Flags: Cultural Diversity in the U.S. and Writing
As the United States slowly emerges from the global recession of 2009, debates over immigration, the debt ceiling, education, and development loom large. In many, if not all, of these areas different minority populations bear the burden of changing policies and budgets, even as their labor and cultural production continue to sustain the nation. The 2012 US Census reported that Asians were the fastest growing ethnic group in the United States that year, rising from 530,000 in 2011 to almost 19 million in 2012. As a population that has made and continues to make significant contributions to the American economy and American culture more broadly, Asian Americans face an ongoing struggle to assert a sense of belonging in the United States. As a community and as individuals, they must continually negotiate the tensions between life in the United States and ties to their “cultural homelands.” The intersection of “American culture” and “Asian culture” is further complicated by assumptions about how Asian Americans are or are not “at home” in the United States.
This course will explore how Asian American literature attempts to negotiate these tensions. Through a close reading of selected 20th and 21st century Asian American literature, this course will analyze how Asian Americans have worked to resist their exclusion from American culture and politics. We will attempt to unpack the ways in which literary texts assert belonging, negotiate the immigrant experience, and balance the demands of different cultural traditions. In the process, this course will also explore the very definition of “Asian American,” considering the communities that are included and excluded from this collective. In doing so, we will pay close attention to the socio-political histories that inform this category, as well as how the experiences of Asian Americans are shaped by citizenship, class, gender, and sexuality. Various critical perspectives – such as post-colonialism, US legal history, feminism, and popular culture – will inform our readings and analyses.
Over the course of the semester, students will complete four short reading responses, two short essays, and a final essay, in addition to in-class assignments and quizzes. This course carries both a writing flag and a cultural diversity flag.