ASA 201




Introduction to Asian American Studies


Princeton University. Spring 2019.

Room B13 McCosh Hall. Thursdays 1:30–4:20pm.



Professor Paul Nadal (he/him/his)

Office: B29 McCosh Hall

Hours: Fridays 12:30–2:30pm or by appt.



Course Description


This course surveys critical themes in the interdisciplinary field of Asian American studies, including perspectives from history, literature, sociology, and gender and sexuality studies. It develops an account of Asian racialization beyond the black-white binary in the context of US war and empire in Asia and the Pacific Islands, settler colonialism, globalization, migration, and popular culture. Who or what is an “Asian American”? How have conceptions of Asian America changed over time? How do cultural forms such as literature and film add to an understanding of Asian American identity as a historically dynamic process and social relation?


Books to Purchase


·     Gina Apostol, Insurrecto (2018)


Course Format


Meetings will consist of seminar discussion based on intensive analyses of texts, as well as collaborative learning exercises such as group work and presentations. My role in the classroom is to structure, guide, and deepen a discussion driven by students. This model requires students to read carefully and to prepare notes in advance of the seminar meeting.




Reading assignments run from 100 to 200 pages a week, more when we are reading fiction. Expect about eight hours minimum of reading per week. As you read, I advise that you take notes so that you keep some kind of written record of all the course materials we will be covering this semester. If you find that you are struggling with the readings, please come see me. In seminar, we will examine the major arguments of a work and do textual analysis. Due to time constraints, however, we may not be able to discuss every reading in class. You must nevertheless complete all assigned texts, as they provide important background and points of departure for discussion.


Grade Distribution


15%  Attendance and Participation

25%  Midterm Exam

15%  Presentation/Discussion Leader

10%  Two Critical Précis (approx. 800 words each)

10%  Oral History Project

25%  Take Home Final Exam



Course Requirements


1.    Attendance and Participation (15 points) You are expected to attend classes regularly, to show up on time, and to come prepared. You must also actively participate in classroom discussion, by which I mean frequent, informed, and respectful vocal contributions that demonstrate evidence of preparedness. Given that this course is a weekly seminar, only one unexcused absence is allowed; every unexcused absence after that results in an automatic deduction of 5 points from your final grade. Documented emergencies and observance of religious holidays are exempted from this penalty.


2.    Midterm (25 points) In-class. Definition of key terms and concepts, passage identifications, and short essays. Your midterm will be evaluated anonymously. Letter graded.


3.    Presentation/Discussion Leader (15 points) You will be responsible for presenting on assigned texts and leading discussion during the semester. The goal of this assignment is to delve deeper into the readings and articulate their connection to the course’s themes and, where appropriate, to previous weeks’ readings. You will formally present on one text of your choice, in which you will offer some kind of argument about or interpretation of the text; guide the class through an analysis of one or two passages; and pose at least two discussion questions (discussion questions should be open-ended and push us to rethink how we read the work; avoid yes-or-no questions). After the formal presentation, you will then bring into the classroom one outside primary text that relates in some way to the week’s reading assignments. An example of an outside primary text might be a poem, a work of visual art, photograph, song, YouTube video, TV commercial, newspaper article, etc., which you will contextualize for the class and suggest ways in which the readings and the primary text might illuminate or challenge each other. Email me two days or so before the presentation to give me a sense of what you will be covering (a draft outline and brief description will suffice). On the day of your presentation, you will submit printed copies of your final outline and discussion questions. Letter graded.


4.    Critical Précis (10 points) You will be randomly assigned to two reading assignments for which you will write a short précis that critically engages with the text’s arguments. You will write the first précis before the midterm, the second after. The précis should summarize the questions, arguments, concepts, and scholarly apparatus of the work and explore directions for further inquiry and critique. For each précis, aim for approximately 800 words. Letter graded.


