Author: sei13002

Director’s Message

Jason Chang
Associate Professor of History and Director of the AAASI
(Bri Diaz/UConn Photo)

Welcome to the Asian and Asian American Studies Institute where we believe Asian American Studies and Asian Studies are exciting and important fields necessary to understanding our world today. Through our courses you can minor in Asian Studies and/or Asian American Studies. These 15 credit minors are fantastic complements to almost any other degree track. Our plans of study are excellent programs because they are applied fields grounded in the history, culture, and politics of Asian Americans, the fastest growing immigrant group in the U.S. and Asia, the largest region of the planet in which most of the world’s population lives.  This academic year, we are embarking on an ambitious and bold three year project to integrate the arts into our research and teaching through the generous grant support of the SCHARP Breakthrough grant. We will make several new steps on this path beginning with faculty arts initiatives, the use of arts pedagogies in the classroom, an artist-in-residence programs and an annual “Asian/American Aesthetics” spotlight lecture.

These changes at the institute are synonymous with the larger discussions in the field of Asian American Studies about how this interdisciplinary field of study continues to evolve, grow, and develop new relationships with the study of Asia. This fall we assembled a Summit for the “East of California” group of Asian Americanists to re-imagine how Asian American studies programs can address the concerns of vulnerable scholars, deploy arts-based techniques, reorganize our institutional spaces, negotiate the conditions of “minimal inclusion” practiced in the contemporary university, and experiment with our syllabi to bring today’s headlines and the fault lines of our scholarly field to bear upon the classroom.

The Asian and Asian American Studies Institute has made significant changes to our curriculum incorporating courses from across the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the School for Fine Arts. As part of this curriculum shift the institute will organize a featured event each semester to highlight different applied aspects of the minors’ in Asian Studies and Asian American Studies. In Fall 2019 we hosted a forum on Basketball in Asia, featuring players, a recruiter, journalist, and scholar. The forum highlights the importance of understanding inter-Asia, trans-Pacific, and U.S.-Asia history and politics to comprehend the stakes of today’s controversies in Hong Kong and how it spills over onto the courts of the NBA. This Spring we will feature a panel of Asian American restaurateurs to highlight the importance of business development for immigrant communities as well as the significance of immigration experiences in shaping how businesses are formed and maintained.

Our faculty continue to pursue exciting and path-breaking research. This year we are highlighting our faculty in a fun series of Research Slams. In these events students can learn quickly what faculty research in-progress looks like through brief 10 minute lighting presentations. From sustainable cities research in India, to the variety of Korean diasporic literature, to the history of territorial disputes in the Gobi Desert, to China’s cultural avant-garde, and the politics of Fukushima Daishi in the Japanese hosting of the Olympic Games our faculty bring real world research into the classroom and work on cutting edge publications that inform the public and shape how we understand the world. Come check us out at our events and in the classroom.

Warm best,


U.S. Marine’s Son Wins Okinawa Election – Alexis Dudden Featured

By Motoko Rich
Sept. 30, 2018

 TOKYO — Denny Tamaki, the son of a Japanese mother and a United States Marine, became the first mixed-race governor in Japan on Sunday after winning a close election in Okinawa, a southern archipelago heavily populated by American military installations.

His victory poses a setback to plans by the Japanese government and the United States to transfer a busy Marine air base on Okinawa from the city of Ginowan to a less populated coastal area on the island.

Mr. Tamaki wants the base moved out of Okinawa altogether. His opponent, Atsushi Sakima, who was backed by Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party, was until recently the mayor of Ginowan and supported the base’s transfer.

Featured later in the article: “It all helps broaden the discussion of what it means to be Japanese,” said Alexis Dudden, a professor at the University of Connecticut who specializes in the modern history of Japan. “And it broadens the reality of being Japanese, at a time when some voices would have a very old-fashioned notion of Japanese ethnicity.”

