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“Wonderful Thinking” within and across Asian American Studies and American Studies

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Abstract:

This essay explores several methods for figuring and thinking through the relationship of Asian American Studies and American Studies under the imperative force of the 2014 conference theme: “Beyond the Logic of Debt, Toward an Ethics of Collective Dissent”. Towards that end, I aim to consider the multiply charged terms and conditions of “intellectual debt” and its relationship to what Mary Helen Washington, quoting Septima Clark, pointed to as the charge of “wonderful thinking” in and for American Studies in her 1997 Presidential Address, "Disturbing the Peace: What Happens to American Studies If You Put African American Studies at the Center?" Surveying the contentious history of the relationship of Ethnic Studies and American Studies, Washington declared, “The pushing, protesting and organizing of African American, Chicano/a, and Asian American scholars from 1985 to 1997 has resulted in a sea change in the involvement of scholars of color in ASA.” Recalling that the 1985 annual meeting of the ASA was “the first year there was a number of Asian-American scholars at ASA,” she went onto note that, by 1998, a formal affiliation had been established between the ASA and the Association for Asian American studies. It is crucial to bear in mind that Asian American Studies was undergoing unprecedented growth and transformation through several axes of different and dissent during these years. I explore how tracing the lineage of “intellectual debt” runs the risk of reducing overlapping and persistent knowledge struggles into discrete teleologies and positions of possession-giving-reception-indebtedness-credit. Against those enclosures, I recall four particularly contentious debates that both divided and newly energized Asian American Studies during this period (1985-1997): 1) gender difference and gendered divisions; 2) transnationalism, empire and diaspora; 3) ethnic multiplicity and heterogeneity, which Elaine H. Kim exhorted the field to reckon with her provocatively titled 1993 essay, “Beyond Railroads and Internment,”; and 4) disciplinary methods and interdisciplinarity. The paper thus argues for the reckoning of Asian American Studies not as a bounded sub-field of American Studies or adjacent interdiscipline of particularized bodies and knowledges but as a multivalent, porous field of “wonderful thinking” about the ethical and epistemological conditions of “collective dissent.”
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Association:
Name: American Studies Association Annual Meeting
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http://www.theasa.net


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URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p657060_index.html
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MLA Citation:

Kang, Laura. "“Wonderful Thinking” within and across Asian American Studies and American Studies" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association Annual Meeting, Hilton Washington, Washington, DC, <Not Available>. 2014-12-10 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p657060_index.html>

APA Citation:

Kang, L. H. "“Wonderful Thinking” within and across Asian American Studies and American Studies" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association Annual Meeting, Hilton Washington, Washington, DC <Not Available>. 2014-12-10 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p657060_index.html

Publication Type: Internal Paper
Abstract: This essay explores several methods for figuring and thinking through the relationship of Asian American Studies and American Studies under the imperative force of the 2014 conference theme: “Beyond the Logic of Debt, Toward an Ethics of Collective Dissent”. Towards that end, I aim to consider the multiply charged terms and conditions of “intellectual debt” and its relationship to what Mary Helen Washington, quoting Septima Clark, pointed to as the charge of “wonderful thinking” in and for American Studies in her 1997 Presidential Address, "Disturbing the Peace: What Happens to American Studies If You Put African American Studies at the Center?" Surveying the contentious history of the relationship of Ethnic Studies and American Studies, Washington declared, “The pushing, protesting and organizing of African American, Chicano/a, and Asian American scholars from 1985 to 1997 has resulted in a sea change in the involvement of scholars of color in ASA.” Recalling that the 1985 annual meeting of the ASA was “the first year there was a number of Asian-American scholars at ASA,” she went onto note that, by 1998, a formal affiliation had been established between the ASA and the Association for Asian American studies. It is crucial to bear in mind that Asian American Studies was undergoing unprecedented growth and transformation through several axes of different and dissent during these years. I explore how tracing the lineage of “intellectual debt” runs the risk of reducing overlapping and persistent knowledge struggles into discrete teleologies and positions of possession-giving-reception-indebtedness-credit. Against those enclosures, I recall four particularly contentious debates that both divided and newly energized Asian American Studies during this period (1985-1997): 1) gender difference and gendered divisions; 2) transnationalism, empire and diaspora; 3) ethnic multiplicity and heterogeneity, which Elaine H. Kim exhorted the field to reckon with her provocatively titled 1993 essay, “Beyond Railroads and Internment,”; and 4) disciplinary methods and interdisciplinarity. The paper thus argues for the reckoning of Asian American Studies not as a bounded sub-field of American Studies or adjacent interdiscipline of particularized bodies and knowledges but as a multivalent, porous field of “wonderful thinking” about the ethical and epistemological conditions of “collective dissent.”


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