5.    Oral History Project (10 points) Oral histories play an important role in the study of Asian America. Write an oral history–based essay about someone who identifies as an Asian/Pacific Islander American or someone who works with the APIA community. In preparation for this assignment, you will learn about ethical and effective oral history practices, conduct a tape-recorded interview, and write a 4-page essay, which places the interviewee’s words within an analytical framework grounded in course materials. Students may do a video or podcast project in lieu of a written narrative. You are encouraged to explore the technology resources available to you at the Digital Learning Lab Graded check/plus/minus.


6.    Take Home Final Exam (25 points) Definition of key terms and concepts, passage identifications, and short essays. Your exam will be evaluated anonymously. Letter graded.


7.    Extra Credit (1 point). Students are encouraged to find and attend a local Asian American Studies event (a reading, symposium, conference, spoken word performance, book launch or festival, etc.) and write a two-paragraph reflection memo. Maximum two extra credits. Campus events of particular interest include the “Japanese/America: Transpacific and Hemispheric” symposium to be held on February 15, 2019 ( and Princeton Program in American Studies’ Asian American Studies Lecture Series (





Semester Schedule

Readings are subject to change depending on progress of class.


Wk 1.               Introductions


Wk 2.              Asian Exclusion: Aliens Ineligible to Citizenship                          


§  Bill Ong Hing, “Two Contrasting Schemes: Understanding Immigration Policies Affecting Asians Before and After 1965” from Making and Remaking Asian America Through Immigration Policy

§  Mae Ngai, “From Colonial Subject to Undesirable Alien: Filipino Migration in the Invisible Empire,” from Impossible Subjects

§  Ronald Takaki, “The Myth of ‘Military Necessity’ for Japanese-American Internment,” from Strangers from a Different Shore

§  Lisa Lowe, “Immigration, Citizenship, Racialization: Asian American Critique,” from Immigrant Acts

§  Sources: Naturalization Act of 1790; Page Law 1875; Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882; California Alien Land Law 1913


Further Reading: Moon-Ho Jung, Coolies and Cane; Beth Lew-Williams, The Chinese Must Go; Colleen Lye, America’s Asia; David Palumbo-Liu, Asian/American; Lisa Lowe, The Intimacy of Four Continents; Carlos Bulosan, America Is in the Heart; John Okada, No-No Boy; Lon Kurashige and Alice Yang, eds., Major Problems in Asian American History: Documents and Essays; Mae Ngai, “The Architecture of Race in American Immigration Law”; Elaine H. Kim, “A Critique of Strangers from a Different Shore”; “A Different Asian American Timeline” <>


Wk 3.              Asian Racialization: Sites, Surfaces, Skin


§  Edward Said, Introduction to Orientalism

§  Anne Anlin Cheng, Introduction to Ornamentalism

§  Gary Y. Okihiro, “Is Yellow Black or White?” from Margins and Mainstreams: Asians in American History and Culture

§ Source: Takao Ozawa v. US (1922); Bhagat Singh Thind v. US (1923)

§  Source: Life Magazine, “How to Tell Japs from the Chinese” (1941)

§  Recommended: Susan Koshy, “The Fiction of Asian American Literature”


Further Reading: Leslie Bow, Partly Colored: Asian Americans and Racial Anomaly in the Segregated South; Peggy Pascoe, “Configuring Race in the American West” from What Comes Naturally: Miscegenation Law and the Making of Race in America; Robert G. Lee, Orientals; Henry Yu, Thinking Orientals; Christina Klein, Cold War Orientalism; Anne Anlin Cheng, The Melancholy of Race; Daniel Y. Kim, Writing Manhood in Black and Yellow; Susan Koshy, Sexual Naturalization; Claire Jean Kim, “The Racial Triangulation of Asian Americans”; Michael Omi and Howard Winant, Racial Formation; Yoon Sun Lee, Modern Minority; Ju Yon Kim, The Racial Mundane; Joseph Jonghyun Jeon, Racial Things, Racial Forms


Wk 4.              The Asian American Movement: Then and Now


§  Karen Umemoto, “On Strike!” San Francisco State College Strike, 1968-69: The Role of Asian American Students”

