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5.1: Introduction

  • Page ID
    • Kay Fischer & Teresa Hodges

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    Introduction to Asian American Studies and Pacific Islander Studies

    Asian American Studies is one of the core disciplines within the larger field of Ethnic Studies, that applies an interdisciplinary lens on the experiences of diverse Asian communities in the United States. Asian Americans played an essential role in the 1960s student-led Third World Liberation Front strikes of San Francisco State (1968) and UC Berkeley (1969) leading to the creation of the first Asian American Studies departments. Over fifty years later, Asian American Studies is still fighting for legitimacy at higher education institutions, and programs, courses, or departments are often only instituted upon student demand.

    In response to a major demographic shift of the Asian American and Pacific Islander population after 1965, we’ve seen an addition of courses, course content and literature that focus on newer immigrant and refugee communities, especially Southeast Asian Americans from Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. Some programs also include a focus on Arab American, Pacific Islander, and Mixed Race Asian American populations as well. More consideration has been given to the diversity of national origin, class, immigration status (including undocumented Asian Americans), gender and sexual orientation, but there is still more work to be done to make sure Asian American Studies curriculum includes this increasingly diverse population.

    In this chapter, the authors will introduce some key frameworks, theories, and topics typically discussed in the field of Asian American Studies, organized into four sections. In section 5.2, “Who Are Asian Americans?,” we will review the most recent Census data on who makes up the population and consider the ways Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have been grouped together. We will also introduce the theory of orientalism and how Asian presence in the Americas is rooted in Western colonialism and imperialism of Asia and the Americas. The section will also introduce key theories of racialization of Asian Americans and how they intersect with gender and sexuality. In section 5.3, “Immigration and Exclusion," the authors will examine how various historic events, policies and laws have shaped Asian American communities throughout the past 500 years. Section 5.4, “Wars and Imperialism” will review key examples of when wars and imperialist actions shaped the lives and trajectory of various Asian American communities based in the United States. And finally, Section 5.5, “Pacific Islander Studies,” will introduce the burgeoning field sometimes located within Asian American Studies that center on the histories, cultures, and experiences of Native Hawaiian, Samoan, Tongan, Chamorro, Fijian, and other Pacific Islander communities.

    Notes on Terminology:

    • The authors may use Asian, Asian American, Asian American and Pacific Islander, or Asian Pacific Islander interchangeably.
    • When writing about Asian Americans as a community or demographic, we are not referring to citizenship, but to a diverse Asian community based in the U.S., including members who are transnational who may also reside in another country part of the year. Asian Americans include people who may have been born in the U.S., hold American citizenship, are legal permanent residents, are undocumented, and people who either identify as American, immigrants, refugees, or undocumented, or in any combination of the aforementioned identities.
    • Authors use Filipina/x/o to label what is traditionally known as Filipinos and recognize non-binary identities within the community. Some sources may use only one Filipina, Filipino, Filipinx and authors will cite according to how it is presented in the texts. Filipina/x/o can indicate any and all gender and non-binary identities just as Filipinx can as well and authors might use this interchangeably.

    This page titled 5.1: Introduction is shared under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Kay Fischer & Teresa Hodges (ASCCC Open Educational Resources Initiative (OERI)) .