AIA: Studying the Asian presence
in the Americas.
Message From The Editor
In 2001 when I finished my dissertation and was embarking on a new career in academia, I was certain that I, like so many other newly-minted PhDs before me, would change the Academy. My dissertation topic, poetry by people of Asian descent in the Americas, was fairly new in the field of Latin American literature. While there were others who had engaged in discussion about their histories, this study was one of the first to address cultural production. I was certain that my ideas would be welcome with open arms and lauded for their progressive nature and inclusivity.
I quickly realized how wrong I was. Not only was I teaching a 4-4 load that left me little time for research and starting a family, which would drain even more of my time, I found not even a luke-warm reception from Academia. More often than not I received puzzled looks from the few audience members who would attend my panels. There were no panels exclusively dedicated to this topic and I often was the odd duck, the sole paper that focused on Asian-Latin Americans in a field of discussions of marginalization that engaged indigenous or Afro experiences. I would get the obligatory comment regarding Fujimori and Peru, or perhaps something about a canonical writer's orientalist influences, but beyond that, I received no questions. In essence, I felt marginalized on panels about marginalization.
Eventually I met two colleagues, now friends: Zelideth Rivas and Alejandro Lee. We were eating noodles with Roshni Rustomji-Kerns, lamenting this lack of visibility of anything to do with Asians in Latin America in Academia. We decided that I would host a symposium whose focus would be any aspect of what it means to be Asian in the Americas, which we did in 2012. The group was small but for the first time, we all felt we had a space filled with those who understood what we were doing. I'll never forget that feeling of finally being understood and engaged intellectually and spiritually. We wanted that feeling to continue, and the symposium has continued ever since, offering this space.
In 2015 my friends and colleagues, Luisa Ossa and Hsiao-Ping Hu Biehl, offered to cohost the symposium at LaSalle University. As we talked about the symposium, we realized we needed a space that would be dedicated to this topic. Many scholars had mentioned this previously so we decided it was time to accept the challenge. Through Hsiao-Ping, her husband, Chris and Floyd Lockhart's help, we were able to create a journal called the Journal of Asians in the Americas and launch the Asians in the Americas Association and website.
The goal of this association and this journal is simple: offer a forum for people who are interested in this topic, the space to explore what it means to be Asian in the Americas. We welcome divergent ideas, both academic and non-academic. We welcome new and seasoned scholars both; we welcome community members who have a story to tell. We realize we are small, we are new, and we are unknown. But we have what is often lacking in such endeavors: a sincere interest in promoting dialogue and ideas. For us this is a social, as well as academic, endeavor. We look forward to adding your voice to the discussion.
* Debbie Lee-DiStefano *
About The AIA
Asians in the Americas Association is an organization devoted to the study, research, and discussions of the Asian presence in the Americas. The AIA strives to be a resource regarding the many points of contact for people of Asian descent living in the Americas. AIA members are encouraged to share their work, scholarly and/or non-academic, in the interest of promoting understanding and further insight into the Asian communities and their histories, cultures, religions, and societies in relation to their experiences in all American nations. Members who are interested in publishing their findings in our journal can visit Journal of Asians in the Americas for further information.
Posting To The AIA Site
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