Probing Asian Experiences during the COVID‑19 Pandemic

Chen, Sibo | $27,312

Ontario Ryerson University 2021 SSHRC

The Challenge. The COVID‑19 outbreak has triggered an alarming increase in xenophobic and discriminatory acts against minority groups. As the pandemic proliferates across Canada, people of Asian descent have suffered from racially motivated hate crimes involving harassment and even physical violence. Moreover, this worrisome trend has occurred against a backdrop of rising right-wing populism and nationalism over recent decades. Although there is ample evidence documenting the concerning surge in pandemic-related anti-Asian incidents, little is known about how people of Asian descent have coped with them and the public discourses surrounding stigmatization and prejudice.

Project Goal. This project aims to address the above research gap by investigating what factors have contributed to the rise of anti-Asian racism and xenophobia during the ongoing COVID‑19 pandemic. Following a mixed-methods research design, it will explore media coverage of COVID‑19 related stigmatization and prejudice, survey Asian Canadians’ positive and negative experiences, and intervene in public conversations on combating hate crimes. The proposed research activities are guided by three core research questions: (1) How have major domestic news outlets reported on anti-Asian racism and xenophobia since the pandemic’s outbreak in Canada? (2) How do Asian Canadians view and cope with increased racial tension brought by the pandemic? (3) What are the implications of Asian Canadians’ coping with racial microaggressions for developing culturally sensitive solutions to the pandemic’s ethnic conundrums?

Methods. To answer these research questions, the project will be executed in three phases. In Phase I, the research team will conduct a comprehensive content analysis of major Canadian media’s coverage of racism-related issues during 2020, thereby identifying key discursive struggles underlying the latest wave of anti-Asian racism and xenophobia. Drawing on the findings of the content analysis, the research team will then design a survey targeting Asian Canadians’ experiences during COVID‑19 in Phase II. The goal of the survey is to gain a better understanding of the participants’ positive and negative experiences during the pandemic as well as their coping of everyday challenges brought by increased racial tension. The survey will be distributed with the help of York Centre for Asian Research the Chinese Canadian National Council, and Amazon’s crowdsourcing website Mechanical Turk. Finally, Phase III will be a research-creation process. The research team will create a short documentary (30-40 mins) presenting representative stories identified during Phases I & II. By applying visual storytelling methods, the documentary seeks to inform the public about racial inequalities amplified by the pandemic and engage them in resisting racism locally and on a bigger scale.

Outcomes. The project’s focus on Asian experiences during the COVID‑19 pandemic aligns with the urgent need to assess the pandemic’s disproportionate impacts on migrants and minority groups worldwide. We anticipate there will be widespread interests in the research outcomes from governmental and non-governmental organizations, educators, as well as the general public. Theoretically, the project will contribute to the literature on (1) pandemic-related social crises, (2) racism awareness and resistance, and (3) the mediation of public conversations on race and social injustice. Practically, the project will develop policy recommendations that identity pathways to strengthen Canadian racial equality and multiculturalism.

With funding from the Government of Canada

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