Allie Highsmith ’22 studies the impact of racism and xenophobia against East Asian Americans 

Soon after the first cases of COVID-19 were reported in the U.S., Allie Highsmith ’22 started hearing people call it the “the China virus,” the “kung flu,” and other xenophobic names. As a double major in Chinese language and culture and sociology and anthropology, Highsmith wanted to study how people cope with anti-Asian sentiment during the pandemic. Soon after she submitted her summer research proposal, a gunman killed six Asian women in Atlanta, bringing the subject of hate crimes directed at East Asian Americans into the national spotlight. In the wake of that tragedy and related news, Highsmith felt compelled to study how East Asian American experiences in the U.S. have changed as a result of pandemic-related racism and xenophobia.

For her summer research, Highsmith interviewed 29 Asian Americans living in eight states about their experience of xenophobia over the previous year. She used the format of an ethnographic study, a framework common in anthropology that centers the perspective of the culture being studied, rather than imposing an outsider’s viewpoint on the subjects.