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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,

Jason

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

February Events

February 12, 2018 (4 PM)

Stern Lounge (Austin 217)

“‘Gwine Back to Dixie’: Slave Girls and Underground Railways in the Life and work of Edith Eaton (Sui Sin Far)

(Talk by Mary Chapman) (Co-Sponsored with the English Department)

This talk by Dr. Mary Chapman interprets Asian-North American author Sui Sin Far/Edith Eaton’s use of tropes we associate with African American literature and culture (I.e. slave girls and underground railroads) as drawing on her family autobiography. New research reveals that her Chinese mother was enslaved as a child and that her British father was “kingpin” in a smuggling network that enabled Chinese to move from Montreal across the US border during the Exclusion Era.

Bio: Mary Chapman is Professor of English at University of British Columbia. She is the author of MAKING NOISE, MAKING NEWS: SUFFRAGE PRINT CULTURE AND US MODERNISM (OUP 2014) and editor of BECOMING SUI SIN FAR: EARLY FICTION, JOURNALISM, AND TRAVEL WRITING (McGill-Queen’s UP, 2016).

 

February 15, 2018 (4 PM)

Class of 1947 Room (Homer Babbidge Library) 

“Hijabs and Hoodies”

 (Talk by Tracy Keza)     

Hijabs & Hoodies is a multi-disciplinary project, a portrait initiative, that questions the dress code for America and the intersection between anti-blackness and Islamophobia. This project dissects the intersectionality between race and religion in America and the association of hate crimes between both Black and Muslim communities, specifically Muslim women and Black men. This talk features artist Tracy Keza and includes a photo series of portraits (taken of participants in Hartford CT and Washington DC).

BIO:  Tracy Keza is currently the artist-in-residence at Studio Revolt, a collaborative transnational media lab known for compelling works focused on social justice and activism.

Michael Ego op-ed: Showing remorse for Executive Order 9066

On April 12, 2017, The Stamford Advocate published the Op-Ed “Showing remorse for Executive Order 9066” by UConn professor Michael Ego. The article reflects of the exhibit entitled “Images of Internment: The Incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II” at the FDR museum and library in Hyde Park, New York. 

Recently, I visited the Franklin D. Roosevelt Museum and Library for the first time – located in Hyde Park, New York.  I had been told that an exhibit describing the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II was on display.

My first reaction to hearing this information was “I wonder how the museum was going to explain President Roosevelt’s decision to incarcerate 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry?”  On February 19, 1942, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 that forced all Japanese Americans on the West Coast out of their homes and livelihoods and moved to concentration camps in ten different locations throughout the United States.   Forty-one years later (1983), a Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians concluded that Executive Order 9066 was the result of “racial prejudice, wartime hysteria, and a failure of political leadership,” with the latter clearly pointing to President Roosevelt.

So, I walked into the Museum with trepidation and anxiety, knowing that my late father was one of those who were incarcerated – in prison without due process, a cornerstone of the Constitution of the United States.  I was anticipating a small exhibit that would not match prior exhibitions that I had attended at the Smithsonian in Washington, and several on the West Coast.  To my surprise, the exhibit area was extensive and occupied about one-third of the FDR Museum (the other areas being permanent displays of President Roosevelt’s historic life and achievements).

As I approached the “starting point” of the exhibition, I saw a picture of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.  In the photograph, Mrs. Roosevelt is standing and talking with several internees at the Gila River internment camp in Arizona.  The description of the photograph indicates that Mrs. Roosevelt had been opposed to Executive Order 9066, but could not convince her husband to think otherwise.   She wanted to demonstrate to the internees that she was empathetic to their situation, and thus she made the trip to Arizona.

Next to the photograph, there is a mounted placard.  It states that President Roosevelt’s decision to sign Executive Order 9066 was a judgment in error.   I assumed that this statement was made on behalf of the FDR Museum, which is operated by the Library Trustees.  I had to find out for sure.  I approached one of the docents and asked him.  He informed me that the Trustees felt it was an appropriate time to share with the American public the civil liberties that were violated during World War II, because of Executive Order 9066.

Underneath the placard, there is a book where visitors can offer comments about the exhibit.  I leafed through some of the pages, and several people wrote, “This cannot happen again.  We need to learn from the mistakes of the past.”  I wrote the following on an empty page:  “As the son of an internee, when my father first shared his story of the incarceration of him and his fellow Americans, I was incredulous.  What? Why?  Standing here today at the FDR Museum, I am very thankful for the museum publicly acknowledging the error made by President Roosevelt in 1942.  The educational opportunity this exhibit offers to visitors is priceless.  My father would be pleased the FDR Museum is sharing a period of history that must be understood by all Americans, and that there is dignity in showing remorse of a wrongdoing.”

The exhibit entitled, Images of Internment:  The Incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II, will continue at the FDR Museum until December 31.  The museum is about a 90-minute drive from Stamford.

