Fall 2013

Freshmen Seminar: Noir: Race & Detective Texts

Description: We will explore one of the most enduring and flexible genres in American popular culture – film and literary noir. Film noir, or “black film,” and its literary corollary, the hard boiled crime fiction, is distinguished by a style and theme that focuses on blackened frames and darkened lives. The genre plays with tropes of light and dark in order to demonstrate how people become “black” because of their immoral behavior. In this course we will consider how racial difference plays a constitutive role in the American imaginary and suffuses one of the most popular genres in American culture. And in doing so, we will also explore some of the most enduring themes in American culture: lust, sin, crime, greed and regret in the multiracial city.

TTh9:30 AM - 10:50 AM
Asian Americans & Pop Culture

Description: Asian Americans are active producers of popular culture. We will study films, novels, short stories, and hip hop that transgress racial, gender and social norms. First, we will consider how these Asian American texts represent rebellious figures such as queer boys and girls. We will consider how authors draw on these figures to contest the “model minority” stereotype, American racism, homophobia, conflicts between generations and more. Secondly, we will consider how some of these works have the potential to unsettle the idea that there are “correct” and “incorrect” ways of seeing, reading, writing and knowing. Finally, we will consider the differences and similarities between individual acts of rebellion and collective acts of resistance in these texts, to tap the well of Asian American collective imaginations to dream of a more just future.

Literature and Fine Arts Distro Area
TTh12:30 PM - 1:50 PM
The Global Cold War

Description: The course provides a critical examination of post-1965 Asian American communities in light of the demographic, social, racial and economic trends in both the United States and Asia today. In particular, the course will focus on key themes such as the model minority, immigration, mental health, family, education, and religion. An important objective of this course is raising students’ awareness of and responsibility to the needs of Asian American communities.

MW12:30 PM - 1:50 PM
AMER_ST 301-1-20Bernstein
Comparative Race and Ethnicity

Description: This course explores the comparative history of various racial and ethnic groups in the twentieth-century United States. While tensions between and relations among African Americans and whites have shaped U.S. history in important ways, this course also recognizes the historical significance of multiple racial and ethnic groups, particularly Asian Americans and Latinos. We will consider the histories of the various groups alongside one another and U.S. History more generally, as well as intersections among the various groups. Readings include both primary and secondary sources.

although not co-listed with Asian Am, counts toward Asian American Studies minor
T12:30 PM - 3:30 PM

Winter 2014

Topics in Asian American Arts and Performance: Asian American Social Documentaries

Description: This hybrid film studies & video production course is a special seminar introducing students to the theory and practice of social documentaries through critical viewings of non-fiction films on Asian American subject matters and production of short documentaries on persons and issues relevant to Asian Americans or other underrepresented communities of color in the Greater Chicago Area.

W3:00 PM - 5:50 PM
Global Asians

Description: This is a comparative course that will examine the international migration histories of different Asian groups in the 20th century and the development of community and identity of those groups in different national contexts. We will interrogate the concept of diaspora versus migration versus immigration, and the different notions of identity implicit in each framework (diasporic community, sojourner, etc.). We will examine the immigration policies of host countries in Europe, the Americas, and Asia, and the settlement histories of Asians within these countries. We will discuss notions of group belonging and ideas of citizenship, nationality and ethnicity, and also compare how different ethnic groups and different national societies have handled ethnic/racial/cultural diversity. We will, in short, be examining the crossing and construction of multiple borders, the cultural encounters and the mixings, of various Asian groups in various socioeconomic and political contexts in different nation-states.

Historical Studies Distro
TTh9:30 AM - 10:50 AM
Asian and Black Historical Relations

Description: This course examines Black and Asian race relations in the U.S. Topics range from the racialization and sexualization of Blacks and Asians to international “Afro-Asian” connections. We then focus on WWII and the post-war economy and the resulting racial and economic dynamics for Blacks and Asians. We then examine the rise of racial consciousness in the sixties, moving beyond Black and White to reconceptualize inter-minority relations. Following a section on the Third World internationalism of Black and Asian leaders (e.g., W.E.B. du Bois and Mao Tse-tung) and overlapping Black and Asian movements, we analyze stereotypes used to pit Asians and Blacks against one another. We conclude the quarter with a section on Islam, race and rap and discuss the futures of Asian and Black relations in the U.S.

