Redefining Race


In 2012, the Pew Research Center issued a report that named Asian Americans as the “highest-income, best-educated, and fastest-growing racial group in the United States.” Despite this optimistic conclusion, over thirty Asian American advocacy groups challenged the findings, noting that the term “Asian American” is complicated. It includes a wide range of ethnicities, national origins, and languages, and encompasses groups that differ greatly in their economic and social status.

In Redefining Race, sociologist Dina G. Okamoto traces the complex evolution of “Asian American” as a panethnic label and identity, emphasizing how it is a deliberate social achievement negotiated by group members, rather than an organic and inevitable process. 

Winner of the 2016 American Sociological Association’s Asia and Asian America Section Book Award

Redefining Race (Russell Sage Foundation, 2014) is a groundbreaking analysis of the processes through which group boundaries are drawn and contested. In mapping the genesis of a panethnic Asian American identity, Okamoto illustrates the ways in which concepts of race continue to shape how ethnic and immigrant groups view themselves and organize for representation in the public arena.


Praise for Redefining Race

“Okamoto’s Redefining Race is a new benchmark for understanding the social construction of ethnicity and ethnic identity.” 

—EDWARD TELLES, Professor of Sociology, Princeton University

 “Okamoto presents a vivid account of the accidents, opportunities, and contexts that fire up panethnic moments of collective action and douse them back into quiescence. Redefining Race is a major advancement and original contribution to the fields of immigrant incorporation, racial and ethnic formation, and Asian American studies.” 

—TAEKU LEE, Professor of Political Science and Law, UC Berkeley

“This provocative racial boundary approach to understanding the identities and the incorporation of Asian Americans is a sophisticated and welcome contribution to the field.” 

—MARY C. WATERS, M.E. Zukerman Professor of Sociology, Harvard University