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Michael M. Ego is Professor of Human Development and Family Studies/Asian and Asian American Studies/History at the University of Connecticut, Stamford.  He teaches the course, Japanese Americans and World War II.

2017 Hira Jain Scholarships Awarded to Undergraduates FOTIMA and ZUKHRA PULATOVA and Graduate Student KOYEL KHAN

Asian/Asian American Studies Institute Awards $500 each to Undergraduate students FOTIMA PULATOVA and ZUKHRA PULATOVA and $1000 to Graduate student KOYEL KHAN as the Recipients of the 2017 HIRA JAIN SCHOLARSHIP

The Asian and Asian American Studies Institute in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences is extraordinarily indebted to Dr. Hira and Mrs. Sunita Jain of Glastonbury, CT for their generosity in establishing the permanent endowment that funds this competitive scholarship, awarded since 2004.

Profiles of the Award Winners

Entry 58 in the KEYWORDS for Asian American Studies (NYU Press, 2015) elaborates on “transnationalism” as a term that is both prominently used and contested in the various disciplines that cover the social sciences, anthropology, sociology, international law, economics, feminist studies, and cultural studies. Encapsulating the ways goods, people and ideas move and resettle, the transnational paradigm “recognizes the intricate mapping of social experience across axes of time and space and allows for a broader understanding of the ways cultures and identities circulate both nationally and transnationally.”

FOTIMA and ZUKHRA PULATOVA are twin sisters who are each majoring in Molecular Cell Biology with identical dreams of becoming physicians in the United States. They are inspired by their grandmother who practiced medicine in an impoverished region of Uzbekistan and motivated by the sacrifices of their mother, from whom they were separated for seven years in order to immigrate to Brooklyn, NY after the economic and political upheavals in their home country following the collapse of the USSR. Not able to have her advanced degrees recognized in the US, Fotima and Zukhra’s mother took on low paying yet crucially needed jobs as a domestic worker.

Arriving in the US, the first order of business for Fotima and Zukhra was to learn the English language which both unequivocally say is more difficult than their native Uzbek, Russian, and Mandarin (having been sent to Northwest China to study when their grandmother became unable to continue to care for them). With supportive professors and classmates at Manchester Community College, they excelled in ESL and earned their Associates Degree in Liberal Arts and Sciences before successfully transferring to UConn. Both express tremendous appreciation for the social support and academic preparation they received at MCC.

At the University of Connecticut, they are active members/participants of the Phi-Theta Kappa Honor Society, Alpha Mu Gamma Honor Society, American Medical Student Association, and the Asian American Cultural Center – all while maintaining GPAs above 3.55, receiving the Academic Support Center’s Student Achievement Award, and working part-time as caregivers for Euro-American Connections & Homecare to help pay for tuition. If at first they both experienced “transfer shock” in the large and impersonal classes at the university, they are now eager to engage their fellow students about their Central Asian experiences and culture – even as they carefully negotiate what is possible.

“Everybody smiles here … we were discouraged from smiling for no particular reason. UConn students are very positive, free and open with opinions … opinions were also discouraged before we came here. Here, we can disagree … we are not afraid to share.”

There is absolutely no doubt Fotima and Zukhra Pulatova will each work diligently to realize their respective dreams to practice medicine; they will doubtless also share the credit for their achievements with their mother. We wish them all the best, wherever fate and opportunity take them.

KOYEL KHAN is a doctoral candidate in the department of Sociology who is in the process of collecting data by conducting ethnographic interviews in Kolkata, India and New York City for her dissertation, tentatively titled “Between Nationalism and Neoliberal Globalization: The Practices of Indian Classical Dance” that is a transnational and interdisciplinary analysis of the factors that shape cultural consumption, production and practice. Historically used to reinforce difference and superiority in the struggle against British colonialism and currently signifies being cultured and authentically Indian, she will specifically investigate how people associate with these cultural practices in different geopolitical settings and how that relates to their ethnic identity in our contemporary global era.

And indicative of future success as a research scholar, Koyel is already co-author of a book chapter with UConn Prof. Bandana Purkayastha and UConn alumna Shweta M. Adur that analyzes the cultural performances of second-generation Indian/South Asian Americans.

Ms. Khan is also already a highly-regarded instructor, winning her department’s Outstanding Graduate Teaching award in 2016 and achieving impressive teaching evaluations for challenging courses that cover race and racism, gender and sexuality, human rights, social construction of deviance, and developing societies from a critical transnational perspective.

As a letter supporting her application attests, teaching these subjects “can pose extraordinary burdens for instructors who are perceived to be different … female, young, non-white … get lower evaluation scores … [And] these ‘intangible’ factors lead to an uneven teaching terrain for instructors like Koyel. [So] when she gets high scores, as she consistently does, she has navigated a much rockier road to achieve those levels than most of her peers.”