Historical Studies DistroSocial and Behavioral Sciences Distro
MW9:30 AM - 10:50 AM
Intro to Asian American Literature

Description: This course examines literature, film, and critical theory created by Asian Americans in order to examine the development of “Asian America” as a literary field. We will explore Asian American literature and theory in relation to questions of race, nation and empire. We will learn to ‘deconstruct’ the text and understand how Asian American literature and culture offers a parallax view into American history, culture and political-economy. Starting from the premise that Asian America operate as a contested category of ethnic and national identity we will consider how Asian American literatures and cultures “defamiliarize” American exceptionalist claims to pluralism, modernity, and progress. The novels, short stories, plays and films we will study in this class chart an ongoing movement in Asian American studies from negotiating the demands for domesticated narratives of immigrant assimilation to crafting new modes of critique highlighting Asian America’s transnational and postcolonial history and poesis.

Literature and Fine Arts Distro
MW12:30 PM - 1:50 PM
Asian-black Connections in the U.S. Theatre & Performance

Description: This course examines performances by and about Asian American and African American subjects in order to understand an intertwined history of race and racism in the United States. We will consider how the development and contestation of racialized meanings through varied performances impact experiences of place, identity, community and belonging. The course begins in the nineteenth century with a comparative study of embodied negotiations of racism and racial desires in museum and fair displays of Asian and black bodies. The course then examines the influence of ideas of Asia and Asian bodies on African American performances and African American influences on Asian American sites of performance. We then turn to cross-racial alliances in hip hop and activism. The course concludes by exploring contemporary theatrical representations of Asian/Black relationships in such works as Twilight, Los Angeles, 1992 and Satellites. In addition to dramatic texts, we will read key works in Asian American and African American history and cultural studies, along with readings in critical race theory, feminist theory and performance theory.

TTh2:00 PM - 3:30 PM

Spring 2014

Diversity and Inequality at Northwestern University

Description: Emerging from one of the most exciting phases of recent student activism on this campus, this brand new course offers an opportunity to investigate the power and politics of being a student at Northwestern University. By delving into deeply local events, each section analyzes the relevance of the theme to Northwestern University, to other universities and colleges, and analyzes the historical development of these issues. What is the history of our campus and how does that impact our non/belonging? Is there a shared “culture” at Northwestern University? Provocative themes include: affirmative action and admissions; theme parties; campus organizations and multiculturalism; and variations in the “student experience” at Northwestern University. Centrally, this course aims to unpack “diversity,” reveals multiple axes of inequality, and highlight how individuals occupy—and can change—institutions like this one.

TTh3:30 PM - 4:50 PM
The Uses of Diaspora in South Asian American Writing

Description: This course uses twentieth-century South Asian American literature to explore how the diasporic experience can be generative and productive. By asking what we can use diaspora for, we can examine how certain diasporic experiences might enable communities to understand other forms of injustice. How might South Asian American diasporic writing be “useful” for thinking about other but related issues: labor activism, Afro-Asian solidarity, class precariousness, US imperialism, or cosmopolitanism? By asking what diaspora does (or what we can do with it) rather than what diaspora is, this course also calls into question the category of “South Asian American literature.” Given the helpful critiques that Asian American Studies has made to both American Studies and South Asian area studies, we will want to address the porousness of such categories and their frequent reliance on national boundaries. Consequently, we will read texts by, about, and for South Asian Americans – as well as their interlocutors, sympathizers, and colleagues.

MW3:30 PM - 4:50 PM
Race Wars in American Culture

Description: This seminar takes up “race war” as an analytical concept to approach the question of empire in U.S. history and culture. From the conquest of native peoples across the American continent to the Spanish American War, from World War II to the U.S. war in Vietnam, from the Cold War to the “war on terror”—wars have been waged not only in the name of territorial acquisition and diplomacy, but also have shaped ideas about race and nation in U.S. society. We therefore approach the study of race beyond U.S. borders, using interdisciplinary methods to interrogate its formation in transnational and imperial contexts. How have racial ideologies worked to rationalize U.S. conquest, “pacification,” and occupation overseas? In turn, how have these processes reinforced and reified racial concepts, representations, and practices in the United States? In examining these questions, we will pay attention to how historically marginalized subjects including Asian Americans, African Americans, Latinos and other racialized subjects have mobilized responses to wars, from proclaiming their loyalty and patriotism to engaging in more critical acts of protests, within and beyond the United States.

