Linking Asian Pacific Latitudes

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IN HIS EDITORIAL DISCUSSING the “knowledge economy,” Pico Iyer states that we “overestimate how much we understand the world” in relation to historical and contemporary events. Likewise, in our understanding of Asian and Asian American Studies, we produce knowledge, but we may not always understand the complex shifts and currents of scholarship in relation to other stories and voices of the community, and what they imply. For example, in this issue, Jess Delegencia links his experience as a student at UC Berkeley with the U.S. anti-apartheid movement, the People Power Movement in the Philippines, and the Los Angeles Uprisings with the forming of his own identity in the U.S. and South Africa. New Pacific connections also reveal themselves in this issue: indigenous writer Syaman Rapongan, together with scholar Hsinya Huang, offer an oceanic perspective to challenge current global/continental ways of positioning the world.

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Planting Roots: Asian American Studies in the Midwest

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Following is an excerpt:
I am grateful that editor Russell Leong has invited me to share my reflections about Asian American studies from the Midwest perspective and to be sharing this stage, so to speak, with colleagues whom I am sure have served and led their respective institutions for far longer than I have. After obtaining my masters in Asian American Studies (AAS) and my doctorate in History at UCLA, I moved to America’s “heartland.” For the last thirteen years, I have been affiliated with Asian American Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In the last three years, I have been in positions of leadership in the Department of Asian American Studies, starting as Associate Director and then as head of the department. So what I have to say about Asian American Studies comes from this midwestern Big-10 perspective. In what follows, I offer an account of my current research project on hispanismo, a kind of interdisciplinary study that has been made possible by my positioning in the Midwest. I also offer a view of the current opportunities and challenges being at the University provides for Asian American Studies and a perspective for moving it forward in the future.

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Traversing Syaman Rapongan’s Island Imaginaries

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Towards Trans-Pacific Indigeneity

Using Syaman Rapongan’s works as anchor texts, this essay focuses on transpacific flows and indigenous formations which traverse international boundaries. His work offers an oceanic perspective to balance continental ways of thinking, and supplements and challenges transnational approaches to imperialism, indigeneity, and globalization.

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Steps Along the Curved Road

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Following is an excerpt:
In October 1986, an invited gaggle of fifty faculty and students convened at Cornell University for a historic East Coast Asian American Scholars Conference to lay the initial groundwork for an Asian American Studies network “East of California.” Resolutions unanimously passed by participants included statements of support for institutionalizing an Asian American Studies program at UMass Boston and an Inter-College Research Institute in Asian American Studies at the City University of New York, along with a call to reconvene in the future to assess the progress of East Coast Asian American Studies programs.1 Russell Leong, then editor of UCLA’s Amerasia Journal, was one of two non-East Coast participants. We greatly appreciate Russell’s fresh invitation from CUNY FORUM after all these years.

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The Hidden Story of What Drives Success: Institutions and Power

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For all the comparisons between groups, both historical and in the present day — who’s up, who’s down, who’s got the winning formula, who doesn’t — the real point goes missing. The hidden story of what drives success has to do with the power of institutions to shape what opportunities groups have or don’t have, and what they can do. That said, we do not often bring into the dialogue that institutions and policies do matter. And that’s why this loop — the fascination with why some groups are motivated to do well and others are not — keeps replaying.

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Passages: Tribute to Yuri Kochiyama (1921–2014)

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Following is an excerpt:
Yuri Kochiyama: Rites of Passage

One of the unspoken rites of paSsage for a third generation Japanese American (Sansei) from the 1970s Los Angeles Asian Movement was to visit the Kochiyama Family in New York City. For many a Sansei getting their feet wet in the Asian Movement, the Kochiyama’s embraced us as family and introduced us into a whirlwind of all kinds of people. The Kochiyama’s apartment might well have been described as “Movement Central.”

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Momotaro/Peach Boy: A Portfolio

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Following is an excerpt:
Momotaro/Peach Boy is a portfolio of nine prints based on the popular Japanese folk tale about a baby boy who emerges from a giant peach and grows up to become a hero. The prints in this series form the pages of a fictional narrative, inspired by family memories of the forced internment of Japanese Americans and the experiences of Japanese American GIs in World War II. Each of the prints incorporate photographs of my father, grandfather and son, as well as cartoon characters, material from the National Archives, traditional Japanese motifs and illustrations appropriated from magazines and children’s books.

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My Winter Travels on the Sea

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Following is an excerpt:
Boat—a tool for my journey on the sea and also my second oceanic ancestor. I never imagined that I would ever travel alone on the sea. In the beginning I just wanted to rebel against my parents because they stopped me from studying in Taiwan. Further, it had always been my childhood dream, inspired by my youngest great-uncle, to travel alone on the waters. Rebellion was not something easy on our island within the tribe I belonged, despite my being the only son of my father. However . . . .

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Second Generation Asian America: Inheriting the Movement

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Each generation of Asian Americans faces its unique set of alienations: invidious stereotypes resulting in a unique double-consciousness. Such “two-ness” was akin to the conflicted feelings of generations of African Americans whose worth was earlier measured through the eyes of others, as W.E.B. Du Bois points out.

For Asian Americans, such stereotypes included that of the perpetual foreigner, model minority, job-stealer, and alien, which have recurred during generations and waves of immigration. Other names — entitled, whitewashed, ghetto, terrorist — are newer. These perceptions made by others had also created a sensation of “double-consciousness” among Asian Americans.

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The University of Pennsylvania’s Asian American Studies Program: Reflections

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Following is an excerpt:
Eiichiro Azuma

In March of 2013, the University of Pennsylvania’s Asian American Studies (ASAM) celebrated its fifteenth-year anniversary. We are a small but vibrant ethnic studies program that not only mirrors the traditional ethnic studies vision of uniting scholarship, student activism and community service, but also endeavors to constantly adapt to the shifting intellectual needs of UPenn’s undergraduate student body. Our inception was inseparable from student activism and community support back in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Currently, ASAM consists of four standing faculty members with a full-time Associate Director. All faculty are tenured — Grace Kao in Sociology, David Eng and Josephine Park in English, and myself in History. We belong to our respective home departments, as ASAM does not have its own faculty line. Dr. Fariha Khan, a specialist in South Asian American folklore, has a dedicated role as Associate Director, and also teaches core courses for the program. ASAM offers a minor in Asian American Studies, and we have contributed to the diversification of undergraduate curriculum in UPenn’s School of Arts and Sciences. Comprised of those who pursue the minor, our Undergraduate Advisory Board takes the initiative in organizing student-led conferences, lectures, and other events while advising faculty from the student perspective. ASAM has a close partnership with the Pan-Asian American Community House, a student service division that is a part of the Vice Provost for University Life.

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