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 website. My name is Jason Oliver Chang, I’m Associate Professor of History and Asian American studies and I’m also beginning my first year as director of this academic unit. We have an exciting slate of events this year that highlight our transnational and diaspora focus. Our invited guests this year will address topics as diverse as Queer Theory in China, Law of the Sea, early Asian American literature, and our annual remembrance of WWII-era  Japanese American internment. These events complement our recent curricular changes with dual tracks in Area Studies and Ethnic Studies.

In addition to revising our minor in Asian American studies, we have also developed a minor in Asian Studies, and continue to offer a minor in India Studies. As a twenty-five year old institute, we have grown considerably since our inception and have a much stronger capacity to meet the needs of today’s world. Current headlines speak to the ongoing relevance of active research in and robust teaching on Asia and Asian Americans. From the ongoing tensions in the Korean peninsula to the rise in ethno-nationalism across the region teaching and research on Asia is paramount to the University’s mission to promote global engagement. Furthermore, the aggressive restrictionist agenda in U.S. immigration policy reflects the persistent legacy of Asian American struggles against racial bans, deportations, immigrant incarceration, and racial persecution which highlight our critical work to deliver an anti-racist curriculum as originally demanded by UConn students in the 1980s.

Our faculty are at the cutting edge of their fields, as observed through their research they bring the process of knowledge creation into the classroom. This year we are fortunate to be welcoming a new addition to our faculty, Professor Na-Rae Kim, will join our ranks as an Assistant Professor in Residence adding much needed depth to our curriculum. I’m proud of our mission at UConn, a leading public institution of higher education, to elevate critical scholarship and engaged teaching about Asia and Asian Americans. Recent publications from our core faculty like Political Science Professor Fred Lee’s first monograph,Extraordinary Racial Politics: Four Events in the Informal Constitution of the United States (with Temple University Press) and History Professor Victor Zatsepine’s Beyond the Amur: Frontier Encounters between China and Russia, 1850-1930 (published with University of British Columbia University Press) winning the 2017 K.D. Srivastava Prize for Excellence in Scholarly Publishing demonstrate the caliber and scope of scholarship of the institute’s members. In addition, ongoing research by other core faculty like Political Science Professor Meina Cai’s work on property rights regimes in China and History Professor Nu-Anh Tran’s work on competing nationalism of Vietnam show that the institute’s faculty continue to forge new ground with exciting research.

I hope you’ll join us in the classroom and at our public events for what promises to be an exciting and challenging program.

Many thanks,


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.

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.