MW11:00 AM - 12:20 PM
Topics in Social and Cultural Analysis: The Chinese American Experience

Description: There is no one “Chinese Americans experience.” This lecture/discussion course strives to introduce students to the multiple, varied, but overlapping experiences of people of Chinese heritage in the United States. Chinese have usually been relegated to the margins of American history, but this course will put them at the center in order to reveal how major events in American history affected the lives of Chinese Americans and how Chinese Americans played important roles in shaping those events. We will address the process of migration and settlement that brought Chinese to America and the economic, political, religious, and colonial contexts of this movement. We will also consider the racialization of Chinese in America; in other words, how other Americans came to view the Chinese race and how Chinese themselves understood their racial status in America. We will examine canonical Chinese American moments and places (like the California Gold Rush, San Francisco Chinatown, the Transcontinental Railroad) but also look for Chinese where they are unexpected (like colonial America, the 1950s South, the Civil Rights Movement). Students will engage a wide variety of primary sources, including memoirs, fiction, political cartoons, government documents, oral histories, and films.

TTH2:00 PM - 3:20 PM
Transitions: Medical Tourism and Theorizing Transnational Studies of Sexuality

Description: This course is situated at the intersection of theoretical, cultural, and medical, and commercial online discourses concerning the burgeoning Sexual Reassignment Surgery (SRS) medical surgeries presented on the world wide web and practiced in Thailand. Using “Trans” theories: transgender, transnational, translation, spatio/temporal, we will discuss the intersections, dialogues, refusals and adoptions when thinking about medical tourism to Thailand. We will examine Thai cultural/historical conceptions of sex and genders, debates concerning bodies and diagnosis that took place during the drafting of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V), International SRS Standards of Care (to be drafted in BKK during the WPATH meeting in February 2014), and changes in presentations of sex/gender related surgeries offered online. Comparative cultural studies, medical discourses, and an archive of web images offering SRS surgeries to Thailand produced by Thais for western clientele will serve as axes for investigating this topic. Assessment: Weekly project-oriented reading and writing/activities, class participation in discussions, and a final project.

TTh12:30 PM - 1:50 PM
Professional Linkage Program: Asian Identity in Cinema

Description: This course looks at America's perceptions of Asians through their portrayal in American mainstream media in contrast to those made in Asia by Asian filmmakers. It is a survey and discussion oriented case studies of representation of Asian and Asian American icons. By comparing films made by Asians and those produced by the American mainstream, major differences in their perspectives and approaches are found. In doing this, the class investigates issues of representation and misrepresentation in mass culture stereotypes of Asians to show how they have been rooted in confusions surrounding cultural differences between Asians and Asian Americans. The course presents Hollywood films; mainstream Asian films, independent works from as well as other visual media such as YouTube submissions and commercial application both the Asian and Asian American communities.

T6:00 PM - 8:50 PM
Asian American Women and Gender Yuh

Description: This seminar course explores the intersections of gender, race, and ethnicity in the experiences of Asian American women. We will examine their construction as gendered and racialized subjects, their activism as workers, mothers, and radicals, and their conceptualization of feminism. As such, the course will focus on issues of gender, sexuality, and feminism. We will discuss the development of Asian American female subjectivities and feminisms, and consider Asian American women’s relationships with mainstream white American feminism, Asian American movements, and the feminist thought of Latina and African American women.

MW12:30 PM - 1:50 PM
American Immigration

Description: This course will examine the history immigrants in the United States. Using a comparative approach, we will consider the origins of immigration, the development of ethnic identities, and the shifts in U.S. attitudes and policies toward immigrants. Why did certain groups come to the United States? To what degree did they assimilate or retain distinct identities? How have native-born Americans view immigrants? And how has U.S. immigration law shaped immigrants’ experiences and race relations in the United States? Today, immigration continues to be an unresolved and contentious political and social issue. In this course, we will consider how past experiences, laws, and attitudes have shaped contemporary social conflicts over border security, national identity, and citizenship

TTh12:30 PM - 1:50 PM