ENGL3346:01 Asian American Experience
What is an Asian American? The course begins with this question because it is at once simple and difficult to answer. The term includes multiple ethnicities, people who were born in the United States and new arrivals, differences in socioeconomic class, gender identity, sexual orientation, and region, and many other ways of marking variety. Still, despite these internal divisions, the term has also had remarkable staying power and continues to be a category that many find useful, if not a compelling way to think of themselves.
As we progress through the semester, we make sense of how this idea emerged and how it has continued to evolve over the years. The course itself will spend about a week on some aspect of the Asian American experience, or experiences, crisscrossing boundaries between literature, history, sociology, psychology, film, fine arts, and popular culture. We will stress how diverse Asian Americans are, and how they are seeking in multiple ways to exert influence on the society and culture at large. We will also think beyond the US, to consider how American ideas of race changes when we think of Asian Americans not as a group of immigrants but as members of a diaspora, as refugees, or as transnational peoples. We will seek, as well, to pay attention to the importance of thinking about race in the US, and how such a focus on race requires attention to intersectionality, solidarity, and conflict.
This course supplements class discussion of readings with outside speakers (including the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen) as well as invitations for students to engage with the Asian American community at BC and beyond. Assignments are designed to provide formal spaces for reflection, and for the questioning of one’s own priorities and values.