AAAS 2014 Roundtable Proposal: “Refracted Perspectives: Bridging Asian American and Asian Studies Through Interdisciplinary Scholarship”

Update, April 16, 2014: Our roundtable will be Session S30, and will convene on Saturday, April 19, 11:30am-12:45pm (Sausalito). I’ve also just learned that Anthony Kim will be unable to attend, but we otherwise look forward to dialoging with you all.


I’m happy to announce that a proposal I worked on for the annual meeting of the Association of Asian American Studies in San Francisco was just accepted. (Woohoo!) It seems I forgot to share this proposal previously, so I’ll do so below. I’m very excited to be dialoging with such a diverse and brilliant panel of young scholars, and so happy to have the amazing Mariam Lam serving as our discussant! This panel should be of interest to those of you who are invested in Asian-Asian Am work being done by the folks at the new journal, Verge: Studies in Global Asias (who have pushed their deadline to Feb. 1 — Submit something!).

(As you can probably tell from the last few panels I’ve been on/helped organize, I really like short “lightning” talks and more room for discussion.)


Chair |

Anne Cong-Huyen

Discussant |

Mariam Lam

Participants |

Michelle Chihara, @thisblueangel
Anne Cong-Huyen, @anitaconchita
Anthony Kim
Viola Lasmana@viola_lasmana
Terry Park, @terrykpark
Margaret Rhee, @fauxpoetics
Sharon Tang-Quan

Abstract |

This proposed roundtable brings together early career scholars doing interdisciplinary work at the intersections of Asian American Studies and Asian Studies. These two fields are often viewed as being in opposition to one another: the former generally seen as the study of identity politics within the United States, while the latter is defined by area studies approaches to nation and politics. When viewing the longer histories of colonialism, imperialism, and Asian migration, and considering the globalizing nature of contemporary networks of mobility, production, and communication, however, the borders that historically define America and Asia become increasingly blurred. The scholars gathered for this roundtable will discuss the imperative in bringing a broader transnational understanding of American ethnic studies into dialogue with Asian Studies. Participants will also discuss innovative ways of broadening disciplinary practice by offering examples of scholarship that bridges media, method, theory, activism, creative writing, praxis, pedagogy, and more. Each speaker will offer a 5-minute “lightning talk” wherein they will situate their work in this field and end by offering hypotheses, questions, or provocations.

Following a brief introduction, Michelle Chihara (Postdoctoral Fellow at Whittier College) will discuss her research analyzing contemporary American culture and literature as affected by and affecting economic asset bubbles, especially real estate bubbles, with a focus here on the role China played (and plays) in the economic crisis and the effect of 2008 on communities of color. As both a scholar and a creative writer of color, she is particularly interested in how the questions raised by this panel might affect the reception of Asian American authors, and more generally in building bridges across academic and creative communities.

Anne Cong-Huyen (Postdoctoral Fellow, UCLA) will then speak about her comparative cultural studies work of global cities that juxtaposes digital and literary texts of temporary migration and labor in the diverse media of Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City, Dubai, and Los Angeles.

Anthony Kim (PhD Candidate, UCSD) will present on Jean-Pierre Gorin’s visual documentary remix, My Crasy Life (1992). As an inventive assemblage of fact, fiction, science fiction, and ethnography, Gorin burrows deep into the everyday lives of a Samoan street gang in Long Beach, California, offering a creative record of social (dis)locations shaped by imperialism and migration, racism and poverty, while playing off the persistent pathologies that continue to plague his subjects: from Margaret Mead’s biological determinations of Samoan culture in the 1920s to the mass media’s criminalization of youth of color in the 1980s.

Viola Lasmana (PhD Student, USC) will discuss her work on the relationship between US imperialism and the Indonesian postcolonial state, with a focus on literary productions in the Cold War era, including the Indonesian Mimbar magazine and the works of Richard Wright and Sitor Situmorang.

Then, Terry Park (Provost’s Dissertation Fellow and PhD Candidate, UC Davis), drawing on his proposed postdoctoral project, will consider the imperial legacies that made possible the figure of the Asian “sleeper agent” in an untitled 2009 solo exhibit by Korean American installation artist Michael Joo. This multimedia exhibit juxtaposed three sculptures based on a 1763 George Stubbs painting of a zebra, a flight suit worn by the character “Sharon ‘Boomer’ Valerii” from the re-imagined television series Battlestar Galactica, and over fifty live-feed video cameras and two monitors placed around the head of the suit.

Margaret Rhee (PhD Candidate, UC Berkeley) will discuss her work on digital theory and “the real” and “the fake” through the figure of the Asian American drag king. In particular, she will be investigating Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior and the short documentary All of Me: Creating an Asian American Drag King Troupe.

Sharon Tang Quan (Assistant Professor, Westmont College) will examine utopic and dystopic spaces as presented in transnational Chinese immigrant literature from 1945-2010. She will draw on her own work, which interrogates texts by Lin Yutang, Li-Young Lee, Nieh Hualing, Ha Jin, and Wang Ping.

Finally, Mariam Lam (Associate Professor, UC Riverside), will pose a series of questions to the panel and audience before opening up the floor to discussion.

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