American Cultural Studies

ACS and ESJ Statement on Anti-Asian Violence

The collective faculty and staff of American Cultural Studies (ACS) and Education and Social Justice (ESJ) co-write this letter with a deep sense of pain and rage.  By now we know that the violent events of March 16th in Cherokee County Georgia have taken the lives of eight individuals – Soon Chung Park (74), Hyun Jung Grant (51), Suncha Kim (69), Yong Ae Yue (63), Delaina Ashley Yaun (33), Xiaojie Tan (49), Daoyou Feng (44), Paul Andre Michels (54)- six of whom were Asian women. Some members of our collective learned the meaning of community from the Asian immigrant women who raised us.  Others approach our work as scholars and educators from a political commitment to collective liberation for all oppressed people.  

We also know that the pain we feel at this moment is shared by many of our students. The majors and minors of our programs often turn to our classes in search of the intellectual tools to not only understand the world in which they live, but also to change it. As our hearts go out to victims’ families and loved ones, we also want to acknowledge the deep emotional trauma that this horrific event has placed upon our students. As a collective, we extend our hands in support and solidarity to all our students.

As we are reeling from the pain of losing more members of our communities to racist and gender-based violence. We know that the events of March 16th in Cherokee County, Georgia are nothing new.  Rather, they are the outgrowth of a violence we are all too familiar with that has deep roots in the United States as a country built upon slavery, settler colonialism, border imperialism, heteropatriarchy and perpetual war. In this case, we bore witness to a particular form of racialized, gender-based violence that is a product of Asian American and Asian immigrant women being hypersexualized, devalued, and dehumanized in this country. Seattle community organization API Chaya notes that this global and state violence facilitates the police surveillance, labor exploitation, trafficking, fetishizing and stigma that impacts daily life for the “immigrant and migrant Asian women [working] at the intersections of care services and sex industry.”  In reference to the actions of the perpetrator of this violence, Robert Aaron Long, pioneering Asian American Studies scholar Elaine Kim recently remarked, “I think it’s likely that the killer not only had a sex addiction but also an addiction to fantasies about Asian women as sex objects.” 

It also bears remembering that this violence begins with a racialized and gendered U.S. imperialism in Asia.  The murders that took place in Cherokee County, Georgia occurred on the 53rd anniversary of the My Lai Massacre, the mass murder of South Vietnamese civilians during the Vietnam War.  In both instances, the lives of Asian women were deemed disposable.  These historical comparisons remind us that our critique of Anti-Asian violence has to be expansive.  In the same breath that we decry the violence that occurred in Cherokee County Georgia, we must denounce the recent police murder of Filipinx American Angelo Quinto, as well as the “slow violence” of the many Asian Americans dealing with housing insecurity, laboring as essential workers, and navigating unjust systems of immigration, detention, and deportation.  

Moreover, the collective pain we all feel is heightened by a public narrative of white innocence: Law enforcement initially attributed Long’s actions to having a “bad day.”  We know Long represents the white terrorism our communities endured for centuries.  Law enforcement's response is familiar: violence against our communities is dismissed or justified by framing our communities as a physical or moral threat. 

This atrocity is part of a historical litany of violent systems that thrive on cultivating divisions and tensions in our communities and justice movements. We look to the legacies of resistance and intersectional (Crenshaw 1990) movement-building within and between our communities. As the Seattle civil rights and labor activist Tyree Scott said, there can be “no separate peace.” As we move forward and seek justice, we must collectively refine the meaning of justice in ways that not only allow all of our communities to survive, but also allows us to fulfill the full potential of our humanity.

In the face of racist and gender-based violence, we are reminded of why we have committed our lives to being educators.  As we work to expand our respective programs, as well as build an institutional space for Ethnic Studies on campus, we are committed to creating classrooms and community spaces that are rooted in joy, healing, and revolutionary love. 

In solidarity,

The collective faculty and staff of ACS and ESJ

Statement of Support from ACS

This week students of WWU’s Black Student Organizations, released a powerful statement that shared their justified anger and frustration at the University and the Associated Students for not addressing real concrete changes that will meet their present and future needs. As they aptly point out, while the administration has issued responses to the recent and ongoing murders of Black people, it has not directly addressed anti-Black violence on our campus. The violence Black students at Western face ranges from microaggressions from fellow students and faculty, the lack of funding for critical positions such as Black mental health counselors, adequate protection from white supremacist groups coming onto campus, and the lack of support for a  vibrant and growing academic program that supports African American studies and faculty, among other things.    

The American Cultural Studies Program acknowledges and supports the Black Student Organizations and their demands for immediate changes. This is not the first time that Black students have risen up and pushed for change. The creation of the original College of Ethnic Studies in the 1960s and the emergence of the American Cultural Studies Program thereafter are direct results of their efforts. While the ACS program has attempted to address some curricular demands, our Program’s and the University’s track record for hiring and retaining Black faculty and meeting the needs of our Black student body falls short of expectations. ACS faculty hear your anger and commit to working with you to change our offerings and hiring practices.

