COMMUNITY PROFILES

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Dr.Pawan H. Dhingra

Professor of American Studies and Contributing Faculty of Anthropology and Sociology

Could you introduce yourself?

 

I’m a professor of American Studies and have a Ph.D. in Sociology.

 

What was your path to Amherst College?

 

I was first a professor at Bucknell University, then teaching and tenured at Oberlin College, then took a break to be a curator at the Smithsonian Institution in the Asian Pacific American Center, and then was chair of the sociology department at Tufts University before coming to Amherst.

 

You've taught, curated, and conducted research — how does your past experience inform your work and teaching today?

 

It's made me appreciate the diversity with Asian America and consider ways of thinking about the people beyond my standard academic training. There is much to be gained from considering Asian Americans as creating their own histories, for example.

 

I see you majored in Psychology in college and received your M.A. and Ph.D. in Sociology — how did you make those decisions? When and how did you first engage with Asian American Studies?

 

I first took a class regarding Asian Americans when in college, and I researched topics in Asian America often as independent projects within and outside of classes. In psychology, I was interested in the topic of identity development, in particular ethnic identity, which led me to an interest in sociology as a field to think about the social contexts that produce and are influenced by group identities.

 

We are so excited to have you join us with your experience in Asian American Studies and ethnography, as well as your extensive research in critical issues. What do you look forward to as you begin teaching at Amherst?

 

I am excited to be here and teach on Asian America, as well as contribute to American Studies and its already strong curriculum and faculty. I also look forward to getting to know students better.

 

What would you encourage students and alumni to do to continue building on an Asian American Studies program?

 

I would encourage students to work within and outside of the institution in constructive ways, as they have been doing. Taking the classes that are offered is essential to demonstrating that there is interest in this field and that more courses are necessary. Otherwise, it’s hard to make the case to the administration. Finding ways to engage the administration is useful as well. Also, it is important to consider what kind of Asian American Studies best serves the needs of Amherst students, such as a comparative approach that interrogates race as a central axis.