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Sharmila Rudrappa, Director BUR 556, Mailcode A2200, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-232-9468

Spring Speaker Series on “Shared Histories?: Asian American, Native American, and Indigenous Studies”

Posted: May 22, 2013
Dr. Paddison, top left, Dr. Rohrer, bottom left, and Dr. Vimalassery, on right.

Dr. Paddison, top left, Dr. Rohrer, bottom left, and Dr. Vimalassery, on right.

By Sam Vong

In spring 2013, the Center for Asian American Studies (CAAS) collaborated with Native American and Indigenous Studies (NAIS) and I to organize a special lecture series titled, “Shared Histories?: Asian American, Native American, and Indigenous Studies.” This series served as the first step in a long-term collaboration between CAAS and NAIS. The series featured scholars whose work bridges the fields of Native American, Indigenous, and Asian American Studies. The objective was to bring to the UT campus innovative scholarship that examines the shared and uneven histories of race and racial formation, colonialism, capitalism, and whiteness between and across Native American, Indigenous, and Asian American communities, to consider how indigeneity and immigration, often presumed to be essentially contradictory experiences, actually share key connections in constructions of the nation-state.

For the series, CAAS and NAIS invited three speakers to address the theme of intersectionality. The first speaker was Dr. Joshua Paddison, a visiting assistant professor at Indiana University, Bloomington, where he teaches courses for the departments of Religious Studies, American Studies, and History. Dr. Paddison’s talk, “Chinese Immigrants, Native Americans, and the Religio-Racial Politics of Reconstruction,” examined the role that religion played in structuring racial hierarchies in the second half of the nineteenth century. The second speaker, Dr. Manu Vimalassery, assistant professor of History at Texas Tech University, presented a talk titled, “Guests in the Land: Asian American through American Indian Studies." Dr. Vimalassery’s presentation explored the potential benefits of framing Asian American Studies through the lens of American Indian Studies, in order to deepen our critique of colonialism. The last speaker, Dr. Judy Rohrer, assistant professor in residence in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at the University of Connecticut at Storrs, concluded the series with her talk, “Staking Claim: Race & Indigineity in Hawai’i,” which critically examined how settler colonialism helped to forge whiteness in Hawai’i, also known as haole.

Each of the presentations drew an audience comprised of faculty, graduate and undergraduate students, and community members of Austin. The series helped to encourage conversations of the productive possibilities and challenges in studying how individuals and communities have negotiated questions of difference, organized against inequalities, and resisted exclusion and oppression. We hope that this series will provide a foundation for future collaborations between CAAS, NAIS, and other centers at UT.

Sam Vong is a visiting Ph.D. candidate in History from Yale University.

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