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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Message from the Department Head:

This fall semester starts off with a flurry of exciting events.  During the 2017-2018 academic year, the Department of Asian American Studies is celebrating 20 years of the field at the University of Illinois.  Rising from the vigilant efforts of Asian American student activists, the unwavering support of faculty, staff and community members, the establishment of Asian American Studies in 1997 inaugurated a series of conversations and other activities around the predicament and future of Asian Americans not only in Central Illinois and the entire state, but also within national and transnational spaces.

Today, the department is a leading center in the study of Asian Americans, diaspora and globalization.   The department faculty and students are dedicated to an intersectional and coalitional idea of Asian American Studies.  Sexuality, gender, class, ethnicity and race are not isolated nodes of identity but are cross-cutting political, economic and social processes. Therefore, the department mission is dedicated to a capacious view of the field that goes beyond what is federally and popularly circumscribed as “Asian American” and based on a framework of intersectional coalitions and interactions.

This fall semester, we have three main events. The first is the 10th Balgopal lecture to be delivered by Professor Diane Fujino of the University of California, Santa Barbara.  The Balgopal lecture series has been one of the hallmarks and proud features of our annual programming. A generous gift from Professor Palassana Balgopal and his wife Shyamala made this series possible.  The lectures have been delivered by academics, community activists and other public figures. They have largely have revolved around the issue of social justice, the cornerstone of the field.  In addition, two major stars of the Asian American Studies firmament will also grace our campus later in the semester, Professor Yen Le Espiritu (University of California, San Diego) and Professor Lisa Lowe (Tufts University). Both will present on their current cutting edge research.

In the spring, we anticipate several scholars and activists to grace our campus. More specific information will be given but we are especially looking forward to the culminating event of the 20 year anniversary celebration. On April 6-7, 2018, we will hold Asia Unbound: 20 Years of Asian American Studies at Illinois.  We have invited former student activists, faculty members of the founding Asian American Studies committee, former directors and postdoctoral fellows.  This symposium is an opportunity to assess past struggles in order to understand current pressing issues and to anticipate the future with critical yet optimistic eyes.

In the midst of preparations for this coming year's celebration, we are reminded about the roots and impetus for why there is ethnic studies specifically Asian American Studies in the American academy.  This past weekend, the events at Charlottesville, Virginia highlight about the important work that we do and still need to do.  The reason why universities and colleges are seen as "dangerous sites" of ideas is that we are in the business of trying to change the face of America and in doing so, some people are afraid of losing their claims and stakes.  We will remain vigilant and will not be silenced by intimidation and threats.

The Department deplores the recent acts of white supremacy and racism on overt display. With our writings, lectures, and community involvement, we will strive to embody the vision and mission of our field that will continue to survive and flourish beyond the 20 years on the Illinois campus.

On behalf of the Department, I welcome everyone to a great year of celebration, introspection and hopeful expectations.

Martin's Signature

Martin F. Manalansan IV

Head, Department of Asian American Studies

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