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AAPI At Amherst
Student Activism

Student Activism: Asian American and Pacific Islander Studies

The AAPI Studies Initiative met with President Biddy Martin and Dean Catherine Epstein last semester to discuss a new tenure-track faculty hire. After this meeting, the Initiative sent letters to departments inquiring whether they would be interested in hiring an Asian Americanist. The Department of History and the Department of Sexuality, Women, and Gender Studies responded with interest, and following conversations with the Initiative, they submitted requests to the Committee of Educational Policy. The Departments and the Initiative are currently waiting to hear back from them.


This spring semester, the Initiative will focus on outreach, such as a campus lecture series and social media campaigns. 

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AAPI At Amherst

aapi @ Amherst: Spring 2019 courses


Sony Coranez Bolton, Assistant Professor of Spanish
1. Queer Migrant Imaginaries is a comparative migrant literary studies class that explores the political economy of the largely queer and feminized labor that animates capitalism's global reach. Through close readings of literary and audiovisual texts by African American, Latinx, and Asian American writers, the class will chart how the migrant laboring body has been produced since the nineteenth century using recurring tropes of queerness, pathology, and dependency. 

2. The Latin American Philippines explores the Hispanic cultures of Asia with particular emphasis on the Latin American Philippines as a case study of how colonialism systematically represents the native as physically and cognitively disabled. By focusing on Spanish writing by Filipinos during the US colonial period, this course pushes Spanish Studies in the direction of Asian America. 


Pawan H. Dhingra, Professor of American Studies
1. The Asian American Experience examines Asian Americans' efforts for belonging and social justice, prioritizing the following questions: How do race, immigration, and the state not only shape people's access to resources but also delimit who belongs to the nation, self-conceptions, and personal relationships? How can ethnic minorities at times be "out-whiting whites" but still be denied full citizenship by the state? What does it mean to grow up within a culture but never fully identify with it? 

2. The Social Construction of American Society aims to explain how our daily, social environment in the United States is constructed and shapes our lives. It will address why some succeed at school while others fail; what effect culture has on our behavior; why there are class, gender, and racial inequalities; how socialization takes place; and what role politics plays in our society. 

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Robert T. Hayashi, Associate Professor of American Studies
1. Making Asians: Asian Americans in Literature and Law explores the construction of Asian American identity from the late 1800s to the present day by examining literary and legal texts and how they have shaped definitions of distinct Asian ethnicities and panethnic identities. This course draws from Professor Hayashi's personal experiences, including almost becoming a lawyer (until Walt Whitman saved him!). Students will have the opportunity both to learn about the detailed history of legal responses to Asian immigration in the United States and to analyze broad societal questions about citizenship, immigration, marriage, etc. 

2. The Neo-Western analyzes the evolution of the West as a prominent site of American myth. Until recently, narratives of the American West have warped public historical perspective by marginalizing or obfuscating the experiences of many. Particularly as a Japanese-American whose family was "relocated" during WWII, Professor Hayashi has long been wary of the power and potential danger of national myths of belonging and place. This course examines film and fiction that address the inaccuracies and mistruths that classic notions of the West have promoted and the inequalities that have consequently naturalized. 

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Franklin S. Odo, John J. McCloy Visiting Professor of American Institutions and International Diplomacy
1. Asian Americans and Affirmative Action is a research colloquium that explores the lawsuit alleging anti-Asian American admissions discrimination as a result of affirmative action policies currently pursued by Harvard College. Students will research the history of affirmative action while also focusing on the current lawsuit; legal, political, intra- and inter-racial contexts; and potential outcomes and societal implications. 

2. WWII and Japanese Americans studies the largest incidence of forced removal in American history: the U.S. incarceration of 120,000 people of Japanese descent during WWII, two-thirds of whom were American citizens. This course will examine the historical background leading to these events, Japanese American resistance to official actions, and other pertinent topics. 

Alumni in the Arts

Alumni in the Arts

Eugene Lee ' 16 on the origins of the blog Disoriented

Disoriented, a blog centered on Asia and identity, was born out of a piece that took over a year to write. This piece grew and evolved with me during my first year as a Fulbright ETA in Korea, a year marked by missile tests, the impeachment and removal of Korea’s president, the unprecedented election of Trump to the White House, and the success of Kpop on the world stage. While all of this was a lot to process alongside simply living in a foreign country, the piece also pushed me to consider the timeworn question we all have to answer upon graduating from college: what do I want to do now that I am free from any particular obligation?


