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Accepted Paper:

“Claiming Power”: The Asian American Foundation and Political Empowerment through Philanthropy  
Wei Gan (Princeton University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the ways in which Asian American philanthropy, in providing funding and support to Asian Americans by Asian Americans, hopes to serve as a commons for political empowerment.

Paper long abstract:

As the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted lives worldwide, anti-Asian hate rose in the United States. In response, Asian American leaders called for the empowerment and recognition of the Asian American community. A key mode through which this effort is pursued is the deployment of philanthropy – specifically through and by Asian American organizations. Citing the historical lack of both public and private resources allocated to Asian Americans, activists have moved to create funding and support institutions for their own communities. The Asian American Foundation, for instance, was founded by Asian American business leaders and, within three weeks of its launch in May 2021, boasted $1 billion in pledges to advocate for Asian American interests. In this paper, I explore these projects in relation to older iterations of community-based social provisioning in the form of family, merchant, and civic associations first established in early Chinese American communities, as well as community development funds of other marginalized groups. I suggest that one unique marker of contemporary Asian American efforts to establish solidarity funds is their characterization as critical steps toward achieving racial equity and justice. While community institutions have historically taken on the responsibility of providing and caring for its members, organizations today render that responsibility a political one: against structural disempowerment, philanthropy itself becomes a social movement – though not one of resistance but resilience.

Panel P059
New forms of responsibility and the reconfiguration of political commons
  Session 1 Wednesday 27 July, 2022, -