§  Mark Chiang, “Contradictions in the Emergence of Ethnic Studies,” from The Cultural Capital of Asian American Studies

§  Sources: “Third World Liberation Front: Notice of Demands” (1968); Gidra, Vol. 3, no. 1; Amy Uyematsu, “The Emergence of Yellow Power in America” (1989); “Yellow Power,” Giant Robot (Spring 1998); “Princeton and Asian American Studies: A Report by the Princeton Asian American Students Association (AASA)” (2013); A timeline of Princeton Asian American Alumni Association < > 

§  Film: American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs (2014, dir. Grace Lee)


Further Reading: William Wei, The Asian American Movement; Karen L. Ishizuka, Serve the People: Making Asian America in the Long Sixties; Dorothy Rony Fujita, “Coalitions, Race, and Labor: Rereading Philip Vera Cruz”; Yen Le Espiritu, “Coming Together: The Asian American Movement”; Susie Ling, “The Mountain Movers: Asian American Women’s Movement in Los Angeles”; Rene Ciria-Cruz et al., eds., A Time to Rise: Collective Memoirs of the Union of Democratic Filipinos; Karen Tei Yamashita, I-Hotel: A Novel; The Fall of the I-Hotel (1983, dir. Curtis Choy)


Wk 5.              War and Empire in the Asia Pacific, Part I: Imperial Possessions         


§ Shelley Streeby, “Empire” from Keywords for American Cultural Studies

§ Lanny Thompson, “The Imperial Problem and the New Possessions”

§ Rick Baldoz and César Ayala, “The Bordering of America: Colonialism and Citizenship in the Philippines and Puerto Rico”

§ Arissah Oh, “Legacies of War” from To Save the Children of Korea: Cold War Origins of International Adoption (read pp. 1-13 only)

§  Viet Thanh Nguyen, “Prologue” and “Just Memory,” from Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War


Further Reading: Daniel Immerwahr, How to Hide an Empire: A History of the Greater United States; Julian Go, “The Chains of Empire: State Building and ‘Political Education’ in Puerto Rico and the Philippines”; Abe Ignacio, The Forbidden Book: The Philippine-American War in Political Cartoons; Vicente Rafael, White Love; Luis H. Francia, A History of the Philippines; Paul A. Kramer, The Blood of Government; Nerissa S. Balce, Body Parts of Empire; Christine Bacareza Balance, Tropical Renditions; Lucy Mae San Pablo Burns, Puro Arte; Yen Le Espiritu, Body Counts: The Vietnam War and Militarized Refugees; Jodi Kim, Ends of Empire; Erica Lee, “In Search of Refuge: Southeast Asians in the United States”; Keith L. Camacho, “Filipinos, Pacific Islanders, and the American Empire”; Bontoc Eulogy (1995, dir. Marlon Fuentes); Aihwa Ong, Buddha Is Hiding; Sucheng Chan, Hmong Means Free; Eric Tang, Unsettled: Cambodian Refugees in the New York City Hyperghetto, Nikhil Singh, “Racial Formation in an Age of Permanent War”; Simeon Man, “Fighting ‘Gooks’: Asian Americans and the Vietnam War,” from Soldiering Through Empire


Wk 6.              Midterm Exam                       


Wk 7.              After 1965: Gender , Work, and Globalization


§  David Harvey, “From Fordism to Flexible Accumulation” from The Condition of Postmodernity

§  Catherine Ceniza Choy, “From Exchange Visitor to Permanent Resident: Reconsidering Filipino Nurse Migration as a Post-1965 Phenomenon”

§  Amy Bhatt, “Transmigrants: Identity, Nationalism, and Bridge Building” from High-Tech Housewives: Indian IT Workers, Gendered Labor, and Transmigration

§  Sarah Maslin Nir, “The Price of Nice Nails” (New York Times, 7 May 2015)

