The long, troubled racism of the ‘robotic’ Asian

When US figure skater Nathan Chen won the gold medal in men’s figure skating at the 2022 Winter Olympics, a Washington Post article attributed his win to a fierce, focused, “robotic” zeal. This robotic characterization draws on a dated stereotype of Asians as stoic, unfeeling workaholics.

In my book “Model Machines: A History of the Asian as Automaton,” I argue that the image of Asians as robotic serves as the perfect example of how majority cultures characterize a certain kind of minority as model workers and threats.

In the United States, there has been a popular belief that Asian people are ruthless competitors obsessed with technical achievement, whether as classical pianists, spelling bee champs or math whizzes.

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