This course is an introductory survey of the major works and debates in Asian American literature and culture. We will study a variety of genres — novels, short stories, comics, memoirs, films, and science fiction — to examine how writers treat issues of racial and ethnic identity, gender, queerness, history, memory, colonialism, immigration, technology, and war. By placing Asian American subject formation in relationship to social, economic, and intellectual developments, we will explore the potential of Asian American literary texts to deepen our global and historical understanding of Asians in the U.S. and the U.S. in Asia.
2019-20 Courses in Asian American/Diasporic Studies
Asian American Literature and Culture
Instructors: Paul Nadal
Black and Asian in America
Debates over policing, immigration, and affirmative action routinely position Black and Asian communities on opposing sides, while the model minority myth has been redeployed in the twenty-first century in the form of the Tiger Mom. How did we get here, and what do these trends mean for our daily lives? We respond to these questions by looking at fiction, film, and foodways from the last 30 years of Black-Asian relations in America. Using a comparative race and ethnic studies approach, we identify ways of thinking and talking about interracial difference that forge new paths for social, cultural, and political engagement.
Instructors: Kinohi Nishikawa
Dangerous Bodies: Cross-Dressing, Asia, Transgression
This course examines “dangerous bodies” — bodies that transgress existing gender and racial norms in Chinese and Sinophone cultures. Situated at the intersection of literary, film, performance, gender and ethnic studies, this course provides an introduction to the shifting social meanings of the body in relation to historical masculinity, femininity, and Chineseness. We examine different cross-dressed figures, ranging from Mulan, cross-dressed male opera singer, WWII Japanese/Chinese spy, to experimental queer cinema, in a study that unpacks whether these transgressive bodies represent social change or a tool for restoring traditional norms.
Instructors: Erin Yu-Tien Huang
South Asian American Literature and Film
This course examines literature and film by South Asians in North America. Students will gain perspective on the experiences of immigration and diaspora through the themes of identity, memory, solidarity, and resistance. From early Sikh migration to the American West Coast, to Muslim identity in a post 9/11 world, how can South Asian American stories be read as symbolic of the American experience of gender, class, religion, and ethnicity more broadly? Students will hone their skills in reading primary materials, analyzing them within context, writing persuasively, and speaking clearly.
Instructors: Sadaf Jaffer
‘Too Cute!’: Race, Style, and Asiamania
What does a minor and shallow category like “cuteness” have to do with the abject histories of race and gender? This course offers an introduction to key terms in Asian American studies through the lens of the seemingly insatiable American appetite for “Asian cuteness.” How do we reconcile this desire with the long history of anti-Asian sentiments in this country? Why aren’t other races “cute”? We will explore cuteness as racial and gendered embodiment, commodity, globalization, aesthetics, affect, and politics. Above all, we explore the implications of understanding race as a style.
Instructors: Anne Cheng
Multiethnic American Short Stories: Tales We Tell Ourselves
Short stories have been used by writers to make concise, insightful comments about American national identity and individuality. Taken up by African Americans, Asian Americans, Native Americans, Latinos, and many others, the genre has been used to convey experiences with immigration and assimilation, discrimination and oppression, generational divides, and interactions across difference. Examination of such stories deepens our understanding of America’s multiethnic landscape. In this seminar, we will explore stories written by a diverse group of writers to consider the ties that both link and divide multiethnic America.
Instructors: Tessa Lowinske Desmond
How do novels represent the global? How have new media systems and economic exchange transformed not only the way novels are produced and distributed but also the internal form of the literary works themselves? This course examines how writers register the interconnected nature of modern life and the narrative strategies that they invent to make sense of migration, war, urbanization, and financialization. Students will learn interdisciplinary methods for reading literature’s potential for sociological and historical knowledge by considering how the global novel grapples with empire and what political futures it forecloses and opens up.
Instructors: Paul Nadal
Asian American History
This course introduces students to the multiple and varied experiences of people of Asian heritage in the United States from the 19th century to the present day. It focuses on three major questions: (1) What brought Asians to the United States? (2) How did Asian Americans come to be viewed as a race? (3) How does Asian American experience transform our understanding of U.S. history? Using newspapers, novels, government reports, and films, this course will cover major topics in Asian American history, including Chinese Exclusion, Japanese internment, transnational adoption, and the model minority stereotype.
Instructors: Beth Lew-Williams