Being and Belonging in America: Second-Generation Asian American Teachers’ Stories of Negotiating Identity and Culture

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Being and Belonging in America: Second-Generation Asian American Teachers’ Stories of Negotiating Identity and Culture

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In the last quarter century, the United States has seen the highest levels of immigration since the turn of the 19th century (Frey, 2020; Massey, 2013). Unlike migrations of the past, this one has brought Brown and Black folks from across the Global South to the United States, forever changing the demographics of the nation (Frey, 2020; Foner, 2000; Massey 2013). This boom is largely a result of post-colonial conditions, neoliberal policy, and U.S. military incursions that have destabilized the globe. These factors, along with the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, have ushered in a large-scale shift in U.S. demographics, that while geographically uneven, continues to change the notion and nature of American identity (Alba, 2018). As the United States continues to experience large-scale immigration, primarily from Asia and Central and South America, we must confront the ways in which this reality is impacting our schools, teachers, and students. This dissertation is concerned with the implications of this ongoing transformation in demographics within the United States on the nature and notion of American identity, of what and who count as American, and the impacts of this shift on the realities for schools and the lives of teachers and students who labor and learn within them. In attending to this concern, this study focuses on Asian Americans, a population that significantly contributes to this demographic shift and who are increasingly the target of White anxiety and rage. In addition to socio-culturally situated contestations of belonging, this population has historically faced legal and formalized exclusion which has compounded Asian Americans’ relationship to the social imaginary of America. This contestation is even more pronounced for Second-Generation Asian Americans, whose belonging is additionally complicated by their status as American-born. This critical narrative study presents the stories of four Second-Generation Asian American elementary school teachers currently working at public elementary schools in the Twin Cities, alongside the researcher’s own story as U.S. student, teacher, and teacher-educator. These stories reveal fraught negotiations of identity and culture and the ways in which these teachers mobilize their Second-Generation Asian American identity in the service of their students.


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. June 2021. Major: Education, Curriculum and Instruction. Advisor: Nina Asher. 1 computer file (PDF); vi, 189 pages.

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Phadke, Meghan. (2021). Being and Belonging in America: Second-Generation Asian American Teachers’ Stories of Negotiating Identity and Culture. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

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