§  Source: Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965

§  Film: Who Killed Vincent Chin? (1987, dirs. Renee Tajima-Peña and Christine Choy)

§  Recommended: Xiaolan Bao, “The Garment Workers: Gender, Race, and Class in the City’s Garment Industry”


Further Reading: Ivan Light and Edna Bonacich, Immigrant Entrepreneurs: Koreans in Los Angeles, 1965-1982; Smitha Radhakrishnan, Appropriately Indian: Gender and Culture in a New Transnational Class; Paul Ong, Edna Bonacich, and Lucie Cheng, “The Political Economy of Capitalist Restructuring and the New Asian Immigration”; Helen Zia, “Detroit Blues”; Aihwa Ong, Flexible Citizenship; Diane Elson and Ruth Pearson, “’Nimble Fingers Make Cheap Workers’: An Analysis of Women’s Employment in Third World Export Manufacturing”; Neferti X. M. Tadiar, “Domestic Bodies”; Rachel Aviv, “The Cost of Caring” (New Yorker, 11 April 2016); Min Hyoung Song, The Children of 1965


Wk 8.              War and Empire in the Asia Pacific, Part II: Insurrecto               


§  Gina Apostol, Insurrecto (entire novel); Special guest: Gina Apostol


Wk 9.              Beyond the Nation-State: Oceanic Ethnic Studies and the Limits of “Asian America”


§  Epeli Hau’ofa, “Our Sea of Islands”

§  Stewart Firth and Karin von Strokirch, “A Nuclear Pacific”

§  Craig Santos Perez, “Guam and Archipelagic American Studies”

§  Candace Fujikane and Jonathan Okamura, Introduction to American Settler Colonialism

§  Dean Itsuji Saranillo, “Why Asian Settler Colonialism Matters”

§  Source: Hawaiian Sovereignty Leader Haunani-Kay Trask Criticizes Asian ‘Settler’ Privilege and Collaboration with Colonialism (2000)


Further Reading: Iyko Day, Alien Capital; Haunani-Kay Trask, Notes from a Native Daughter; Brian Russell Roberts and Michelle Ann Stephens, eds., Archipelagic American Studies; Vicente M. Diaz, “To ‘P’ or Not to ‘P’?”: Marking the Territory Between Pacific Islander and Asian American Studies”; JoAnna Poblete-Cross, “Bridging Indigenous and Immigrant Struggles”; Kandice Chuh, Imagine Otherwise; Lois-Ann Yamanaka, Blu’s Hanging: A Novel


Wk 10.             Asian Americans and Higher Education    


§ Glenn Omatsu, “The ‘Four Prisons’ and the Movements of Liberation: Asian American Activism from the 1960s to the 1990s”

§ Frank Wu, “Neither Black Nor White: Affirmative Action and Asian Americans”

§  Jennifer Lee and Min Zhou, “What Is Cultural About Asian American Achievement?”

§  Hua Hsu, “The Rise and Fall of Affirmative Action” (New Yorker, 15 Oct 2018)

§  Source: William Petersen, “Success Story, Japanese-American Style” (1966)

§  Source: Janelle Wong, Jennifer Lee, Van Tran “Asian Americans’ Attitudes toward Affirmative Action: Framing Matters” (2018)

§  Film: a.k.a. Don Bonus (1995, dir. Spencer Nakasako)


Further Reading: Paul Kramer, “Filipino Students and the Politics of Racial Inclusion”; Alia Wong, “Asian Americans and the Future of Affirmative Action,” The Atlantic (June 2016); Keith Osajima, “Asian Americans as the Model Minority: An Analysis of the Popular Press Image in the 1960s and 1980s”; Theodore W. Schultz, “Human Wealth and Economic Growth” (1959); David Bell, “The Triumph of Asian Americans: America’s Greatest Success Story,” New Republic (15 and 22 July 1985); David Brand, “Those Asian-American Whiz Kids,” Time (31 August 1987); Ellen Wu, The Color of Success; Amy Chua, The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother


