Editorial introduction: between nations and across the ocean
This special issue, plainly titled ‘Asian American Studies in Asia,’ brings to light a concerted intellectual endeavor in Asia and the Pacific to think through and work with a variety of Asian American concerns. Unlike those works on Asian American studies produced in the United States that are concerned with theorizing the Asian American experience in the racialized body-politic, this special issue foregrounds the politics of location in receiving, analyzing, and reorienting Asian American studies through Asia as a geo-historical nexus and interactive plurality. Asia, in this context, is not understood as a cultural, racial, or geographical marker which pins Asian Americans and their cultural production to a putative continent of origin, but rather functions as a critical locus of intellectual practice and commitment haunted by interconnected histories and memories of war, displacement, and movement between nations and across the ocean. Instead of seeing Asia as a fixated geographical entity posed in a stark contrast to the United States, the articles collected in this volume recommend bringing an inter-Asian and transpacific perspective to our understandings of ‘Asian American’ as a moving field of intellectual inquiry, as a traveling literature, as a contested site of memory, and as part of local knowledge formation in order to break down and away from what Teruyo Ueki—a pioneering Asian Americanist in Japan—calls ‘Euro-centric or Anglo-centric’ visions. They represent an endeavor at resituating Asian American studies in alternative sites and through interlinked histories so as to claim Asia—long relegated to the position of the receiver rather than producer of knowledge—as a place for thinking and being. As Walter Mignolo has put it in a different context, ‘“I am where I think” sets the stage for epistemic affirmations that have been disavowed’ (Mignolo 2011: 161). They hence also recommend rediscovering our relationship to one another by retracing the histories and cultures of Asian America in Asia. By reframing ‘Asian American’—understood here as at once a historical subject and a critical discourse—as a composite site of inter-Asian and transpacific relations, this special issue also intends to respond to and rearticulate Franklin Odo’s important question from 1971—‘How closely, if at all, and in what ways should Asian Americans relate to Asia?’ (Odo 1971: x)—a question that is becoming ever more important to Asian American studies in an age of globalization.
Chih-ming Wang is assistant research fellow at the Institute of European and American Studies, Academia Sinica, Taipei, Taiwan. His researches include Asian American literature, transnational cultural studies, and institutional history and have appeared in such journals as American Quarterly, Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, and Chinese America: History and Perspectives. His first book entitled Transpacific Articulations: Study Abroad and the Remaking of Asian America is forthcoming from University Hawai‘i Press.