Asian American Lit & Theory

ENG 735Q: Asian American Literature & Theory: Asian American Relationalities


TR 6:00 – 8:30, Professor Candace Fujikane



Asian American literature and theory can be understood as assemblages of various modes of literary and cultural representation, analysis and critique that emerged at the intersection of global and domestic struggles for liberation. If we take the 1968-1969 Third World Student Strikes at San Francisco State University and U.C Berkeley demanding scholarly programs for the study of African Americans, Asian Americans, Chicanos and Native Americans as a starting point, we can see the historical necessity for a solidarity committed to what Daryl Maeda describes as “interracialism” and “internationalism.” As Asian American students worked to build alliances with African American, Chicano, and American Indian students, they also looked to anti-imperialist student-led liberation movements in Asia, Africa and South America.  Since then, the formation of a “critical ethnic studies” has raised questions for scholars about the ways in which ethnic studies academic frameworks have over time begun to reproduce the logics of liberal multiculturalism and U.S. nation-building under the imperatives of global capitalism. A critical ethnic studies engages the intersectionality of ethnic studies with critiques of heteropatriarchy, genocide, globalization, capitalism, and settler colonialism.  Asian American writers and artists imagine and enact radically transformative social and political relationships within Asian American communities and among different ethnic/racial and Indigenous groups in the United States.


In this course, we will trace some of the major historical shifts in the field of Asian American literary, cultural and critical studies. We will begin by contextualizing the transformative ways that Asian American writers and artists have articulated their positionalities in relation to historical events that include movements against the World Trade Organization (WTO), the rise of the Black Lives Matter Movement and the Boycott, Divest, and Sanction (BDS) Movement, the movement to stand with Native Americans and Kanaka Maoli to protect sacred lands and waters, and movements against global climate change. How do Asian American writers, artists, and critics explore aesthetic forms of representation to articulate the stakes of these movements? How are Asian American cultural productions key in enabling alliances to build a broad movement for civil and human rights? What are the material contradictions they pose, and how can we approach these contradictions in ways that are enabling rather than disabling? How do these alliances work on a global scale in anti-capitalist movements?  Throughout the course, we will consider the ways that Asian American writers, artists and critics envision and enact agency, alliances and political transformation.


Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs):  Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs) include an awareness of the contributions of Asian American literature and theory to the formation of the contemporary field of English Studies–including such subfields as twentieth century American literature, ethnic literature, rhetoric, cultural studies, indigenous land-based literacy and visual literacy–an understanding of advanced research methods, written and oral ability to place one’s own scholarly work within a broader critical conversations, independent research using primary and secondary sources.


Required texts (will be available at the UH Bookstore):

Yuri Kochiyama, Passing It On: A Memoir (2004)

Frank Chin, Chickencoop Chinaman/Year of the Dragon (1971/1974)

Maxine Hong Kingston, Tripmaster Monkey: His Fake Book (1990)

Monique Truong, The Book of Salt (2004)

Ocean Vuong, On Earth Weʻre Briefly Gorgeous (2019)

Sunil Yapa, Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist (2016)

Gina Apostol, Insurrecto (2018)

Lisa Lowe, Immigrant Acts: On Asian American Cultural Politics (1996)

Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of

Life in Capitalist Ruins (2015)

Cathy Schlund-Vials, ed., Flashpoints for Asian American Studies (2017)

A course reader


Assignments and course requirements: Short writing assignments that will help to build toward your final research project (25%), two presentations, one on a reading assignment (10%) and one on the final project (5%), one 5-7 page project proposal that outlines the objectives of the seminar paper with a bibliography of at least ten entries (10%); 20-page seminar paper (50%), attendance and participation.