What is Asian American Studies?
Asian American studies, like its counterparts in ethnic studies (African American studies, Chicano/a and Latino/a studies, and American Indian studies), was established through the Third World Strikes at San Francisco State and University of California at Berkeley in 1968-69. These educational movements driven by students sought to revise Eurocentric curriculum as well as address the institutional barriers that have historically excluded people of color and their communities from access to U.S. education and its resources.
Asian American studies is an interdisciplinary academic field drawing on the research methods of a broad range of disciplines: literature, history, anthropology, sociology, psychology, law, education, etc. in order to elucidate knowledge of the historical and contemporary experiences, cultural practices and community formations of Asians in the U.S. Like other ethnic studies fields, Asian American studies has been committed to social justice issues and community research and practice. Scholarship in the field has highlighted both the U.S.-based and globally-inflected dimensions of Asian American studies. Increasing attention is being paid to transnational and diasporic frameworks of research in the field.
How is Asian American Studies distinct from Asian Studies?
Asian American studies is emphatically rooted within the American experience, and as such is properly placed within the broad intellectual rubric of American studies.
Its origins and educational goals more closely parallel those of other ethnic studies programs (African American, Latino, and Native American studies) and of women’s studies programs than those of Asian studies.
Thus, Asian American studies is not Asian studies but does depend upon the insights provided by Asian studies, including the histories, cultures, and dispersions of Asian peoples.
—"How is Asian American Studies distinct from Asian Studies?" statement is courtesy of the East of California Caucus of the Association for Asian American Studies
The State of Asian American Studies
Below you will find brief contexts of the state of Asian American studies around the country as well as descriptions of national, regional, and local networks that have formed to support the institutionalization of Asian American studies as an academic enterprise.
National: Before the 1990s, the majority of Asian American studies programs were on the West Coast, particularly in California. A notable exception was Stanford University, which did not establish Asian American studies until the 1990s when the major areas of growth were actually “East of California”--on the East Coast, here in the Midwest, and some programs in the South and Southwest.
The Association was formed in 1979 for the purposes of advancing professional standards and activities; promoting understanding between sub-components within Asian American studies; facilitating communication and scholarly exchange; advocating the interests and welfare of Asian American studies and Asian Americans, and; educating American society about the history and aspirations of Asian American ethnic minorities. For a listing of programs nationally, see the AAAS Directory.
East of California
East of California (EoC) is an Asian American studies network in higher education. The network is a caucus within the Association for Asian American studies. Its purposes are: 1) to institutionalize Asian American studies; 2) to develop regional-specific research and publications; and 3) to provide mutual support to individuals and programs. It meets twice annually, in the fall at the network conference held at a member campus and in the spring at the annual meeting of the Association for Asian American Studies. The network is open to interested students, faculty and staff, and encourages the involvement of allied community institutions like museums and service organizations.
Asian American Studies in the Big Ten: CIC Asian American Studies Group
The field of Asian American Studies has rapidly grown from its early beginnings in California in the 1960s. As the field expands, it seeks to include the experiences and voices of Asian Americans from all parts of the country. No longer are Asian Americans concentrated solely on the East or West coast - rather, those working in Asian American studies have begun to analyze the "Asian American experience" as it is affected by many different factors, such as region. The Midwest has become a particularly rich site for such study. Starting with the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1991, Asian American studies centers and programs have been established at a number of Big Ten Schools, including Northwestern, the University of Michigan, the Ohio State University, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), and this past year, the University of Minnesota.
On November 12, 2000, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign hosted a CIC meeting, "Asian American Studies in the Big Ten," which included representatives from nearly all the Big Ten schools. This initial meeting built or strengthened networks in the field of Asian American studies among the Big Ten Universities.
On February 3, 2006, the group gathered to emphasize two dimensions of Asian American studies: 1) the state of scholarly research and teaching in Asian American studies, particularly as it takes on a regional focus and 2) the importance of productive relationships between faculty and Asian American advising and student services within the CIC. From these discussions, the group agreed to increase communication, share best practices and continue towards valuable collaboration with each other.
Local: In the Chicago area, Northwestern University has the longest standing program with a minor and DePaul University has just established a minor. There are currently no programs at Loyola or University of Chicago.
Greater Chicago Asian American Studies (GCAAS) is a network to foster collaboration for Asian American studies in the Greater Chicago Area.
In recent years, the number of people who work in Asian American studies in the Midwest, and specifically Chicago, has increased significantly. At the same time, for a variety of reasons, area universities have also formed Asian American studies programs. Informal conversations among several area scholars and faculty about possible collaboration led to a spring 2005 meeting of faculty, graduate students and representatives of programs at the University of Illinois at Chicago, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Northwestern about forming a collaborative network. Named GCAAS, the network is meant to take advantage of members’ geographic proximity to foster collaboration— and not to preclude relationships members have within other organizations such as the CIC or the East of California Asian American Studies network.