Read more of the New York Times article here

Queering Inter-Asian Linkages

Professor Debanuj DasGupta wins prestigious Social Science Research Council Fellowship in TransRegional Studies: Inter-Asian Linkages & Connections.  This research focuses on the changing regulations related to LGBT communities across South & SE Asia. 

Read more about the Fellowship here.

DasGupta is an Assistant Professor of Geography and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at the University of Connecticut. Debanuj’s research and teaching focuses on the geopolitics of sexuality and gender identity, global governance of migration, sexuality, and HIV, digital culture and the uses of digital technologies in social movements. Prior to his doctoral degree, Debanuj worked for over sixteen years within several international development agencies, HIV/AIDS, LGBT rights and immigrant rights organizations in India and the US. Debanuj serves on the political geography editorial board of the Geography Compass and is Board-Co Chair of the Center for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Studies: CLAGS at the City University of New York.  He is the recipient of the Ford Foundation funded New Voices Fellowship, American Association of Geographers and National Science Foundation funded T. J. Reynolds National Award in Disability Studies, and the International AIDS Society’s Emerging Activist Award. His scholarly work has been published in journals such as Disability Studies Quarterly, Contemporary South Asia, SEXUALITIES, Gender, Place & Culture, Emotions, Space, and Society, and the Scholar and the Feminist (S&F online). He is the co-editor of Friendship As Social Justice Activism: Critical Solidarities in Global Perspective (University of Chicago Press/Seagull Press), and Queering Digital India: Activisms, Identities and Subjectivities (University of Edinburgh Press/Oxford University Press).

Official Press Release from SSRC

Student Spotlight: Life as an Asian American Studies Minor

An interview conducted by Jason O. Chang, Director of the Asian and Asian American Studies Institute, with LJ Karam, an undergraduate at the University of Connecticut majoring in Economics and minoring in Asian American Studies.

Chang: Tell us a little about yourself and what you do at UConn.

Karam: My name is LJ Karam, and I’m a senior Economics major and Asian American Studies minor. I’m the President of Women and Minorities in Economics, a club dedicated to the empowerment, support, and engagement of women and minorities in the field of Economics. I’m the Fundraising Chair for China Care, an Asian American Cultural Center program that organizes monthly cultural heritage enrichment playgroups for children adopted from China by American families. The program teaches the children about their Chinese roots, while providing Asian American UConn students the opportunity to mentor kids who can look up to them as a role model who actually looks like them. I am also involved in WHUS, the student radio station, where I cover stories for the News Department as well as acting as one of four hosts who anchors a UConn news show on the FM station. Lastly, I’m highly involved in the Husky Scholars program, where I work as a Student Coordinator for the HuskyReads program. This program is a service-learning course where students have the opportunity to go into Hartford preschools and teach 3-4 year-olds about healthy eating and exercise in an effort to creative positive associations between happiness and living a healthy lifestyle.


Chang: I understand that you didn’t know about Asian American studies when you started at UConn but now your are minoring in it. What was it that drew you to this degree?   Was there a class that was particularly compelling?

Karam: When I was a sophomore, I took Professor Chang’s Asian American Experience Since 1850 class, and it totally changed my perspective on what it meant to be an Asian American, and it enriched my knowledge on the perspectives of many other Asian Americans of other ethnicities. I learned so much more about my own familial background, and it helped me to get a big picture about how the history of Asian Americans has shaped their present. It also gave the opportunity to engage other Asian Americans, and get them interested in really knowing more about how the history of the United States has shaped their own family’s immigrant experience.


Chang: What do you plan to do after UConn? How do you think minoring in Asian American studies will help you?

Karam: After UConn, I definitely plan on going forth to some sort of higher degree. As for what it actually is, that remains to be seen. I’ve been looking at a host of Public Policy, PhD, and law programs. Minoring in Asian American studies has really helped me to tune into the type of studies and service I’m really passionate about. It has made me really think about the importance of having representation in mentorship roles, and has made me want to do everything I can in order to be a figure in the Asian American community that can inspire others who look like me.

