Wellesley to Offer Asian American Studies Minor

March 4, 2013

Courses for New Minor Available Fall 2013

asian american family, 1943, photo Ansel Adams

Asian Americans are the fastest-growing racial group in the United States, with significant internal diversity.

Indeed, Wellesley’s entering class of 2012 had 24.9 percent Asian American students (plus 12.5 percent international, at least half of whom live in Asia). The new minor in Asian American Studies will allow all Wellesley College students the opportunity to learn about a subject area of increasing importance to the country and international community. Asia-U.S. relations matter not only at the level of national policy, but also at the level of individuals' everyday lives and identities.

The five-course minor will be offered through the American Studies Program under the direction of Professor of English Yoon Sun Lee. Starting 2013-2014, courses may be taken toward the minor from East Asian and South Asian Studies, as well as American Studies, History, Psychology, Religion, and other departments as appropriate. Beyond the benefit to students, the new minor “will give rise to exciting new channels of faculty collaboration and interaction—particularly between Psychology and American Studies,” said Lee. “My hope is that it will become a source of academic strength and distinction for the college,” she added.

Wellesley certainly has the expertise to offer the minor. Lee herself has just published Modern Minority: Asian American Literature and Everyday Life (Oxford UniversityPress, 2013). Photos from the same photo shoot as the attached, from War Relocation Authority images of Japanese American barracks, are part of Lee's chapter entitled "Little Things: The Uncanny Everyday of Internment Literature."

Other faculty steeped in Asian American topics include Associate Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies Elena Creef, who researches Asian American visual histories in photography, film, and popular culture; and Professor of Religion James Kodera, whose courses for the American Studies Program include Asian American Experience and the seminar Interning the Enemy Race: Japanese Americans in WWII.

Although relatively new, Asian American Studies has entered the curriculum at several colleges and universities, and Wellesley will be in good company, joining MIT, Cornell, and Claremont-McKenna, among others.

Since its founding in 1994, Wellesley Asian Alliance (WAA) has been advocating for the recognition of Asian American Studies at Wellesley College. Bernice Chan ’16 has summarized how students have helped push for the program in an infographic called Wellesley Asian Alliance: A History of Asian American Activism at Wellesley. In its fall newsletter, WAA wrote: “This is the fruit of many years of hard work, perseverance, and inspiration by supporting faculty, administrators, students, and WAA alumnae.”`

Photo: Library of Congress/Ansel Adams, 1943.

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