Asian American Studies Conference Panelists 2015


Keynote Address: Don Nakanishi ’71 B.A., UCLA
Asian American Studies and the Arts
Vijay Iyer ’92 B.S., Harvard
Margo Machida, University of Connecticut
Grace Wang, UC Davis
Moderator: Daphne Brooks, Prof. of African American Studies/Theater Studies/American Studies at Yale
Asian American Studies and Literature
Amy Tang, Wesleyan University
Ju Yon Kim ’02 B.A., Harvard
Cynthia Wu, SUNY Buffalo
Moderator: Jing Tsu, Prof. of Chinese Literature & Comparative Literature at Yale
Asian American Studies and the Social Sciences
Loan Dao, UMASS Boston
Tarry Hum, CUNY Queens College
Prema Kurien, Syracuse University
Janelle Wong ’98 M.A., ‘01 GRAD, University of Maryland
Moderator Zareena Grewal, Associate Prof. of American Studies and Religious Studies at Yale
Don Nakanishi is the Director Emeritus of the UCLA Asian American Studies Center, the largest and most renowned research and teaching institute in Asian American Studies in the nation, and Professor Emeritus of UCLA’s departments of Asian American Studies and education. For more than four decades, Professor Don Nakanishi has provided leadership and vision for the national development of Asian American Studies and Race and Ethnic Relations scholarship.
Professor Nakanishi graduated from Yale University in 1971 with a B.A in Intensive Political Science, and received his Ph.D., also in Political Science, from Harvard University in 1978. At Yale, he was one of the co-founders of the Asian American Students Association, the first student group on campus to raise awareness about Asian American political and social issues. Additionally, as a Yale undergraduate in 1970, he co-founded the Amerasia Journal, the top academic journal in Asian American Studies.
In 1976, he launched the National Asian Pacific Political Almanac, listing Asian American elected officials throughout the United States. He has also co-authored Asian American Education Experience (1994) and Asian American Politics: Law, Participation, and Policy (2002). In 1994, President Bill Clinton appointed Professor Nakanishi to the Civil Liberties Public Education Fund Board of Directors, and the Smithsonian Institution appointed him to the national Blue Ribbon Commission to plan for the future of the Smithsonian in the 21st century. He has received the National Community Leadership Award from the Asian Pacific Institute for Congressional Studies, the Yale Medal from Yale University, the inaugural Distinguished Educator Award from the Asian and Pacific Islander American Scholarship Foundation, and the inaugural Engaged Scholar Award from the Association of Asian American Studies.

Asian American Studies and the Arts

Vijay Iyer is a jazz pianist, composer, producer and the Franklin D. and Florence Rosenblatt Professor of the Arts in the Harvard University music department. Professor Iyer received a B.A. in Math and Physics from Yale University and Ph.D. in the Cognitive Science of Music from the University of California, Berkeley. Professor Iyer is a prolific composer and performer; he has been the leading artist on eighteen albums, including the influential Historicity (2009) and Accelerando (2012), in which he performs in a trio with Stephan Crump and Marcus Gilmore. Historicity was declared the best jazz album of 2009 in the New York Times, the LA Times, and other news outlets. Accelerando was voted best jazz album of the year by three worldwide critics’ polls. In 2003, Iyer and poet-producer Mike Ladd were co-commissioned by the Asia Society to compose the song cycle, In What Language?, which tackled issues of surveillance pre- and post-9/11. Ten years later, Professor Iyer collaborated with Ladd again to release Holding It Down: The Veterans’ Dreams Project, an album based on the dreams of American soldiers of color from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is also the recipient of the 2013 ECHO award for the world’s best jazz pianist and the 2013 MacArthur fellowship. Professor Iyer has previously been a faculty member at the Manhattan School of Music, New York University, the New School, and the School for Improvisational Music.
Margo Machida is a Professor of Asian American Studies and Art History at the University of Connecticut. She has done award-winning work as a scholar, painter, curator, and cultural critic focusing on Asian American art and visual culture. Her publications include Fresh Talk/Daring Gazes: Conversations on Asian American Art (2003) and Unsettled Visions: Contemporary Asian American Artists and the Social Imaginary (2009), which received the 2009 Cultural Studies Book Award from the Association for Asian American Studies (AAAS).  She developed her own body of written and visual work in the following years, going on to co-found Godzilla, a new network for Asian American artists, curators, and critics in 1990. For her significant contributions, Professor Machida was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from the national Women’s Caucus for Art in 2009. Professor Machida’s longtime involvement with Asian American activism and community building, particularly in the Asian American art world, gives her keen insight into the modern development of Asian American culture, art, and scholarship both during and after the landmark activism of the 1980s. 
Grace Wang is an Assistant Professor in American Studies at the University of California, Davis. Professor Wang’s research and teaching focuses on race, culture, immigration, transnationalism, multi-ethnic U.S. literature, music, and popular culture. Her recent publications include: “On Tiger Mothers and Music Moms,” “A Shot at Half Exposure: Asian Americans and Reality TV,” and “Interlopers in the Realm of High Culture: ‘Music Moms’ and the Performance of Asian and Asian American Identities.” Soundtracks of Asian America: Musical Narratives of Race and Belonging (2015) analyzes the cultural work that music plays in the production of contemporary Asian American identities by examining musical forms, practices, and sites. Focusing on musical spaces occupied by Asian Americans, she examines how race impacts the practices and institutions of music making. This includes an exploration of the perceptions and motivations of middle-class Chinese and Korean immigrant parents involved in their children’s classical music training and engaging with Asian-American songwriters who use YouTube to contest the limitations of the racialized media culture in the U.S.

