STEM Asianization and the Racialization of the Educational Experiences of Asian American College Students

WCER Working Paper No. 2024-2

Matthew Wolfgram, Stacey J. Lee, Chundou Her, Kong Pheng Pha, Bailey Smolarek, and Choua Xiong

July 2024, 32 pp.

ABSTRACT: This article clarifies historical and sociocultural factors that impact the role of STEM in the racialization of Asian Americans. Drawing on critical race and other theories of Asian American racialization, and a review of empirical research on the experiences of Asian American college students in STEM, we develop a conceptual framework called STEM Asianization that highlights the role of STEM ideology in the model minority racialization of Asian Americans. Consequences for Asian American students include (1) erasure of the intersectional experiences of minoritized Asian American students; (2) dehumanization of Asian Americans and establishment of a bamboo ceiling; (3) representation of Asian Americans as a perpetual foreigner/Yellow Peril during times of cultural and political crisis; and (4) representation of Asian Americans who cannot or do not conform to the STEM achievement narrative as a failed minority. We argue that STEM Asianization reproduces White supremacy by ideologically reinforcing the colorblind meritocracy of STEM institutions in the United States.

Full Paper

keywords: Asian Americans, racialization, STEM Asianization, model minority discourse, colorblind meritocracy