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Planned Obsolescence, Strategic Resistance: AA Studies & Neoliberal Uni

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Asian American / Asian Research Institute - CUNY

25 West 43rd Street

Room 1000

New York, NY 10036

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Set within an all-too-real administrative imaginary of budget cuts, metric-laden assessments, programmatic justifications, and shrinking faculty lines, Ethnic Studies (along with Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies) occupies a decidedly precarious position within the so-termed “corporate university.” If student strikes and Civil Rights movements instantiated the original institutionalization of ethnic studies as a necessary interdisciplinary field of inquiry, the current state of academic affairs reflects a long-standing neoconservative, laissez-faire “planned obsolescence” (to quickly access Kathleen Fitzpatrick’s provocative analytic). Such planning – which took shape vis-à-vis joint appointments, “soft” funding lines, constant restructuring, and divisive resource allocations – has made possible the relatively facile elimination (or “sunsetting”) of African American, Native, Asian American, and Latino/a studies programs across the country. To wit, while the mid-century emergence of Ethnic Studies and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies represented a collegiate revolution via the formation of new departments and academic units, the institutional demise of these programs at the turn-of-the-twenty-first century was nevertheless planned from the outset.

It is against this admittedly dystopic backdrop of planned obsolescence, which reflects and refracts the foci of Flashpoints for Asian American Studies (Fordham University Press 2017), that this presentation considers possible sites and administrative practices of strategic resistance. If, as Kandice Chuh avers, integral to an Asian Americanist critique is the very constructedness of “Asian American” formations, such evaluations potentially prove useful inassessing the past, present, and future of Ethnic Studies. At the same time, the notion that such a critique, according to Lisa Lowe, “tirelessly reckons” with the past engenders a new way of seeing howEthnic Studies remains resistively “relevant” within and outside the corporate university.

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Cathy J. Schlund-Vials is Professor of English and Asian/Asian American studies at the University of Connecticut (Storrs); she is also Associate Dean for Humanities and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in UConn’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Prior to this appointment, she served as the Director of the Asian and Asian American Studies Institute (2009-2018). In addition to published book chapters, articles, reviews, and edited collections, she is the author of two monographs: Modeling Citizenship: Jewish and Asian American Writing and War, Genocide, and Justice: Cambodian American Memory Work. She has edited and coedited a number of anthologies and collections, which include Disability, Human Rights, and the Limits of Humanitarianism, Keywords for Asian American Studies, Interrogating the Perpetrator: Violation, Culpability, and Human Rights, Beiging of America: Personal Narratives about Being Mixed Race in the Twenty-First Century, Flashpoints for Asian American Studies, and Asian America: A Primary Source Reader, among others. She is a coeditor for Temple University Press’s Asian American History and Culture series and was the president of the Association for Asian American Studies (AAAS, 2016–2018).

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Asian American / Asian Research Institute - CUNY

25 West 43rd Street

Room 1000

New York, NY 10036

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