This course offers a broad introduction to the history and culture of Asian Americans, focusing on the ways that ideas of ethnicity and race, Americanness and the foreign, of labor and of leisure, of demotic and highbrow culture, and of the relation between nation and history have been transformed by the movement of people from Asia to the United States. In addition, the course considers how the international movement of people and ideas in, around, and out of Asia since the 16th century constitutes an important framework for understanding the Asian American experience. Accordingly, we will focus on such topics as the history of European exploration and colonization in South, Southeast, and East Asia, colonial and national relations among Asian countries, and among those countries and Western ones, on the relation between Asian “coolie” labor and the history of American slavery, on the history of immigration law, on the cultural and social effects of U.S. military action in the Pacific, Southeast Asia, Korea, China, and Japan, on the ways that globalization is shaping or reshaping the experience of being Asian (or being Indian, or Chinese), and on the ways that all of these factors have interacted with the development of an “Asian American” identity and have established its particular challenges and privileges. The course will be broadly interdisciplinary, wide-ranging in its historical and geographic scope, and catholic in its cultural tastes (including television shows, poetry, pamphlets, novels, films, and manifestoes).
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