Our History

In Fall 2008, Indiana University Bloomington joined the ranks of Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Northwestern, Ohio State, and Minnesota universities in developing an Asian American studies program. With Asian Americans and Latinos being the fastest-growing minority groups in recent years, there was no question of the need to form an academic program that specifically addresses the issues of the various Asian American communities whose presence and impact in society have often been overlooked. As the official proposal for an Asian American studies program states, “[t]he introduction of Asian American issues… will add analytical complexity to the traditional paradigm of black-white relations and redress an often-ignored part of American history and culture.” In addition, the program will “contribute to the university and the College goal of educating students to understand the increasingly global society in which they live.”

The creation of the Asian American Studies Program at Indiana University has been the result of student and faculty initiative, supported by administration and the ongoing efforts of the Asian Culture Center. As part of its advocacy mission, the Asian Culture Center brought together faculty and students to formulate a detailed proposal for an Asian American studies program, which was submitted to the College of Arts and Sciences in fall 2001. A representative cross-section of the student body – from freshmen to doctoral students and business to biology students – signed a petition to express their strong support for the creation of the program. The plan called for the hiring of three new faculty members, including a director, in key disciplines such as history, sociology, anthropology, or literature and the media. The program would first offer an undergraduate minor or certificate in Asian American studies, with a major and PhD minor to be developed in subsequent years. This proposal was unanimously approved by the College Policy Committee in fall 2002. In 2002-03, an Asian American Colloquium series was organized to foster intellectual discussions on Asian American issues on campus as a precursor to the eventual establishment of an AAS program. It was sponsored by the College of Arts and Sciences, the Office of Academic Support and Diversity, the Asian Culture Center, and several other academic departments and programs. The committee invited Professor Gary Okihiro of Columbia University as the keynote speaker because of his substantial contribution to the field. Preceding the talk, Dean Kumble T. Subbaswamy introduced the colloquium series by highlighting the importance of scholarship and instruction on Asian American history and culture in the curriculum.

The primary budgetary hurdle to realizing this program was cleared when a College of Arts and Sciences proposal to promote research and teaching in non-Western area studies and diasporic studies received substantial funding through the campus Commitment to Excellence program. This interdisciplinary proposal covers diasporic communities from Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East, and includes a focus on immigration and acculturation of people from these areas in the United States. Three faculty lines have been designated for new faculty members who will focus on the study of the Asian diaspora in the United States and around the world.