Symposium/CFP: Building Asian American Studies in Polycultural New York

Symposium/CFP: Building Asian American Studies in Polycultural New York


Building Asian American Studies

in Polycultural New York City


Symposium Date – Friday, March 10, 2017

Symposium Location – BMCC Express (255 Greenwich St., NYC),

CUNY Borough of Manhattan Community College

Keynote Speakers – Premilla Nadasen, Associate Professor of History, Barnard College, and Eric Tang, Associate Professor of African & African Diaspora Studies, Univ. of Texas, Austin

Submission Deadline – Monday, December 19, 2016


This symposium is part of a year-long, NEH-funded program focused on expanding and supporting the teaching of Asian American Studies in community college classrooms across the humanities, hosted by the Center for Ethnic Studies at CUNY’s Borough of Manhattan Community College.

The symposium is an opportunity for faculty to share their research within the context of a critical Asian American Studies. We invite presentations that are grounded in the diversity of our local communities in New York City and thus cultivate what historian Robin D. G. Kelley calls a “polycultural” framework, or one that recognizes the interrelationships across different cultures that are neither fixed nor discrete.

A polycultural approach to Asian American Studies enables us to engage contemporary multiracial/multiethnic relationships in spaces that have traditionally been understood as ethnic enclaves. For example, a polycultural reading of Brooklyn’s Sunset Park neighborhood looks beyond its Chinatown to see the convergences and divergences between working-class Asian and Latino communities facing displacement in the context of urban development. This framing allows us to see Jackson Heights, Queens, not simply as a “Little India” but a site in which Latino, Muslim, LGBTQ, and new South Asian Nepali and Bangladeshi communities are differently affected by post-9/11 surveillance and policing. A polycultural approach helps us to attend to sites that are not associated with Asian American communities, such as the Bronx, where Cambodian and Vietnamese refugees build neighborhood resources with and alongside Black communities. We can also see racial/ethnic and religious dynamics within Asian American communities, for example, by looking to neighborhoods like Richmond Hill, Queens, home to the largest concentrations of both Indo-Caribbean and Sikh communities in New York City.

In highlighting scholarship about the dynamic and complex experiences of Asian Americans in New York City, especially the cultures of new, diasporic, and/or refugee immigrant communities, we hope this symposium will contribute to the building of a critical Asian American Studies that is always locally resonant and polycultural.

Submission Details

Presentations will be 10 minutes long and can be individual or collaborative. We especially welcome works-in-progress and creative or nontraditional academic presentations.  Community college faculty and contingent faculty, including but not limited to adjuncts and visiting faculty, are encouraged to submit.  We also welcome submissions from independent scholars, artists, and community-based researchers.

Please email your abstract (max. 250 words) and brief bio or CV (max. 500 words) to by Monday, December 19. Decisions will be sent by mid-January 2017.

Please email with any questions or concerns.

Keynote Speaker Biographies

Premilla Nadasen, Associate Professor of History, Barnard College

Premilla Nadasen is an associate professor of history at Barnard College and a scholar-activist who writes and speaks on issues of race, gender, social policy and labor history.    She is most interested in visions of social change, and the ways in which poor and working-class people, especially women of color, have fought for social justice.  She has published extensively on the multiple meanings of feminism, alternative labor movements, and grass-roots community organizing.  She is the author of two award-winning books, Welfare Warriors: The Welfare Rights Movement in the United States (Routledge 2005) and Household Workers Unite: The Untold Story of African American Women Who Built a Movement (Beacon 2015), a history of domestic worker activism in the post-war period.

Eric Tang, Associate Professor of African & African Diaspora Studies, University of Texas, Austin

Eric Tang is an Associate Professor in the African and African Diaspora Studies Department and faculty member in the Center for Asian American Studies. His first book, entitled Unsettled: Cambodian Refugees in the NYC Hyperghetto (Temple University Press, 2015), is an ethnographic account of refugee life in some of New York City’s most impoverished and socially marginalized neighborhoods.  A former community organizer, Tang has published several articles on race and urban social movements, including award-winning writing on post-Katrina New Orleans.  Tang is currently working on a new book, to be published with the University of Texas Press, entitled East Avenue: African Americans in Austin’s Terrain of Inequality.


Keith Miyake is a graduate of the Earth and Environmental Sciences Program at the CUNY Graduate Center. His work crosses the fields of political economic geography, environmental justice and environmental governance, critical race and ethnic studies, American studies, and Asian American studies. His dissertation examined the institutionalization of environmental and racial knowledges within the contemporary capitalist state.


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