British Journal of Chinese Studies

dragon mural beijing 2018 copyright Gerda Wielander
Vol 11 (2021)

Becoming British East Asian and Southeast Asian: Anti-racism, Chineseness, and Political Love in the Cultural and Creative Industries

Diana Yeh
City, University of London
People at an anti-racism protest holding placards
Published June 29, 2021
How to Cite
Yeh, D. (2021). Becoming British East Asian and Southeast Asian. British Journal of Chinese Studies, 11, 53-70.


This article advances work on the ‘British Chinese’ by reconfiguring the boundaries of the field and expanding it beyond the cultural and linguistic transformations of an ‘ethnic community’. Instead, I examine new pan-Asian political formations and situate them within wider anti-racist organising in Britain. First, I examine the birth of ‘British East and Southeast Asianness’ as an emphatically political identity that contests racialised notions of ‘the Chinese’ as a passive model minority and repositions us as political agents of change. Second, I examine the crafting of a political community, in which a pan-Asian identity emerges as a contestation of the borders of ‘Chineseness’ and its policing, while maintaining a Chinese hegemony. Third, I identify distinct political repertoires of anti-racism within this ‘community’, a more radical and a more integrationist approach, which highlights the challenges of political mobilisation, and is shaped by a continued abject status. Finally, I examine the role of political love and care as a means of mobilisation, through which a radical politics of affirmation and refusal is crafted. In doing so, I re-envision the political horizons of the so-called ‘British Chinese’, while shedding light on the current complexities, transformations and solidarities of communities within and beyond Chineseness.

Image © Suki Mok

  • British Chinese,
  • British East Asian,
  • British Southeast ASian,
  • political community,
  • anti-racism,
  • Chineseness,
  • identity,
  • model minority,
  • political love,
  • care
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