Published with Alexandra Hamada OC ‘13, Karl Orozco OC ‘13, and Han Guel Jung OC ‘14 in Deviant Behavior. These former students formulated the research question and executed the research while taking my SOCI 428: Alcohol and Culture seminar; I gave an assist in the framing and writeup.
Although the biomedical processes of the alcohol flush reaction are well understood, no research has investigated social responses to the reaction. Interviews and focus groups with college students show that Asians and Asian Americans are acutely aware that flushing raises the specter of racial stereotyping, as in the colloquial term “Asian glow.” White drinkers are oblivious, however, both to their own flushing and that of others. Most Asian flushers develop positive interpretations of the alcohol flush reaction, internalizing it as an identity marker of a pan-ethnic Asian community. Moreover, many also understood their flushing as a positive “ability” that allows them to better control their drinking than non-flushers. These findings suggest that flushing must also be understood through a sociocultural lens of ethnic identification, with implications for theories of ethnic identification and interventions against alcohol abuse.