Performances, Presentations, and Roundtable Discussions on Ethnic Studies in a Liberal Arts Curriculum

October 18, 2013

Wellesley hosts its first Ethnic Studies Conference on October 19, marking the inauguration of the Asian American Studies minor, and opening the way for a broader consideration of the place of ethnic studies at the college.

“The goal is to learn about current directions in this field, and to think about what alliances and strategies have been productive both in theory and in practice,” said Professor of English Yoon Sun Lee, director of the Asian American Studies program and one of the organizers of the event along with fellow faculty, student leaders, and members of the administration. Lee hopes the event will illuminate the kinds of research scholars are pursuing in a variety of fields, including African-American, Asian-American, Latino, and native/post-colonial studies.

Beginning at 10am on Saturday, the full-day conference will bring together students, Wellesley faculty and staff, distinguished faculty from other institutions, and a showcase of spoken-word performers for four roundtable sessions and a lunchtime networking event. The roundtables will address the following questions: What is ethnic studies? What kinds of research are scholars currently engaged in? How does ethnic studies intersect with other fields of study and activism such as gender studies? What can we learn from the ways in which ethnic studies has been instituted at other liberal arts colleges and universities? What role can ethnic studies play in larger debates about immigration and national identity?

The conference opens the night of October 18th with a linked spoken-word showcase that includes student performers as well as national Brave New Voices champion Amanda Torres, all-female and all-Asian American comedy troupe Dis/orient/ed, internationally acclaimed spoken word artist and another Brave New Voices champion Joshua Bennett who performed at President Obama’s Evening of Music and Poetry at the White House, and others. The showcase is from 6pm-8pm in Jewett Auditorium.

“The Ethnic Studies Conference is not just a forum for debate and dialogue, but also a chance for many intellectual exercises and real, concrete, comprehensive thinking about how we can fit ethnic studies better into the Wellesley curriculum,” said Multicultural Affairs Coordinator Safaya Fawzi ’14, another student leader involved in the planning of the event.

Fawzi explained that many Wellesley students have taken classes that fall into the category of ethnic and diasporic studies. “These classes not only enrich the experience and representation, inclusion, and recognition of Wellesley students from diverse backgrounds, but also provide a deeper educational forum for learning about a history and set of narratives outside of Wellesley that through lack of exposure within many American and international high schools is often ignored,” she said.