Toward a More Perfect Academia, Part 2

Who gets to be included in Asian American Studies?


The core of this question revolves around the question “Who is Asian American?” Should we include only Asian Americans? Should Asian-heritage people living in Canada and other parts of the Americas fall under Asian American Studies? And where do we draw the lines of what is or isn’t Asia? What about Pacific Islanders or Arab American scholars who don’t identify as Asian American, but don’t have their own Ethnic Studies based programs and departments?


Another aspect of the question is the issue of transnationalism– the immigrant and refugee narrative is not, and has never been a linear journey. Culture, money, and people continually cross national borders. Laborers and business people travel one place, then another for work, and money flows through them. Young people go abroad for education, and bring back foreign ideas of development and cultural expectations. Family ties stretch across the globe, forming chains of goods, money, and migration. Are transnational communities a de facto part of the Asian American experience? How much do we need to study Asia in order to understand Asian America?


At least for now, I’m leaning towards including groups in Asian American Studies even if they don’t identify as Asian America. Firstly, because there’s a lot that we can learn by comparing communities and secondly because the core of Asian American Studies– a commitment to analyzing and ending oppression, doesn’t exist in many places in the University. It’s more important to teach this core than specific groups.


A very oversimplified view. I may expand later.


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