Chino: The History of Chinese Migrants in Mexico

Jason Chang is the author of Chino: Anti-Chinese Racism in Mexico. In this segment, he sits down with host Maria Hinojosa to discuss the history of Chinese migration to Mexico, first in the 1800s and then again in the 1900s. Together, they unpack the parallels between the anti-Chinese rhetoric used in Mexico during that time period, and the current anti-immigrant rhetoric used by the U.S. administration today.

Op-ed: ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ and the model minority myth

Stamford Advocate

September 5, 2018

The film “Crazy Rich Asians” has received attention in the media in recent weeks. One of the reasons is that this is the first major studio film with an Asian and Asian American cast since “The Joy Luck Club” in 1993.

The public can judge generalizations about a population based upon a movie in different ways. The American public currently has certain perceptions about Asian Americans — that they are all good in math, were responsible for introducing sushi to the masses, that they attend elite universities, and are affluent and successful. However, there has been a conceptual framework that has characterized Asian Americans unfairly and with racist overtones for many years — The Model Minority Myth.

In her book, “The Color of Success: Asian Americans and the Origins of the Model Minority,” Ellen Wu articulates the social, cultural, political and economic forces that have shaped the Model Minority Myth. Asian American scholars have addressed the concept of the Model Minority Myth since the 1960s. Many have steadfastly labored to defy its premises and implications. The consensus is that the model minority distorts the material realities and obscures the class diversity of a population that includes substantial numbers of poor and working-class people. Select Asian ethnic groups, such as Hmong and other Southeast Asian refugee communities in Connecticut, experience disproportionately high rates of welfare dependency and unemployment alongside disproportionately low levels of income and education.

More generally, working-class individuals comprise a significant portion of immigration from Asia, both documented and the 1.7 million Asian undocumented immigrants in the United States. To put those numbers in perspective, they account for about 16 percent or one out of every six undocumented immigrants in the United States and it also means that about one out of every seven Asian immigrants are undocumented. Thus, by being grouped together with more affluent Asian Americans, these segments of the Asian American population are often rendered invisible, and denied access to social welfare and other assistance opportunities.

In addition, the statistics invoked to support the model minority myth are misleading. While Asian Americans ostensibly boost the highest median income of any racial group, Asian American families generally include more workers per household than white families. Asian Americans also tend to concentrate in dense metropolitan areas where costs of living are well above the national average. Moreover, while certain Asian ethnic groups have completed more years of schooling than other races, Asian Americans as a whole earn less than whites of comparable educational levels. Despite perceptions to the contrary, Asian Americans are not above the dominant society’s biases and discrimination.

Take the most recent revelation that Harvard University was using a subjective scale to determine undergraduate admissions decisions. Specifically, the evaluation of the admissions process by the Department of Justice indicated that Asian Americans, who had higher GPAs and SAT scores than whites, were judged to have “social inadequacies” and “introverted personalities” that potentially would impede success at Harvard, and were subsequently passed over by whites with lower GPAs and SAT scores for admission at the university.

Furthermore, in November 2005, the Committee of 100, a national Chinese American Leadership Organization, chose to examine executive leadership in higher education among Asian Pacific Americans (APAs). The study concluded that while APAs are the most widely represented minority group within faculty ranks, the lack of APAs serving as presidents, vice presidents, and executive management positions demonstrates that APAs are “egregiously under-represented in executive decision-making roles.” There has been little progress toward addressing this leadership gap in higher education institutions

The current political bipolarization in America is a breeding ground for stereotypes and “fake news” to be perpetuated. This groundbreaking movie highlights the range of personalities that exemplify the Asian American population. The viewers, however, must understand that the Model Minority Myth continues to persist in American society.

Michael M. Ego teaches the course Asian Pacific American Families at the University of Connecticut, Stamford.