Creating Forums: ASIAN AMERICAN STUDIES TODAY

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SEVENTY-SIX YEARS SEPARATE Younghill Kang’s depiction of Korean immigrants in 1920s New York and Jennifer Hayashida’s observations on the practice of Asian American scholarship today. Yet the words of these two writers bridge the underlying struggles — and dreams — of the immigrant journey and of the historical experience of Asians in New York and the Eastern seaboard from the eighteenth century onwards.

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“From Dump to Glory”: The Transformation of Flushing’s Downtown and Waterfront

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Following is an excerpt:
Recent weather patterns have underscored the prospect of a “new normal” defined by more frequent superstorms and subsequent devastation. For New York City — an urban metropolis of 8.3 million residents whose 520 miles of waterfront wraps around all five boroughs — the upheaval and destruction wrought by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012 raised concerns around the sustainability of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s waterfront redevelopment legacy particularly in Zone A areas.2 Although not as well-known as New York City’s numerous gentrified waterfront neighborhoods, the Queens waterfront in Flushing, dotted by numerous brownfields (former industrial sites), is also slated for development. Flushing’s waterfront is a key element in the 2004 New York City Economic Development Corporation’s (NYC EDC) Downtown Flushing Framework, that envisions the waterfront as a linkage between a revitalized downtown Flushing and new developments in Willets Point and Flushing Meadows Corona Park.3 Although Flushing’s waterfront is integral to the city’s development vision, few residents, and community stakeholders are even aware of a waterfront or of its potentially transformative role in Northern Queens.

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Pacific Sovereignty Movements and Asian Americans: Communities, Coalitions, and Conflicts

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Following is an excerpt:
Bonds Under Bondage

In the late Nineteenth Century, David Kalākaua, the King of Hawai‘i, watched as the monarchal power over his kingdom slowly fell to foreign invaders from the West. American businessmen entered the Kingdom of Hawai‘i and began forming a coup d’état. In 1881, Kalākaua embarked on an extended excursion to Asia, visiting Malaysia, China, Japan, and Thailand. On his trip, he argued for an alliance among Asian and Pacific Islander communities as a means of resisting the rising tide of American and European imperialism.1 In China, King Kalākaua met with the chief of foreign affairs Li Hongzhang regarding imperial threats from the West that would affect both the Pacific and Asia.

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“Had He Lived Always among the Chinese or with Savages”: A Musing on a “Chinese” Descartes of Modernity in the Discourse on MethodKy

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Following is an excerpt:
Thinking “With the Same Mind”
Wait, what, Chinese? What’s happening? What was “China” or “Chinese” for René Descartes, “the father of modern philosophy”? Why is he stitching those “Chinese or savages” into his semi-autobiography, Discourse on Method? There, you might say, he is just making some ‘multi-culty’ comparative point on how come ‘we are the world,’ how we are just all of “the same mind (son même esprit),” “charactological” differences or divergences notwithstanding. Sure, simple enough. Then what kind of or which cliché is being recruited in this “characterization” of those Chinese or savages or French or German — and to what end? Where and when did that caricatured passage click into a position on this map of thinking drawn, hypothetically, together with all others at work or play? Where does the “or” of “the Chinese or savage” come from? When and where, at what point, does such exclusionary or optional thinking begin to matter at all? Indeed, you might still ask, what’s the matter?

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Nurturing an Ethos and Mind-set: Innovation and Entrepreneurship in China

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Following is an excerpt: 
As a child educated in the U.S. through the late 1950s and early 1970s, I learned little about China that was not negative. I knew it to be the “Sick Man of Asia,” and to have fought and lost the Opium Wars to the superior Western powers. It was a country that could not feed, clothe or shelter its own people; I grew up hearing of the “starving children in China.”

