An Update on Asian American Studies at Princeton

December 3, 2015 § Leave a comment

With so much related to Asian American studies happening behind the scenes this semester, we thought that it would be good to provide a summary of all the developments that are happening at the university to develop further course offerings in this growing field of study.

With no Asian American studies courses being taught at Princeton this fall, it can seem like the outlook for developing Asian American studies is bleak. The reality is, however, that professors and administrators have been busy behind the scenes working to develop Princeton’s offerings in Asian American studies. The commitment of the university administrators  to developing this field of study came through clearly during We Flourish: The Princeton Asian and Asian American Alumni Conference, which was held in October. President Eisgruber reiterated his commitment to developing Princeton’s offerings in Asian American studies, and a panel on the field of study was attended by Provost David Lee, Dean of College Jill Dolan, and Dean of the Faculty Deborah Prentice.

This spring, Jack Tchen, of NYU, will be a visiting professor with the Program in American Studies and will teach the course “AMS 362 Yellow Peril” on his recent work documenting the history of xenophobia in America. Jack Tchen co-founded the Museum of the Chinese in America (MOCA), a museum based in Chinatown, NYC in 1979. He is also the founding director of the Asian/Pacific/American Studies Program at NYU.

Most exciting, however, is what is being planned for the 2016-2017 academic year. Besides Prof. Beth Lew-Williams of the History Department returning from a year at the Institute of Advanced Study to join Prof. Anne Cheng of English, American Studies, and African American Studies, Princeton will see a larger influx of professors teaching in Asian American Studies. Princeton has made an offer in their search for a senior professor in Asian American Studies, and the candidate will hopefully accept in the next few months. There will also be a Distinguished Visiting Professor in Asian American studies at the university during the 2016-2017 school year. Finally, the Program in American Studies is currently reviewing applications to fill two postdoctoral positions, each of which will last for 3 years, and at least one of whom will hopefully teach courses in Asian American studies.

All told, this means that there is a good probability that there will be 5 faculty teaching courses in Asian American studies at Princeton during the next academic year. The 5 faculty would allow Princeton to offer a record number of courses in Asian American studies. These courses would also be supplemented by current resources that exist to facilitate undergraduate research in Asian American studies. The Program in American Studies has the Eric Pai ’83 Asian American Studies Student Research Fund that will provide funding for thesis and JP research related to Asian American studies. AMS also has other funding sources available to help develop independent events and lectures in Asian American studies.

Finally, there has been work to make all of these changes permanent and institutionalized at the university. President Eisgruber has established a Strategic Task Force on American Studies that is examining ways to revamp the Program in American Studies as a site for exciting, interdisciplinary research. As part of this revamp, the Task Force is considering incorporating Asian American studies into the American studies curriculum, which would give Asian American studies its first institutional home at Princeton. Within the Program of American Studies, Asian American studies would have access to more resources to further develop course and academic offerings for the student body to ensure that a well-rounded, robust program emerges in the future.

The future of Asian American studies at the University is bright. We still have to remain vigilant, however, and ensure that the growth of this important field of study does not stall at Princeton. We cannot let the progress that we have made be reversed.

Still, for all those interested in Asian American studies this should serve as happy news!

-The Asian American Studies Committee of AASA

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