Asian American Studies and Literature 

Ju Yon Kim is an Assistant Professor of English at Harvard University and the first permanent faculty member in the University’s Ethnic Studies program. Her research and teaching interests include Asian American literature, theater, and film, as well as modern and contemporary drama, comparative studies of race and ethnicity, and theories of performance in the everyday. Her first book, entitled The Racial Mundane: Asian American Performance and the Embodied Everyday, is under contract with NYU Press. Kim has published work in Theater Journal, Modern Drama, The Journal of Transnational American Studies, and Modernism/modernity.
Amy Tang is an Assistant Professor of English and American Studies at Wesleyan University. She has been a fellow at Wesleyan’s Center for the Humanities, Stanford’s Center for the Humanities, and Stanford’s Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity. Her recent publications include “Postmodern Repetitions: Parody, Trauma, and the Case of Kara Walker.” She is currently working on a book titled Repetition in Asian American Literature. Her research focuses on the relationship between aesthetic form and politics in Asian American literature as well as comparative analyses of Asian Americans, other minorities, and mainstream literature. In particular, her work analyzes Asian American texts as self-reflexive investigations of the conditions and limits of minority writing in the United States. 
Cynthia Wu is an Associate Professor in the Transnational Studies Department at SUNY Buffalo. She specializes in Asian American and critical ethnic studies, US Literature post-1865, disability studies, and queer of color analysis. Prior to academia, she was involved with HIV outreach in Asian American communities and cultural history museum work. She is the author of Chang and Eng Reconnected: The Original Siamese Twins in American Culture (2013), a book that traces the influence of Chang and Eng Bunker - conjoined twins from the former Kingdom of Siam - on various writers, artists, filmmakers, and other cultural producers from the 19th century to the present. In addition to her scholarly work, Wu has written for The Chronicle of Higher Education and The Los Angeles Review of Books. She is currently working on two research projects - one that examines the role of the US military as a material and conceptual vehicle through which Asian Americans have processed their ambivalent, racialized relationship with an imperialist nation-state; and one that analyzes intraracial, male same-sex desire and how such queer desire has been actively fostered to articulate the full range of Asian American coalitional politics.

Asian American Studies and Social Sciences

Loan Dao is an Assistant Professor of Asian American Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. Professor Dao has also worked as a consultant through the Center for Asian American Media for the documentary on deportation, Sentenced Home (2006), and served as an Associate Producer for the documentary on the Vietnamese American response after Hurricane Katrina, A Village Called Versailles (2009). Professor Dao’s research focuses on Southeast Asian refugee migration and community development, immigrant and refugee youth, and social movements. Specifically, she studies the cultural competency in health care for Vietnamese elderly, leadership development of Vietnamese and Vietnamese American female students, Vietnamese musical theater, and memory and the Vietnam War through popular culture and exhibits. Professor Dao current project examines the experiences of Asian American youth in the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) movement.
Tarry Hum is a Professor in the Urban Studies Department at Queens College of City University of New York, and was recently appointed to the Doctoral Faculty at the Graduate Center’s Environmental Psychology program. Her publications include “Planning in Neighborhoods with Multiple Publics: Opportunities and Challenges for Community-Based Nonprofit Organizations” and “Mapping Global Production in New York City’s Garment Industry: The Role of Sunset Park, Brooklyn’s Immigrant Economy.” Professor Hum’s research areas focus broadly on immigration, community economic development, urban planning, and Asian American communities. She has researched and published papers on the socioeconomic processes and outcomes of immigrant incorporation in urban labor markets, related issues of immigrant settlement and neighborhood change, and the consequences for urban inequality, race and ethnic relations, political representation, and community definition and development. She is currently researching the role of ethnic banks in immigrant financial incorporation and community economic development. Her book, Making a Global Immigrant Neighborhood: Brooklyn’s Sunset Park, is forthcoming from Temple University Press in 2014. 
Prema Ann Kurien is a Professor of Sociology at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University. Her research focuses on race and ethnic group relations, religion and social movements, and the interplay between religion and immigration experiences. Professor Kurien’s 2002 book Kaleidoscopic Ethnicity: International Migration and the Reconstruction of Community Identities in India was co-winner of the 2003 Asia/Asian America book award from the American Sociological Association. Her second book, A Place at the Multicultural Table: The Development of an American Hinduism (2007), discusses the new forms, practices, and interpretations of Hinduism in the US. Among her current projects, Professor Kurien studies the different forms of emergence within the Indian American population. Her project entitled “Race, Religion, and the Political Incorporation of Contemporary Immigrants” examines how first- and second-generation immigrants form advocacy organizations around ethnic, pan-ethnic, religious, and party-oriented identities.
Janelle Wong is an Associate Professor of American Studies and the Director of the Asian American Studies Program at the University of Maryland. She received her Ph.D. from the Department of Political Science at Yale University. Professor Wong’s primary focus is on race, immigration, and political mobilization. She has worked closely with social service, labor, civil rights, and media organizations that serve Asian Americans. As part of the Pilot National Asian American Political Study research team, she co-authored “The Politics of Asian Americans: Diversity and Community,” (2004) an analysis of the first multi-city, multi-lingual, multi-ethnic survey of Asian Americans’ political attitudes and behavior. Professor Wong is author of Democracy’s Promise: Immigrants and American Civic Institutions (2006) and Asian American Political Participation: Emerging Constituents and their Political Identities (2011). Her current book project focuses on how growing numbers of Asian American and Latino evangelical Christians will impact the traditional conservative Christian movement and immigrant political participation.