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All posts copyright © 2001- by C.N. Le.
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The views and opinions expressed on this site and blog posts (excluding comments on blog posts left by others) are entirely my own and do not represent those of any employer or organization with whom I am currently or previously have been associated.

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Academic Version: Applying my personal experiences and academic research as a professor of Sociology and Asian American Studies to provide a more complete understanding of political, economic, and cultural issues and current events related to American race relations, and Asia/Asian America in particular.

Plain English: Trying to put my Ph.D. to good use.

April 21, 2008

Written by C.N.

Reflections About Asian American Studies Conference

I just got back from attending the annual conference of the Association for Asian American Studies (AAAS), in which I presented my paper about the sociological context of individual and group identity formation through Internet media.

As far as my presentation went, I think people understood and generally liked it, although I didn’t really get any questions from the audience about it. As such, it’s hard for me to tell what people thought of it one way or the other, whether they thought it was completely full of crap or they were awestruck by its intellectual brilliance. Probably somewhere in between.

At any rate, I was very grateful to hear that while I was there, almost everybody I met on my own or was introduced to had already heard of this Asian-Nation site and blog. In fact, many people at the conference told me that they use this site and blog in their courses or regularly refer their students to it.

I’d just like to say thank you to everyone for your readership — it’s always nice to hear that your colleagues find your work informative and authoritative enough to recommend to others.

The session in which I presented was organized by my blogging colleague Jennifer Ho. I’d like to echo one of her sentiments on attending the AAAS conference in general: it was great to be around so many other Asian Americans.

For about 361 other days of the year, Asian American academics like myself live in an “integrated” world (although in a lot of ways, it’s more like “predominantly White”). But for these four days, we get to interact with people who look like us, who share many common experiences, and who can relate to the challenges and rewards we encounter as Asian American students and faculty.

It’s incredibly refreshing to talk to others about, for example, how to respond to racially insensitive or outright racist statements by students in our classes, and see everyone smile and nod their heads in unison, because we’ve all been through the same issues.

In other words, it was great to be in a supportive community — even though we may teach in different academic disciplines, do research in different ways, and come from different Asian ethnicities, for these four days, we were all participants in Asian American Studies. In short, this conference is one of the rewards for doing Asian American Studies.

Another one of the rewards is being able to relate academic research to real world issues and examples. During the conference, this was illustrated by the following article that one of my former students, Nate, sent to me: yet another racist t-shirt, this time in reference to the Japan’s latest baseball superstar import, Kosuke Fukudome, centerfielder for the Chicago Cubs:

Unauthorized Chicago Cubs t-shirt © Richard A. Chapman, Chicago Sun-Times

A Fukudome T-shirt with a racist image is the hottest-selling item at a souvenir stand that sells unlicensed Cubs-related merchandise across Addison Street from the ballpark. . . .

For all the innocently mistranslated signs, bows and zealous cheering from right-field bleacher regulars for the franchise’s first Japanese major-leaguer, the mere creation of this shirt — but especially its popularity — sends a raw, vulgar message about Fukudome’s new hometown.

“I don’t know what the creator of the shirt meant this to be, but they should make it right,” Fukudome said through his interpreter after being shown one of the shirts Thursday. “Maybe the creator created it because he thought it was funny, or maybe he made it to condescend the race. I don’t know.” . . .

Kolbusz [the merchant selling the shirt] said he’s “indifferent” to the image on the shirt. “I’m making money,” he said. “It doesn’t offend me. If other people are offended by it, it’s just a silly T-shirt. Nobody is trying to offend anybody.” . . .

Kolbusz went as far as pointing out that the shirt’s creator is “an Oriental guy” and also pointed out an Asian woman he sold a shirt to. But the customer in question, Laureen Hom, had no intention of wearing the shirt, she said.

“I bought it for my mom, who has a collection of racist images of Asian Americans,” she said. And, she added, the fact the creator is Asian “is no excuse.”

Both of Hom’s parents are Asian-American Studies professors at San Francisco State University, and they’re in Chicago this week for the annual conference of the Association for Asian-American Studies.

Alas, it is these kinds of issues that we as students and scholars of Asian American Studies still confront in our research, our jobs as teachers, and in our everyday lives as Americans. The fight for respect and equality continues, and I am very glad to have such a great group of Asian American Studies colleagues in my corner.

Author Citation

Copyright © 2001- by C.N. Le. Some rights reserved. Creative Commons License

Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Reflections About Asian American Studies Conference" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <> ().

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