AA101: A series presenting the quick bullet points of Asian American Studies


What exactly is Asian American Studies all about?


Asian American Studies is based on the following outlook:

    • The poor treatment of Asians in America are not isolated incidents, but part of a larger process called orientalization.
        • Orientalization is a way of thinking and characterizing Asian Americans:  “yellow menace,”  “sneaky,”  “taking away our jobs,” etc.  In this framework, Asian Americans will always be portrayed as a “perpetual foreigner” because they cannot fully assimilate.   (This be will discussed in more detail next week)
        • Orientalization is still happening in the present-day.  Remember Wen Ho Lee, the nuclear scientist who was accused and acquitted of being a spy for China?
    • In resistance to orientalization, we should recognize our collective solidarity by calling ourselves “Asian Americans.”
    • Knowing our history empowers us to resist orientalization together.


Asian American Studies academics thus:

    • Re-read American history to look at patterns of “orientalization.”
    • Look at contemporary American culture to uncover subtle forms of orientalization that are still present now.
    • Seek social justice for Asian American communities.


An example of Asian American Studies at work:

In early 1970s San Francisco, right after “Asian American” was coined, a lot of churches began to notice the energy and desire of their young college students who wanted to make a difference.  The Presbyterian Church in Chinatown, for example, rallied them to volunteer at the Cameron House (a social service agency) in Chinatown.  They noticed a need for senior housing, and when land opened up in Chinatown, they applied, but City Hall did not want that.  So they came together as Asian Americans, bused in seniors to City Hall to protest and won the right to build the Mei Lun Yuen Housing Project for seniors.   [See also Cindy Joe’s story about this event.]


Main introductory texts (still in use):

Sucheng Chan, Asian Americans: An Interpretive History (1991)

Ron Takaki, Strangers from a Different Shore (1989, revised 1998)

The history of Asian Americans is fraught with processes of orientalization, which have disadvantaged Asian Americans even as they have attempted to participate in American society. Historically, Asian Americans have also responded to it by forming new solidarities. As we understand these processes throughout Asian American history, we should recognize our solidarity with fellow Asian Americans in contesting orientalization in contemporary society.

There's a difference between European immigration through Ellis Island (NY) and Asian immigration through Angel Island (CA). While both are "strangers" to America, both are from different shores. Their treatment in America has been different in that Europeans were not treated as "Orientals."


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ASIANAMERICANCHRISTIAN.ORG primarily asks how we are to be, think and respond to being Asian, American and Christian in Christ. Towards this end, we are extremely interested to learn from others and hear viewpoints different from our own. Please note that the views represented here are not necessarily those of ASIANAMERICANCHRISTIAN.ORG.


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