The ACS program director and faculty urge the administration and Associated Students to immediately address the demands of the Black Student Organization and to see the connections between providing support to our Black students on our campus with global racial solidarity being forged now and in the future.

You can read a full copy of their list of demands in this google doc and here is a link to sign their petition.

A group of Western students has formed an anti-racism coalition with the immediate goal of supporting the demands of WWU Black students by pressuring Western to re-allocate funds from the WWU Police Department budget, and a long-term goal of holding Western accountable to making institutional policy changes that reflect their various anti-racism and equity/diversity/inclusion statements.

If you would like to join or support our coalition please use this google survey so that we can email you with more information.

What we do

  • Explore the formation of identities and societies through issues such as race/ ethnicity, social and cultural theory, social economic class, gender and sexual orientation.
  • Concentrate on the Americanization process and American cultural institutions and/or American cultural values.
  • Examine and question the concepts of privilege, silence and voice.
  • Encourage students to become critical thinkers who will be well prepared to work for social change.
  • Cross the disciplines of Social Sciences with Humanities to prepare students for advanced study in law, domestic social services, public service, government service, education or continuing study of Ethnic Studies and other social sciences at the graduate level.

Our mission statement >

Degree Options

Students working within the American Cultural Studies program have multiple options available to them, including ACS majors and minors as well as the TESOL Certification. Students do not have to be admitted to Fairhaven College to major in ACS, and likewise admitted Fairhaven students may choose to complete a traditional WWU Major or Minor, including ACS. WWU Catalog >

 

For more information contact Midori Takagi.

American Cultural Studies Minors

Program of Study >

Contact Dr. Midori Takagi, Director of the American Cultural Studies program, for approval and more information about the American Cultural Studies minor.

American Indian Studies

The minor in American Indian Studies is designed to provide students with an in-depth study of the cultures and traditions, histories and arts of indigenous peoples of the Western Hemisphere. The minor is recommended for students who plan to collaborate with American Indians in research, educational, environmental, creative and political projects. The concentration is interdisciplinary and allows students to combine it with many major designations.

Program of Study >

For ISP guidelines, contact Dr. Midori Takagi. For more information contact the Coordinator of the American Indian Studies Minor concentration: Dr. Midori Takagi, or American Cultural Studies Program Director: Dr. Midori Takagi.

Asian American Studies

The program in Asian American Studies provides for a coherent, integrated and concentrated investigation of peoples of Asian American heritage in North America. It also examines separate experiences of Asian Americans and their positions as ethnic minorities in American society and politics. This is accomplished through concentration on Asian American history and its place in North America, situating the literatures and other cultural publications of Asian Americans in a broad context, and engaging contemporary issues with appropriate analytical tools.

Program of Study >

For ISP and internship guidelines, contact Dr. Midori Takagi. For more information contact Dr. Midori Takagi, coordinator of the Asian American Studies minor concentration, or Dr. Midori Takagi, director of the American Cultural Studies program.

African American Studies

The program in African American Studies provides students with an interdisciplinary approach to the history, culture and politics of peoples of African descent. In addition, this program offers a closer examination of Black leaders, activists, feminists, writers, artists and scholars and their contributions to the development of the United States. Courses range from in-depth studies of specific African American topics to classes on comparative political and cultural issues that give context to the Black experience in America. This minor program can be combined with many major designations.

Program of Study >

For more information, contact Dr. Jean Lee, Coordinator of the African American studies minor concentration, at Jean.Lee@wwu.edu or Dr. Midori Takagi, Director of the American Cultural Studies program.

Raza Latina Studies

The minor program for Raza Latina Studies is designed to educate students about Chicano/Latino cultures and communities. It will provide in-depth study of the history, culture, traditions, politics and experiences of these peoples. This program is recommended for students interested in working with/learning about Chicano/Latino communities. This minor requires 23-27 credits, of which 16 will be required and the remainder, elective. It is recommended that the electives come from the social science, history, literature and language offerings listed below, though other courses may be chosen under advisement of the minor coordinator.

Program of Study >

Students also have the option of framing an Independent Study Project with the approval of the minor coordinator. For ISP guidelines, contact Dr. Lysa Rivera. For more information contact coordinator of the Raza Latina Studies Minor concentration, Dr. Lysa Rivera, or American Cultural Studies Program Director, Dr. Midori Takagi.

Queer Studies

The program in Queer Studies is an interdisciplinary program designed to educate students about the diversity within the GLBT community in the United States, as well as to explore the GLBT contributions to shaping U.S History, culture, literature, and politics.

Program of Study >

For more information, contact: Dr. Raine Dozier, coordinator of the Queer Studies minor or Dr. Midori Takagi, director of the American Cultural Studies program.