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Deepening our Learning During Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month

May is Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month (APAHM) and at UConn, this month is celebrated each year in April. As we recognize APAHM this year, we have been reflecting on the increase in anti-Asian violence and racist attitudes that we have seen over the past year in the United States and in our own university community. The HESA program expresses our solidarity with the Statement on Anti-Asian Violence released by the UConn Association for Asian American Faculty and Staff last month. 

We echo our colleagues’ sentiments about the need to systemically fighting anti-Asian racism: “What is happening is wrong and we must stand together to not only identify and call-out this kind of behavior and its bad actors; but we must work systemically and synergistically to change culpable aspects of our university and society, to ultimately eradicate this malignancy” (UConn AAAFS). Toward this aim, our program has committed to three goals: 

  1. Enhance our curriculum and course syllabi to be more critically-inclusive of Asian and Asian American experiences in higher education;
  2. Host a set of teach-ins to better demonstrate our commitment to a more critically-inclusive curriculum; and
  3. Continue to work with our campus partners to share and receive best practices on cultural competencies and solidarity initiatives.

Though we intended to hold our teach-ins in April, our HESA community experienced an unexpected tragedy during that time, so we have chosen to delay these events until a future date. However, we still want to offer a set of virtual learning resources to our HESA community based on filmmaker and UCLA professor Renee Tajima-Peña’s PBS documentary series “Asian Americans.” We hope that members of our community will engage with and learn from these resources to deepen their understanding about the Asian American experience. 

Interviews with Filmmaker Renee Tajima-Peña

New Yorker interview with Renee Tajima-Peña about the History of Anti-Asian Violence in the U.S. 

NPR Podcast Interview with Renee Tajima-Peña about the Docuseries “Asian Americans”

PBS Documentary Series “Asian Americans” 

Episode 1: “Breaking Ground” 

In an era of exclusion and U.S. empire, new immigrants arrive from China, India, Japan, the Philippines and beyond. Barred by anti-Asian laws they become America’s first “undocumented immigrants,” yet they build railroads, dazzle on the silver screen, and take their fight for equality to the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Episode 2: “A Question of Loyalty” 

An American-born generation straddles their country of birth and their parents’ homelands in Asia. Those loyalties are tested during World War II, when families are imprisoned in detention camps, and brothers find themselves on opposite sides of the battle lines.”

Episode 3: “Good Americans” 

During the Cold War years, Asian Americans are simultaneously heralded as a Model Minority, and targeted as the perpetual foreigner. It is also a time of bold ambition, as Asian Americans aspire for the first time to national political office and a coming culture-quake simmers beneath the surface.”

Episode 4: “Generation Rising” 

“During a time of war and social tumult, a young generation fights for equality in the fields, on campuses and in the culture, and claim a new identity: Asian Americans. The war’s aftermath brings new immigrants and refugees who expand the population and the definition of Asian America.”

Episode 5: “Breaking Through”

“At the turn of the new millennium, the country tackles conflicts over immigration, race, economic disparity, and a shifting world order.  A new generation of Asian Americans are empowered by growing numbers and rising influence but face a reckoning of what it means to be an American in an increasingly polarized society.”

In Solidarity with our Asian and Asian American Community

Dear HESA Community,

Just a few days ago, we wrote to you with heavy hearts to name, acknowledge, and reckon with the racial violence impacting BIPOC communities, particularly Asian and Asian American communities. We have few words to express the sadness we feel as we mourn the murder of eight people in Atlanta, of which six were Asian and Asian American women. These murders are horrific and we ache at the continued violence hurled at Asian and Asian American people.

To our Asian and Asian American community members, we grieve with you. We understand this violence is part of a long-standing anti-Asian history that continues today. And, we acknowledge our responsibility to show up in our practice and in our community in solidarity and with love.

We strongly encourage our HESA community to attend a virtual panel this evening March 18 at 5pm ET on “Asians in America: Anti-Asian Violence and the Fight Against Invisibility” which will feature UConn students, faculty, and staff; provide perspectives on today’s climate; and discuss its impact on UConn’s Asian and Asian American community. Register for the event here. 

We in HESA continue our resolve to be more inclusive and supportive of our Asian and Asian American community members. We are committed and continue to work on the following:

  • Enhance our curriculum and courses to be more critically-inclusive of Asian and Asian American experiences in higher education;
  • Host a set of teach-ins on April 7th and 8th for our students to better demonstrate our commitment to a more critically-inclusive curriculum; and
  • Continue to work with our campus partners to share and receive best practices on cultural competencies and solidarity initiatives.

In solidarity, and with love,

HESA Faculty

Exploring Intersectionality Methodology During Women’s History Month

Saran Steward, headshot
Dr. Saran Stewart

During this Women’s History month, we want to consider, in particular, the intersectional oppression that impacts the lives and experiences of women and girls. In this post, we explore the concept of intersectionality by focusing on our own Dr. Saran Stewart’s work with several colleagues of conceptualizing an Intersectional Methodology (IM).

Intersectionality is a concept coined by legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1991. Crenshaw offered the idea that legal analyses on a single-axis of Black women and women of color’s identities (race only, or gender only), contributes to their erasure (Haynes et al., 2020). Crenshaw argued for an analysis that examines the intersections of race, gender, and class in understanding the unique forms of domination that Black women experience. As Haynes and colleagues (2020) point out, Crenshaw’s analysis was “…rooted in the legacy of Black feminism, which contends that the experiences of Black women and girls illuminate a particular understanding of their position in relation to sexism, class oppression, racism, and other systems of domination” (Haynes et al., 2020, p. 3). Intersectionality is often used as a theoretical framework in higher education research, but Dr. Stewart and colleagues aimed to understand how intersectionality is used in research methodology.

In a 2020 paper, Dr. Stewart and several colleagues used a literature synthesis to explore how scholars drew on intersectionality within their research methods, with the aim of “provid[ing] scholars with a nuanced methodological approach for taking up intersectionality in their study of Black women in education research, and social science research broadly” (Haynes et al., p. 13). They found that scholars who engaged Crenshaw’s intersectionality framework tended to employ four strategies in applying intersectionality to their research methods, which they termed Intersectional Methodology (IM):

  • Feature 1: Centralize Black Women as the Subject
  • Feature 2: Use of a Critical Lens to Uncover the Micro-/Macro-Level Power Relations
  • Feature 3: Address How Power Shapes the Research Process
  • Feature 4: Bring the Complex Identity Markers of Black Women to the Fore

“Our analysis suggests that intersectional interventions in higher education are needed because not all Black women (or Black people or women of color, for that matter) experience oppression in exactly the same way. IM presents researchers with the opportunity and ability to generate data-driven intersectional interventions that are transdisciplinary, effective, and focused on the needs of Black women” (Haynes et al., 2020, p. 31).

Dr. Stewart and her colleagues’ work articulating Intersectional Methodology “presents researchers with the opportunity and ability to generate data-driven intersectional interventions that are transdisciplinary, effective, and focused on the needs of Black women” (Haynes et al., 2020, p. 31). To read the full article, click here.

Dr. Stewart also presented a talk for the Center for Education Policy Analysis, Research, and Education this fall on Intersectional Methodology. You can view the full recording and transcript of the talk here.  Dr. Stewart and her colleagues’ work provides an important guide for scholars conducting research about Black women, ensuring that intersectionality is not an abstraction, but meaningfully applied into research methods and interventions.

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