Will Count towards the SMLR - Labor Studies & Employment Relations Major and Minor
Asian Americans are the fastest growing community of both immigrant and native born populations in the United States; yet their low rates of representation in the media, political process, and formal labor market raises pertinent questions about the politics of national belonging. While a small percentage of the Asian American population has experienced upward mobility, the larger majority straddles the poverty line, lacks formal education beyond high school, and participates in the low wage/undocumented worker economy. Yet the community experiences contradictory racial frameworks that oscillate between framing of Asian Americans as a model minority (affluent, highly educated, professionals) or as eternally unassimilable others (culturally backward and/or national security threats). The course explores how historic cultural frameworks have informed the politics of national belonging for the Asian American community. Through the lens of interdisciplinary research in labor studies, students will identify how competing definitions of labor categories, such as free, indentured, and enslaved workers, are connected to the politics of belonging.
The course introduces concepts around nationhood, citizenship, indentured labor, policing/surveillance, and social belonging for Asian Americans. We will cover a range of issues by focusing upon race, gender, class, and sexuality as organizing principles. Students are introduced to how individual choice is connected to the social structure, such as the government, economy, and family.
The category of Asian American represents a variety of communities with historic roots in South Asia, Southeast Asia, Pacific Islands, and East Asia. Asian Americans encompass a wide range of socio-economic backgrounds, cultural heritage, disparate modes of migration and residence within the United States. As such, we will first examine how the category of Asian American has been socially constructed. Second, the course will introduce the range of structural exclusions and acts of resistance navigated by Asian Americans within the U.S. and more globally. Students will build on their abilities of critical thinking, writing skills, and evidence based research. Through use of interactive multimedia, in-class analytic exercises, weekly response memos, and papers, students will understand the connections between labor categories, cultural frameworks, and the politics of belonging.