The Meaning of Honorary Whiteness for Asian Americans: Boundary Expansion or Something Else?

in Comparative Sociology
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Abstract

Research on interracial intimacy divides between quantitative comparisons of interracial and same-race marriages and qualitative studies of existing interracial unions. This article bridges the divide by examining how interracial dating histories differ from same-race dating histories among Asian Americans, a group that sociologists consistently regard as potentially having attained a racial status as “honorary whites.” Synthesizing the literatures on ethnic boundaries, homogamy, and interracial intimacy, the author examines the role of boundary processes in differentiating same-race and interracial dating histories. What does becoming honorary whites, as indicated by participation in racial exogamy, actually mean for Asian Americans? Using a unique sample of 83 Asian Americans with a wide range of dating histories, the author finds that social networks are a crucial mechanism for differentiating racial endogamy and exogamy. In addition, my results show that becoming honorary whites has critically involved boundary repositioning, rather than boundary transcendence, blurring, or expansion.

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