Asian Studies and Black Lives Matter

“Asian Studies and Black Lives Matter” addresses issues of diversity and equity in the field of Asian Studies through a live online discussion with four distinguished Asian Studies scholars. Moderated by AAS President Christine Yano, the online roundtable addresses concerns regarding diversity in Asian Studies programs and research and opens the floor to questions regarding how we can do better as a scholarly community. William H. Bridges IV, Keisha A. Brown, Yasmine Krings, and Marvin D. Sterling offer their perspectives on the ways in which considerations of race enrich the study of Asia, as well as provide their views on better approaches to support and mentor Black students and scholars of Asia. Following brief presentations and a discussion with President Yano, the panelists respond to audience questions.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020
7:00pm Eastern Time

Session Transcript

Additional Resources

Many of the works and websites listed below were mentioned during the Digital Dialogue session; others have been added later by panelists as further resources.

1619 Project, New York Times

Scholarship of Sarah Ahmed

Black China Caucus

“Black Voices in the China Space” — episode of the Sinica Podcast featuring Keisha A. Brown, Mark Akpaninyie, and Leland Lazarus, September 10, 2020.

Black Voices on Greater China

Black Women Radicals and the Asian American Feminist Collective, “Black and Asian American Feminist Solidarities: A Reading List,” April 2020.

Keisha N. Blain and Tiffany M. Gill (editors), To Turn the Whole World Over: Black Women and Internationalism (University of Illinois Press, 2019).

William Bridges, Playing in the Shadows: Fictions of Race and Blackness in Postwar Japanese Literature (University of Michigan Press, 2020).

Keisha A. Brown and Ruodi Duan, “Teaching China Through Black History,” Fairbank Center blog, January 30, 2019.

Keisha A. Brown, “Sino-Black Relations,” NüVoices podcast, November 16, 2019.

Keisha A. Brown, “Unita Blackwell’s Afro-Asian Internationalism,” Association of Black Women Historians, April 1, 2020.

Jennifer Ho, “Anti-Asian Racism and COVID-19,” slide deck and resources at Colorado Arts and Sciences Magazine.

Japan on the Record Podcast, hosted by Tristan Grunow.

National Association for Black Engagement with Asia

SEAA Resources for Solidarity with The Movement for Black Lives

Isabel Wilkerson, The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration (Vintage, 2010).

Session Panelists

William H. Bridges IV (Ph.D. Princeton University) is Assistant Professor of Japanese at University of Rochester in the Department of Modern Languages and Cultures. Bridges’ research has been recognized by the Fulbright Program, the Japan Foundation, the Association for Asian Studies, and the National Endowment for the Humanities, and his intellectual home is at the intersection of modern Japanese literature, African American literature, and comparative literature. He is interested in studies of the “Black Pacific,” which consider the ebb and flow of black people, thought, and culture throughout the Pacific. Bridges’ first monograph is Playing in the Shadows: Fictions of Race and Blackness in Postwar Japanese Literature (University of Michigan Press, 2020). His previous research—which includes an essay on the reception history of Little Black Sambo in Japan and an edited volume entitled Two Haiku and a Microphone: Traveling Texts and Afro-Japanese Cultural Exchange—has investigated the place of fiction in the construction of racial thinking in postwar and contemporary Japan. He is currently working on two book projects. The first, Toward a New Futurism: Intertemporal Reading and a General Theory of Recreativity, suggests a hermeneutics of futurity in response to the crisis in the humanities. The second, The Black Pacific: Fictional Being, Poetic Universals, and the Unraveling and Reimaging of Racial Existence, considers the development of modern Japanese literature not as the body of fiction produced by an island nation, but as a body of fiction developed on a central port in a transpacific dialogue on racial existence.

Keisha A. Brown (Ph.D. USC) is Assistant Professor of History at Tennessee State University in the Department of History, Political Science, Geography, and Africana Studies. Brown was a 2018–2019 postdoctoral fellow at the James Weldon Johnson Institute for the Study of Race and Difference at Emory University. She is an Asian studies scholar with a regional focus on East Asia specializing in modern Chinese history. Her research and teaching interests include comparative East Asian histories, postcolonial theory, transnational studies, world history, and race and ethnic studies. Brown’s research examines networks of difference in China used to understand the Black foreign other through an investigation of the social and political context that African Americans navigated and negotiated during their time in Maoist China. Her publication, Blackness in Exile: W.E.B. Du Bois’ Role in the Formation of Representations of Blackness as Conceptualized by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), analyzes W.E.B. Du Bois’ performativity of race in China. Brown is currently extending her research on Sino-African American transnational relations to examine ideas of race and ethnicity and Afro-Asian diasporic connections, as evidenced by her blog post, “Teaching China through Black History” (Harvard University Fairbank Center), and essay, “Bridging the Gap: Blackness and Sino-African Relations” (International Institute for Asian Studies).

Yasmine Krings is a Ph.D. student in UCLA’s Asian Languages and Cultures Department. She received a B.A. in East Asian Languages and Cultures from the University of Chicago in 2014 and an M.A. in Regional Studies – East Asia from Harvard University in 2017. Her current research focuses on conceptions and portrayals of mixed-race-ness in postwar Japan across visual and textual media, specifically with respect to how discourse on family and family disorder negotiated legacies of U.S. and Japan empire and was mobilized against a persistent myth of ethnic and racial homogeneity. Her prior work and interests include women’s literature, motherhood, gender and sexuality, blackness, and decolonial studies.

Marvin D. Sterling (Ph.D. UCLA) is Associate Professor of Anthropology and East Asian Languages and Cultures at Indiana University. He is the author of Babylon East: Performing Dancehall, Roots Reggae and Rastafari in Japan (Duke University Press, 2010). Sterling’s research centers on the popularity of a range of Jamaican cultural forms in Japan, mainly roots reggae, dancehall reggae, and Rastafari. He approaches this research from several theoretical perspectives. He incorporates performance studies, for instance, to ethnographically explore the issues of social power—particularly those surrounding life in recessionary Japan—that inform Japanese performative engagement with these cultural forms. Japanese practitioners of profoundly Afrocentric Rastafari afford analysis of how ideas of race and particularly blackness have been constructed and re-imagined around the globe. In a more recent line of research, he has shifted geographical perspectives from Japan to explore the Japanese community in Jamaica, one primarily centered on an interest in learning Jamaican culture at its source. In a second, new line of research he traces the development of human rights discourse in Jamaica, particularly on the grassroots level.