Fortunately, I was not alone in any of this. So many of my peers in the Fulbright program were going through similar emotions. Yet their experiences, depending on their particular backgrounds, were vastly different, and it often felt difficult to begin these conversations about our experiences in Asia during casual social gatherings. Consequently, I gathered a few friends to create a specific space for such conversations, and the reception has been largely positive. The strength of Disoriented comes from the conversations between editors and writers as they work through topics that can often be overwhelming for one person to take on by themselves. The AAAN has been incredibly helpful, as I was able to get in touch with people in other programs in Asia. Big thanks to Esther Song ‘21, JinJin Xu ‘17, Kevin Mei ‘16, and Ross Miller ‘16 for contributing pieces.


My piece featured in the interesting reads section, linked here, references the Amherst Uprising, which was lingering in my mind as I traveled around Korea. Reading it again, over a year later, I cringe at some of the grandiose phrases and rather overconfident assumptions. And yet, it pulls me back into the mind of myself during my first year in Korea, just beginning to figure out what it meant to be Korean-American. While Disoriented is full of incredible pieces, its goal is not to be a literary journal, highly polished with firm conclusions about oneself or Asia. Rather, we hope to facilitate the imperfect process of asking questions and contributing answers, of which we would love AAAN readers to take part.


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JinJin Xu ' 17 on her video《夜來香》(Ye Lai Xiang)

《夜來香》(Ye Lai Xiang) takes its name from the song overheard throughout my short film — the kind of song that has the power to unleash a past era and transpose dislocation into memory. This project was born out of longing: for imagined homelands, for the filmic language of 30s Shanghai, for the diasporic movement between past and present, how memory and projection and longing and queerness bleed into one another. I collaborated with my friend Wo Chan, who stars in the film, to imitate a fluidity loyal to their drag performing experiences.

Upcoming Events

Upcoming events

Asian Alumni Day

Amherst College

Saturday, April 6, 2019

2:00pm - 8:15pm

In addition to a reception and alumni networking dinner, there will be a panel and discussion featuring stories and perspectives of alumni Anthony Chan '72 and Siraj Sindhu '17 and current students on Asian identity and experience at Amherst in the past and present.

Preliminary schedule here

RSVP here 

Facebook Event here 

Seeing the Moon in Islamic Traditions 

Mead Art Museum, Amherst College

April 9, 2019

7:00pm - 8:00pm

A conversation with the Amherst College Muslim Student Association about the lunar calendar and moon sightseeing in Islamic traditions leading up to the month of Ramadan. This program is offered in conjunction with Dimensionism: Modern Art in the Age of Einstein with support from the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life and the Muslim Students Association.


Amherst Cinema

Friday, May 17, 2019

9:45pm - 10:48pm

Chris Marker—filmmaker, poet, novelist, photographer, editor, and videographer and digital multimedia artist—has been challenging moviegoers, philosophers, and himself for years with his complex queries about time, memory, and the rapid advancement of life on this planet. SANS SOLEIL is his mind-bending free-form travelogue that journeys from Africa to Japan.

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community profiles

Community Profiles

Dr. Pawan Dhingra is a professor of American Studies at Amherst College. Read his full interview here.

I would encourage students to work within and outside of the institution in constructive ways, as they have been doing ... 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.

          -Dr. Pawan Dhingra

Swati Narayan is an Amherst College junior currently serving as the president of the South Asian Students Association. Read her full interview here

I am most proud of my contribution to the establishment of the Asian Affinity Space. I hope that in the future, students continue to use this space and nurture the AAPI community. I also hope to see increased collaboration between the Asian affinity groups and the administration.

          -Swati Narayan, AC '20


Albert Joo (AC '15), also known by his stage name FLANNEL ALBERT, is a melodic hip-hop artist based in LA.  Read his full interview here.

I feel like education and media taught me that Asians were one dimensional: the obedient, model minority. But in learning the diverse experiences of Asian immigrants and why they had to fit in and why they were well behaved, you realize that we aren’t one dimensional. Circumstances put us in this position. To learn that is eye opening. It’s not only educational. Emotionally, mentally, it’s essential that you learn your history.

          -Albert Joo, AC '15


Interesting Reads

Kimchi fried rice, Asian American classes, and Marie Kondo... Explore our interesting reads of the season!


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