Special Plenary Session at AAS 2021: "Race and Racisms in Asia/Asian Studies"

Maura Elizabeth Cunningham Discussion

Thursday, March 25, 2021

5:30-7:00pm Eastern Time


The Association for Asian Studies 2021 Virtual Annual Conference will feature a special live plenary session, "Race and Racisms in Asia/Asian Studies." Please join us for this important conversation! While you will need to create an account at the conference platform to watch the plenary, conference registration is not required.

Session Abstract: Due to its imperialist origins, the field of Asian Studies both inherits and perpetuates racist hierarchies premised on white supremacy and Black abnegation. Scholars of Asia must therefore confront the uncomfortable fact that studying Asia is neither anti-racist nor apolitical. After all, “Asia” and “Asian” are not neutral categories. Historically and today, these terms have paired phenotype (“yellow” skin) with supposedly distinctive modes of governance (“Oriental despotism”) or ostensibly immutable ethical orientations (“Confucian values”). Anti-Black racism and ethnic, caste, and religious discrimination have also featured in Asian societies past and present, while essentialist notions of indigeneity and occupational purity have dictated who has a voice in both politics and academe. Although exclusionary thinking and hierarchies of difference are rife, a more inclusive and equitable Asian Studies is possible. This panel brings together scholars working on various regions and time periods to discuss how the straightforward profundity of saying that Black Lives Matter can fundamentally reorient Asian Studies teaching and research. Asian Studies may be intrinsically political, but our work can strive for justice rather than oppression.

Session Participants: Veronika Kusumaryati (Georgetown University), Adeana McNicholl (Vanderbilt University), Ramnarayan Rawat (University of Delaware), Chinua Thelwell (William & Mary), Jolyon Thomas (University of Pennsylvania), and Don J. Wyatt (Middlebury College)

Session link at conference platform: https://cdmcd.co/gQb3RQ

For more information about the AAS 2021 Virtual Annual Conference, and to register, please see our website.