Wk 11.             Queer and Asian After 9/11 m         


§  Siobhan B. Somerville, “Queer,” from Keywords for American Cultural Studies

§  John Kuo Wei Tchen, “Asian,” from Keywords for American Cultural Studies

§  Jasbir Puar and Amit S. Rai, “Monster, Terrorist, Fag: The War on Terrorism and the Production of Docile Patriots”

§  Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, “Searching For The Next Intifada: Exercises In Queer Muslim Futurism” [Recommended: Saira Kahn, “The Scion of a Pakistani Political Dynasty Comes Out” (NY Times, 20 Feb. 2018) < >]

§  Rachel Lee, “Pussy Ballistics and Peristaltic Feminism,” from The Exquisite Corpse of Asian America

§  Source: “Exploring the Roots of Chicago’s Queer South Asian Community” (NBC 2018) <>

§  Film: Margaret Cho, Cho Revolution (2004)


Further Reading: Jee Yeun Lee, “Why Suzie Wong Is Not a Lesbian”; David L. Eng and Alice Y. Hom, Q & A: Queer in Asian America; Russel Leong, ed., Asian American Sexualities; Karin Aguilar-San Juan, “Going Home: Enacting Justice in Queer Asian America”; Sandip Roy, “The Call of Rice: (South) Asian American Queer Communities” from A Part, Yet Apart: South Asians in Asian America; Tan Hoang Nguyen, “The Rise, and Fall, of a Gay Asian American Porn Star”; David L. Eng, The Feeling of Kinship; Jasbir Puar, Terrorist Assemblages; Mel Y. Chen, Animacies; Martin F. Manalansan, Global Divas; Karen Shimawaka, National Abjection: The Asian American Body on Stage; David Henry Hwang, M. Butterfly; Margaret Cho, I’m the One That I Want (2000)


Wk 12.             Culture and Diaspora: Asian-Latino and Afro-Asian Connections          


§  Sau-Ling C. Wong, “Denationalization Reconsidered: Asian American Cultural Criticism at a Theoretical Crossroads”

§  Mieko Nishida, “Immigration and Diaspora,” from Japanese Brazilians in Brazil and Japan

§  Nitasha Tamar Sharma, “Sampling South Asians: Dual Flows of Appropriation and the Possibilities of Authenticity”

§  Daryl J. Maeda, “Black Panthers, Red Guards, and Chinamen: Constructing Asian American Identity Through Performing Blackness”


Further Reading: Rudy P. Guevarra, Becoming Mexipino: Multiethnic Identities and Communities in San Diego; Grace Peña Delgado, Making the Chinese Mexican; Ana Paulina Lee, Mandarin Brazil; Mimi Thi Nguyen and Thuy Linh Tu, eds., Alien Encounters: Popular Culture in Asian America; Yunte Huang, Transpacific Imaginations; Dipesh Chakrabarty, “The Legacies of Bandung”; Vijay Prashad, “Crafting Solidarities”; Chris Chen, “The Limit Point of Capitalist Equality: Notes Toward an Abolitionist Antiracism”; Bill Mullen, Afro-Orientalism; Kim Hewitt, “Martial Arts Is Nothing If Not Cool: Speculations on the Intersections between Martial Arts and African American Expressive Culture”; Jeff Chang, Can't Stop Won't Stop; Mimi Thi Nguyen, “Bruce Lee I Love You”; Crystal S. Anderson, “When Were We Colored?: Blacks, Asians, and Racial Discourse”; Robert Ji-Song Ku et al., eds., Eating Asian America;  Shilpa Dave et al., eds., Global Asian American Popular Cultures; King-Kok Cheung, Chinese American Literature Without Borders; Jinqi Ling, Across Meridians; Karen Tei Yamashita, Brazil-Maru: A Novel (1992) and Circle K Cycles: A Novel (2001)


q   Oral History Project due Monday, May 6.

q   Take-Home Final Exam due on Dean’s Date, Tuesday, May 14.