Divergent Movements: Asian American Politics with Chinese Characteristics in Down a Dark Stairwell

Jason G. Coe

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review


Instead of building upon the left internationalist legacies of the Asian American movement, some Chinese American activist organizations have reframed Asian American identity as an avenue for “racial victimology” (Liu 2018, 429). This movement made its national debut on February 20, 2016, when hundreds of thousands demonstrated in major cities across the United States and Canada to protest the conviction of Chinese American NYPD officer Peter Liang for the killing of Akai Gurley (Feng and Tseng-Putterman 2019, 238-239). Other Asian American activist organizations protested in solidarity with Gurley's family and Black Lives Matter (BLM) (Fu, et. al, 2019, 254-255).
Ursula Liang’s (no relation) documentary feature, Down a Dark Stairwell (Independent Lens, 2020), recounts how these coalitions defined their political stances in response to the Liang-Gurley case. Through footage of community discussions, courtroom proceedings, and demonstrations, the documentary offers multiple perspectives of what Liang’s conviction signifies about racial justice in the U.S, illustrates the divergent processes by which Asian Americans imagine themselves within different national and international communities, and offers tactics for developing mutual understanding despite those differences.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)78-82
Number of pages5
JournalVerge: Studies in Global Asias
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 23 Feb 2023

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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