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Asian American Studies

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Following is an excerpt:
When I read Timothy Yu’s article, “Has Asian American Studies Failed?” in the October 2012 issue of the Journal of Asian American Studies, I was taken aback. After all, I was the one who initiated Asian American Studies at City College of New York in 1970. That was the first time Asian American Studies had ever been offered at an institution of higher learning east of California, and it was only preceded by one year in California.

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Caring for Spirits and for Bodies: Working with Chinese Immigrant Religious Institutions to Increase HIV Knowledge and Reduce HIV Stigma

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Following is an excerpt:
Because of their respected role in communities, religious institutions have the potential to be important partners in improving the health of the communities they serve. Religious institutions may be especially important in immigrant groups, where language and cultural barriers make accessing more mainstream sources of information and support more difficult. A wide range of research suggests that religious institutions play an instrumental role in helping immigrants cope with the practical challenges of daily life. But the work of these religious institutions has been limited in public health initiatives and even more limited in work related to HIV/AIDS education and support. We were particularly interested in immigrant religious institutions’ potential role in HIV/AIDS work because of the high level of stigma that surrounds the condition. We thought that perhaps religious institutions, because of their role in defining community values, could help not only to provide HIV/AIDS education and support, but also to reduce stigma, which often gets in the way of HIV/AIDS work. We also wanted to evaluate the extent to which religious institutions might contribute to HIV/AIDS stigma by promoting negative messages about groups that are stereotyped as having HIV/AIDS, such as gay men. Our previous and current research suggests that negative views of homosexuality constitute much of the basis for HIV/AIDS stigma in Chinese immigrant religious institutions, but stigma and taboos related to disease and sex in general and unfounded fears of HIV infection through casual contact also contribute.

Manhattan’s Chinatown at the Dawn of the Twenty-first Century

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Following is an excerpt:
“The End of Chinatown,” so proclaims the Atlantic Magazine, is a sensationalized assertion based on new population counts showing a moderate decline from the previous decade. Negative growth could predict a long-term slide, but as demographers know, projections are fraught with uncertainties. The dismal forecast of waning enclaves, of course, is not new. In 1949, Rose Hum Lee in a much more scholarly fashion declared “The Decline of Chinatowns in the United States.” A little more than a decade later, Chinatowns embarked on a four-decade expansion, driven by an unforeseen historical development on the immigration front. The inaccuracy of the earlier declaration, however, is no guarantee that today’s assertion is wrong. Too many unknowns cloud even the best crystal ball. Among the factors that influence the future trajectory are the decisions and actions taken by stakeholders. Communities are not merely passive victims of predetermined history, thus effective action requires knowledge. The purpose of this essay is to inform the political and policy discourse on the future of these neighborhoods by examining the economic factors transforming New York City’s Chinatown in recent times.

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My Journey to Spirituality

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Following is an excerpt:
During the past three years, I have met His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama three times: twice as his host at Hunter College in New York and once as his guest in Dharamsala, on the Indian side of the Himalayas, the site of Tibetan government-in-exile. People have asked me what is a leftist scholar engaged with civil rights and labor issues doing with a religious leader like the Dalai Lama. My answer is — it came naturally.

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Three Poems

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Contemplating a Statue of
Douglas MacArthur on Corregidor Island

Evening star, still star, brilliant gleam in
The sky how I wish Douglas never returned

Had taken that slow boat to China instead
By way of Okinawa, by way of Japan.

Doggone Dugout Doug, what was in
That pipe you smoked, thinking you
Were our jut-jawed liberator when you

Were the oppressor, when the dreams
You handed the little brown brothers
Were as fleeting as corn-cob smoke

When all there is to show for it in the
Monsoon air of Corregidor, this lair
Of Chinese corsairs, Spanish jailers
And Yankee officers, is this bald-headed

Expatriate Minnesotan in the boots of
His occupier father determined to keep
These islands slices of American pie?

He is in love with the guns now silent
And his twisted odes on freedom
Lie as flotsam on the dark waters of
History, in love with the ruins of a life
That never was.