Chen, Chiung Hwang Books

Dr. Chiung Hwang Chen, an Assistant Professor of International Cultural Studies at Brigham Young University-Hawai‘i, received her Master’s and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Iowa. Most of her publications have related to Mormonism, Asian Americans, gender/ethnicity, journalism, and media within the realm of cultural studies. She also has keen interests in international/intercultural communication and media studies in China, Taiwan and the Pacific Islands.

Mormon and Asian American Model Minority Discourses in News and Popular Magazines
2004 0-7734-6375-5
News and popular magazines’ coverage of Mormons and Asian Americans in the past several decades have helped to construct a model minority stereotype of Mormons and Asian Americans. Journalists emphasize the economic success and apparently thrifty, hardworking, and self-reliant nature of members of both the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Asian American community. At the same time, journalists portray both groups as deviating from mainstream American culture and discursively place them as others, when compared to American norms. Unlike most negative stereotypes (“greedy Jews,” “criminal blacks,” “fighting Irish,” “savage American Indians,” “cunning Asians,” etc.), the model minority stereotype appears to celebrate both minority groups through depicting their success, hard work, and self-reliance. Positive stereotyping is preferable to negative stereotyping, yet still may be problematic in significant ways. At the same time the model minority stereotype seems to praise Mormons and Asian Americans, it also distances the groups from American norms and posits them as others who do not entirely belong within mainstream America.

This book situates news and popular magazines’ coverage of Asian Americans and Mormons within model minority discourse, explains the discourse’s problematic nature, and points out how the two discourses shape power relations between majorities and minorities in American society. The book employs critical discourse analysis, a powerful tool to uncover ideology within dominant discourses and challenge unequal power structures in society. By so doing, it aims to improve society for minority groups. The book also explores journalistic narrative. By following conventional narrative forms and shared cultural meanings, journalists often adopt established cultural norms and reinforce status quo ideologies. Chen’s goal is not simply to analyze the model minority discourse in news and popular magazines or merely to provide a critique of journalists’ conventional narrative forms. She also uses her analysis of journalistic discourse as a means of consciousness-raising—for both minority groups and journalists—and to further encourage alternative approaches to writing about minority groups. She provides ideas for journalists to improve coverage of the two groups and minorities in general.

In this book, the author employs a postethnic perspective in examining magazines’ model minority discourses. This perspective recognizes and respects differences between groups, as multiculturalists advocate, but it also searches for common experiences between groups and suggests that different group experiences may not be wholly unique and dissimilar. Comparing religious identity with ethno-racial identity promotes a deeper understanding of the treatment of minorities by American culture. Utilizing Foucault’s notion of discourse, Chen argues that magazine coverage of Mormon and Asian American success has created a discursive practice. Model minority notions pervade writings about Mormons and Asian Americans more completely than they would as simply stereotypes. Model minority discourse encompasses a complex set of ways to create meaning. It glorifies certain culturally dominant values and practices; at the same time, it positions a group of people as representatives of, but not full participants in, the social life of the majority.