terms of minorities, she focuses on Mormons and Asian Americans. Magazines, as a representative of media, make sense. But why Mormons and Asian Americans? Probably because she’s a member of both minority groups. Her vantage point infuses her work in a way that lends plausibility and credibility to the contribution that she has made in advancing our understanding of minority groups in the United States….. This book operates at several levels. Indirectly and most fundamentally, the book confronts the question of what is it to be an American. Or, to put it more precisely: What is it to be “Americanized?” In a way the question envelops the whole of the history of the United States. For what is the composition of this nation if not a rainbow of human colors and a kaleidoscope of hopes and dreams? At another level, the book addresses key issues of assimilation and enculturation. How do assimilation and enculturation occur? Or, do they? Assuming they do, is there a middle ground for people—yielding to assimilation yet maintaining group identity? Not a melting pot per se. But more of a tossed salad imagery, as some maintain, or, as others of a gustatory bent argue, a nation given to cross-cultural stir fry—different cultures influencing and being influenced by other cultures. This change in our thinking about assimilation portends a change in the way we perceive of assimilation….. From an academic standpoint, the book will interest scholars from several disciplines, notably sociology and communication. Sociologists of immigration and assimilation will find fresh insights on how people different most others in religion and ethnicity cope with their environment. When and how perceptions of minority groups change over time have long been the subject of scholarly inquiry, and Dr. Chen contributes to this debate….Those interested in mass media, both as an academic enterprise as well as the production of content, will find much in this book to test their theories and practices. The book challenges the press to ask itself questions about the way it covers minorities, from the narrative or story-telling approach to the overall impact of culture on the practice of journalism.” – (From the Commendatory Preface) Dr. Kenneth Starck, The University of Iowa
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ISBN10: 0-7734-6375-5 ISBN13: 978-0-7734-6375-2