When there is spare time, Koyel’s commitment to making the academy more inclusive and communities more socially just is demonstrated by her active participation in TARANG, UConn’s South Asian cultural organization organizing performances at Yale and Stamford Public Library; summer teaching in the Center for Academic Programs (SSS), which prepares first generation college students; and serving “with courage and integrity” on the Graduate Program Committee, where she brings together US and international students of color to create opportunities to help close the gap between privilege and marginalization. Koyel Khan is a true asset to UConn and we are delighted to announce she has been selected for this well-deserved distinction.

Please join us in heartily congratulating FOTIMA PULATOVA, ZUKHRA PULATOVA and KOYEL KHAN as the 2017 Hira Jain Scholarship award winners.

About the Hira Jain Scholarship

The Hira Jain Scholarship recognizes academically outstanding undergraduate or graduate students enrolled full time at the University of Connecticut. Applicants for the scholarship may, but are not required to demonstrate financial need. The Institute administers the scholarship and invites applications every other year (biennial). Awards have ranged from $1000 to $2500, and announced before the close of the spring semester it is awarded.

Contact Ms. Fe Delos-Santos for eligibility questions and application forms.
Profiles and Photos by Fe Delos-Santos for the Asian and Asian American Studies Institute / CLAS

Seeking 2017 Hira Jain Scholarship Applicants

The Asian and Asian American Studies Institute in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Announces its 2017 Call for Applications to the Hira Jain Scholarship

2017-HIRA JAIN SCHOLARSHIP APPLICATION FORM / PDF

AAASI is extraordinarily indebted to Dr. Hira and Mrs. Sunita Jain of Glastonbury, CT for their generosity in establishing the permanent endowment that funds this competitive scholarship, awarded since 2004.

There will be two awards: $1000 each to the successful undergraduate and $1000 to the successful graduate student.

The Hira Jain Scholarship recognizes academically outstanding undergraduate or graduate students enrolled full time at the University of Connecticut. Applicants for the scholarship may, but are not required to demonstrate financial need. The Institute administers the scholarship and invites applications every other year (biennial). Awards have ranged from $1000 to $2500, and announced before the close of the spring semester it is awarded.

2015 Hira Jain Scholar Profile / Sonny Caplash (undergraduate)

ARPITA BISWAS (graduate) / Hira Jain Scholar Profile

AAASI Faculty Fred Lee and Cathy Schlund-Vials to Participate in Asian American Politics Panel

With just 4 weeks to go before Americans vote on the next president of the United States, Prof. Janelle Wong of the University of Maryland and author of a book on Asian American political participation, will keynote “Race and the Future of Asian American Politics” on Tuesday, October 11 at 6:00pm in Gentry 131. Wong is a co-principal investigator of the 2016 National Asian American Survey and is currently researching the growing numbers of Latino and Asian evangelicals and their role in U.S. politics.

Co-sponsored with the Asian American Cultural Center, this event opens the annual Asian American Heritage Observance at the University of Connecticut. The panel that consists of UConn’s Fred Lee, Assistant Prof. in Political Science and Asian American Studies, community activist Arlene Avery, and legislative analyst Alok Bhatt, will be moderated by AAASI director Cathy Schlund-Vials.

“… What we see is more of a halfhearted, largely symbolic attempt to reach out [to Asian Americans and Latinos] …

Although Asian Americans have been touted as a growing force in American politics, with the number of voters expected to double by 2040, in a recent interview conducted by Nicole Chung, Professor Wong said, however, that “… What we see is more of a halfhearted, largely symbolic attempt to reach out [to Asian Americans and Latinos] … Another potential factor is Asian Americans’ lack of strong political affiliation. Even though APIA voters have been trending heavily Democratic … they are more likely to say they’re unaffiliated/independent. Parties do want to go after undecideds, but I think some are afraid to go after Asian Americans because they aren’t sure if they’ll vote their way.”

In a related post by AAASI Affiliated Faculty Carolyn Lin that is published in UConn Today, she focuses her contribution in analyzing this presidential election on the voter’s “cognitive budget” that works with our individual psychological “map” in helping to guide how we might respond to campaign messages, all manner of political media, and casual conversations with other potential voters. Professor Lin also differentiates between whether an individual is a “low” or “high” involvement voter.

Low-involvement voters tend to process more superficial peripheral cues such as emotional appeals, slogans, personality, and image of a political candidate without investing the mental effort necessary to better understand the arguments or policies presented by the candidate.

High-involvement voters tend to process more substantive content cues, such as a candidate’s knowledge, qualifications, experience, and rational appeals by investing the necessary mental effort to understand the arguments or policies of a candidate.

Tonight’s event is free and open to the public. Please contact ASACC@uconn.edu or (860) 486-0830 if you are an individual with a disability requiring accommodations.