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


How did some Asian Americans respond to all of the above?


OR How did Asian American Studies get its start?


San Francisco Strikes: They striked at San Francisco State from Nov. 6, 1968 to March 20, 1969 to form the first ever Ethnic Studies department.


Why strike a university? (Vs. City Hall, Chambers of Commerce, Hollywood?)

  • Because students had a particular idea of what education could do for their communities.
      • Their communities were made of people kept down by white supremacy, who also kept themselves down by thinking: “this is just the way things are going to be.”  Their communities were ignorant of the reality that it doesn’t need to be this way,  ignorant of the actions necessary for change.
      • Instead of reinforcing current structures of power, universities should serve the entire public and empower people particularly those racialized and beaten down by race and class structures.
      • Students striked for Ethnic Studies departments that would give them the skills to go back to their communities and fight for justice.  It was a radical call to alter the classically liberal purpose of the university.


What happened during the San Francisco State Strikes?

  • These strikes birthed the Asian American Movement and Asian American Studies. This is the first time a university department was established to study Asian American communities.
  • The strikes were not just an Asian American strike, but were primarily lead by the Black Student Union and the Third World Liberation Front (TWLF). It included Asian Americans.
      • Asian Americans involved were primarily Chinese Americans who had grown up in Chinatowns and formerly interned Japanese Americans. They striked to fight the white establishment and Chinatown establishment that was passively in cahouts with the whites.


Context of the Strikes:

  • World events that lead to anti-imperialist wars.
      • Worldwide student strikes in the 1960s.
      • Revolutionaries Frantz Fanon, Amilcar Cabral, Che Guevara, and Mao Zedong became heroes to American activists who embraced their ideas about colonialism, indpendence and self-determination.
      • These strikes were considered neo-Marxist.


Further Reading:

Amy Tachiki, Eddie Wong, Franklin Odo, Buck Wong, Eds, Roots: An Asian American Reader (1971)
Published by the UCLA Asian American Studies Center just two years after the formal establishment of Asian American Studies, this was its first primer. Essays promoted political protest, solidarity with the Third World, and opposition of structural racism and imperalism.
Emma Gee, Editor, Counterpoint: Perspectives on Asian America (1976)
The next version of UCLA's Asian American Studies reader matures with more scholarly articles organized around "critical perspectives," "contemporary issues," and "literature."
For more, see: http://www.aasc.ucla.edu/aascpress/books/counterpoint.aspx
Diane C. Fujino, "Who Studies the Asian American Movement?: A Historiographical Analysis," Journal of Asian American Studies, Volume 11, Number 2, June 2008
Tracing the growth of Asian American Studies, Fujino suggests four main periods: (1) activists and hybrid activist-academic work in the late 1960s-mid 1970s; (2) a scholarly lull in the late 1970s-late 1980s; (3) A resurgence of academic work in the late 1980s-late 1990s; (4) a flourishing of academic works re-visiting the radical origins of the Movement since 2000.

Umemoto, Karen. "‘On Strike!’ San Francisco State College Strike, 1968-1969: The Role of Asia American Students." in Contemporary Asian America: A Multidisciplinary Reader, Min Zhou and James V. Gatewood, Eds. (2000)
Asian American involvement in the San Francisco Strikes evolved from ideas of "racial harmony" and "participatory democracy;" to "serving the people" and "self-determination;" to "any means necessary;" and to "commitment to the community."

Glen Omatsu, "The 'Four Prisons' and the Movements of Liberation : Asian American Activism from the 1960s to the 1990s," in Asian American Studies: a Reader, Jean Yu-wen Shen Wu and Min Song, Eds. (2000)
Like striking Asian Americans in 1960s, influenced more by Malcolm X than Martin Luther King Jr., Asian Americans need to again redefine their experiences beyond "ethnic awakening" by examining and challenging structures of power, and expanding the consciousness of our communities to free us from our "four prisons."

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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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