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Abstract

How is racial inequality reproduced and resisted in relationships of intimacy (friendships, sexual relations, romantic connections)? How does racial inequality operate both through individual negotiations and differentiated stakes, and through collective, idealized group-building? This study explores questions for the relationship between gay Asian men and gay white men, through a case study of Asians & Friends Chicago (AFC), a gay friendship group of gay Asian men and their gay (majority white) friends. The group’s individual stories and interactional dynamics are documented and analyzed through mixed qualitative sociological methods: archival analysis of AFC Archives, participant observation of the group’s interactions at official events and informal gatherings, and in-depth interviews with 24 group members. Through the lens of the sexual fields’ framework, AFC emerges as a field with collective norms and practices that all members respond to: non-sexual friendship, post-racial inclusivity, and prioritizing the Asian-white romantic relationship. These logics are organizational responses to gay Asian men’s low desirability in other sexual fields, and gay white men’s potentially fetishistic desires for them. At the same time, as Asian members and white members enter the field with different stakes, AFC’s organizational logics both attempt to recalibrate these stakes while still repeating similar racial/sexual inequalities outside the group. This social mapping thus explores how resistances to racial inequality and sexual fetishism can potentially reach an organizational (yet uneven) level, as gay men think through their different contexts how to individually and collectively articulate their desires for intimacy and companionship.

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