What Asian American studies can learn from Asia?: towards a project of comparative minority studies
ABSTRACT This article examines the significance of engaging in Asian American studies in Asia, with examples drawn primarily from Japan. It asks: What happens when this U.S.-based racial minority studies is relocated to the place where Asians do not constitute racial minorities? The paper argues that on the one hand, the intellectual encounter between Asia and Asian America encourages the U.S.-based minority studies to examine their implications in American imperialism in their perceptions towards Asia. On the other hand, Asian American studies as the racial minority discourse forces ethno-racial majority Asians, with all our ethnic, national, and other differences, to reflect upon the racial, ethnic, and (neo)colonial relations in our own lands while critiquing the inequalities that are taking place in and across Asia. The paper looks at the forms of minority struggles in Japan, zainichi Koreans and Okinawans, in order to propel the U.S. Asian American scholars to decentralize their work and perspectives. It is my hope that this new perspective generated from Asia-based Asian American studies will help construct a place of mutual learning, where we can engage in conversation to ask new questions, to challenge and transform Asian American studies as we know it.
Keywords: comparative Asian American studies, race, colonialism, imperialism, the Asia-Pacific Wars, zainichi Koreans, Okinawans.
Rika Nakamura is Associate Professor in General Studies at Seijo University, Japan. She has obtained her Ph.D. in Literatures in English from Rutgers University, U.S.A. She is currently working on a book project in Japanese, which will look at the Asia-Pacific Wars from the perspectives of Japanese and Korean Americans.