"Hand to Heart" mosaic; Asian American Studies building and campus sign

Welcome to AAS at Illinois

Asian American Studies (AAS) at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign was founded in 1997. It is the largest AAS department east of California, with 13 core and 7 affiliated faculty members. The department offers interdisciplinary undergraduate and graduate minors in AAS.

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    The Department of Asian American Studies (AAS) believes in free speech and the respectful exchange of ideas. A vital research institution such as the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign cannot flourish without such a commitment. This is the foundation of our work both inside and outside of the classroom. And this is why the January 27 and 28 events were so disturbing for our community. At issue are those students who acted on their understandable grievances (re: Chancellor Phyllis Wise’s decision to not cancel classes) with vulgarly offensive invective against the Chancellor. These students, via social media including Twitter, crossed the line by employing blatant racism and sexism directed against the person of the Chancellor as a woman and as a racial minority of Asian descent. Gratifying is that other students and some U of I alums condemned their colleagues’ blatant racism and sexism.[i]

    We in AAS condemn this offensive form of communication. We do not believe that sexism (misogyny and the infantilization of women) and racist language attacking a person’s biological traits, national origins, and ethnic identity count merely as “free speech.” These are, in our view, speech acts, which in themselves are both psychologically damaging and can work as incitements to further verbal abuse and even physical violence.

    We in AAS believe that the U of I community has been far too often silent in the face of racism or sexism regarding Asian Americans and other vulnerable groups. To be silent at this time is to condone the unacceptable and to perpetuate the noxious climate that nurtures these views and actions. Those who believe in a just society should let their voices be heard.

    We can begin by expressing our support for Chancellor Wise and letting her know, that beyond our perspectives on other campus issues, we will never condone the use of racism and sexism in our public discourse.

    We can begin by participating in classroom conversations, programs, and forums to talk about and attain a deeper understanding of racism and sexism and to plan short-term and long-term solutions to address these problems.

    We can begin by acknowledging, as some critical students tweeted, that the undeniable racism and sexism in our midst applies to all of us. We as a community must accept and confront this reality. We cannot resolve such a serious problem unless we name our problems correctly.

    One final appeal: we in AAS have for many years now been calling for a recognition of Asian Americans as a racial minority, a matter that this campus has ignored or sidestepped for far too long. By federal law, state law, and the guidelines of the Illinois Board of Higher Education, Asian Americans are a historically oppressed racial minority. Yet, the U of I has never publicly issued a statement to this effect. Such a silence, we believe, has contributed to the disturbing climate that we see today, and unless addressed, will likely make for further hostility to Asian Americans as well as to the large numbers of Asian international students at the U of I campus. It is time for this university to recognize Asian Americans as a racial minority deserving of recognition and respect.


    [i] These comments and more are reviewed in BuzzFeed staff member Rega Jha’s article, “After Being Denied A Snow Day, University Of Illinois Students Respond With Racism And Sexism,” http://www.buzzfeed.com/regajha/after-being-denied-a-snow-day-university-of-illinois-student.

  • Teaching Assistantships, 2014-2015
  • The Access and Achievement Program is now hiring for Fall 14 & Spring 15 openings
  • The Clark Cunningham Undergraduate Essay Award
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Publications by AAS Faculty

Mimi Nguyen. (2012). The Gift of Freedom: War, Debt, and Other Refugee Passages. Durham: Duke University Press.

Junaid Rana. (2011). Terrifying Muslims: Race and Labor in the South Asian Diaspora. Durham: Duke University Press.

Moon-Kie Jung. (2011). State of White Supremacy: Racism, Governance, and the United States (2011). Stanford University Press. (with João H. Costa Vargas, and Eduardo Bonilla-Silva)

Complete list of publications by faculty