Welcome to Asian American Studies

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The Department of Asian American Studies (AAS) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is committed to expanding the traditions of knowledge within academia to address Asian American epistemologies, activities, and experiences. The department also seeks to render scholarly intellectual efforts integral to those of local, regional, national, and international Asian American communities.

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Martin Manalansan

Message from the Department Head:

In 1999, I arrived at UIUC as one of the first members of a series of cluster hires in Asian American Studies. In many ways, my growth as a scholar has been in tandem with the evolution and progress of Asian American Studies as a unit and as a community on this prairie campus. I came at a moment when years of student activism and staff and faculty advocacy created what was then the Asian American Studies committee. Composed of such pioneers as Professors George Yu, Palassana Balgopal, Clark Cunningham and the late Nancy Abelmann they sought to establish this field of inquiry that would mark it as a distinctly Illinois community of scholars. Their efforts have not been in vain and I honor and cherish their legacy.

Next year marks 20 years of Asian American Studies on campus and such a milestone comes right after a series of important developments. Asian American Studies at Illinois has distinguished itself from other programs and departments across the country not only through its sheer size but the fertile and dynamic nature of the intellectual discussions and community building efforts of its faculty, students and staff. In the past several years, we have seen the change from a committee to a stand-alone program with hiring and tenuring rights to a full running department.

We have also witnessed the creation of an undergraduate and graduate minors, and this fall semester, a new stand-alone undergraduate major has been approved. As I write this message during the second week of classes, two undergraduates have already signed up to become the first batch of Asian American Studies majors.

AAS has been the site of national and international gatherings of scholars that become watershed events heralding major shifts in research and scholarship such as the Philippine Palimpsests and the Southeast Asian American conferences. Several of our graduate minors have gone on to tenure track positions in universities across America. We have numerous undergraduate minors who have excelled and are excelling in their professional and graduate school pursuits. Our faculty members are nationally and internationally renowned experts on the historical and social intersections of race, gender and sexuality and have been recipients of awards and prizes from various national and international organizations.

This year, the department welcomes two new faculty hires that will take the department into new exciting directions. Professor Maryam Kashani whose current work includes U.S. based Muslim communities and educational institutions, cultural production (including filmmaking) and gender relations. Professor Lila Sharif is presently working on issues around food as it relates to transnational ties, institutions, discrepant social meanings, international security, social justice and policies between Palestine, the U.S. and the rest of the world.

This fall, I am excited to assume the position of Head in the Department of Asian American Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. It is an exciting moment. The department is now five years old. The field of Asian American Studies has found a home on campus for 20 years, and the university itself is celebrating its 150th year anniversary of its founding. Beyond these milestones and commemoration, I want to emphasize that the exuberant energy and deep commitment of the UIUC community of students, staff and faculty in Asian American Studies are stronger than ever and they continue to inspire me. I hope to contribute to its continued progress towards an expansive and capacious view of the world at large. I also want to extend an invitation to everyone to come visit and experience Asian American Studies @ Illinois.







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