Black Power, Yellow Peril: Towards a Politics of Afro-Asian Solidarity

Professor: Diane Wong

In this interdisciplinary seminar, we will explore basic concepts and theories for analyzing historical and contemporary moments of Black and Asian relations in the United States. We will survey the literature in political science, ethnic studies, sociology, anthropology, history, and other disciplines to explore how race and racialization processes are articulated over time for both groups and entangled with other social structures including class, gender, and nation. Topics include but are not limited to ethnic and panethnic identities, globalization, diasporic intimacies, immigration, Islamophobia, incarceration, displacement, and genealogies of resistance. In particular, emphasis will be placed on the question of political agency and moments of solidarity that range from the Black Liberation Movement to the Asian American Movement in the 1960s and the contemporary Movement for Black Lives to the Model Minority Mutiny. Texts include Christina Sharpe’s In the Wake: On Blackness and Being, Afro Asia: Revolutionary Political and Cultural Connections by Fred Ho, Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination by Robin D.G. Kelley, and From Black Lives Matter to Black Liberation by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor. As we read these texts, students will be exposed to intersectional, comparative, and emergent approaches to the study of race, culture, diaspora, and politics that can inform contemporary racial justice movements.

This course has several substantive objectives: 1) to introduce students to a wide range of primary and secondary materials to understand Black and Asian relations in the United States 2) to encourage students to think critically about the world and to develop a better understanding of similarities and differences across racial and ethnic communities, including approaches to build solidarity across time and space 3) to learn about diverse research methodologies including qualitative, quantitative, experimental, and community-centered research and how to produce scholarship that extends beyond the campus. Throughout the seminar, students will learn about a wide spectrum of intellectual leaders, organizations, and institutions, many of which are located in different parts of New York City.

Required Texts

  1. Christina Sharpe’s In the Wake: On Blackness and Being
  2. Fred Ho’s Afro Asia: Revolutionary Political and Cultural Connections
  3. Robin D.G. Kelley’s Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination

Course Requirements

Attendance​: This seminar is designed to be participatory and collaborative, attendance is necessary for you to understand the course material. I ask for regular attendance and will keep track of absences. You are allowed one unexcused absence from class. Each additional unexcused absence will reduce your participation grade by one third of a letter. If you are unable to attend due to illness or emergency you should notify me before class begins.

Reading​: The weekly readings for this seminar will range from 100 to 150 pages. It is expected that you complete all assigned reading before class on the day for which it is assigned. Bring the texts with you to class so that we can refer to them when you or your classmates discuss the respective readings. I reserve the right to make changes to our syllabus throughout the semester.

Participation​: I foster a relaxed classroom environment and hope that students will come to class prepared to share, listen, discuss, and challenge each other to grow together. Be ready to discuss the readings assigned for each week, actively engaging the material will help make this course more interesting and relevant for everyone. I understand that everyone has different comfort levels in terms of speaking up in the classroom. If you find yourself feeling this way at any point, I encourage you to come to office hours so that we can discuss strategies for increasing your class participation.

Assignment Overview

Weekly Memos: Each week you will be required to write a short reflection memo about the readings that will be uploaded to the blog section in NYU Classes. Your reflections should weave together major themes explored in our readings and respond with initial thoughts or questions that will provoke a substantive discussion. The purpose of these reflections is not to summarize the readings but to generate thoughtful discussion in class.

Personal and Family History Zine: There are different ways to record and tell our individual and collective stories, through oral narratives, photographs, shared meals, rituals, and so much more. For this assignment you will create a zine that explores the various themes as we have discussed in class through a particular recipe. There are several steps to this project. The first step is to go back in time — record the smells, sounds, sights, and memories that come out of the kitchen. The second is to reach out to your family or chosen family, ask them about the recipe, where they learned to make the dish, how the recipe has changed over time, where they go to buy the ingredients, what memories they associate with the flavors. Have them tell you stories that are linked to the recipe. The third is to write it all down, what are the larger themes in our diasporic histories that the recipe reveals? In addition to the recipe itself, the zine can incorporate a variety of genres and forms including poetry, quotes from your conversations, illustrations, photographs, short essays, etc. You will turn your zine in along with a half to one page project statement that analyzes the zine in the context of the course. The zine is due in class on Monday, October 21. I will ask each of you to put together a short presentation to share your process with everyone in class. The slide slam presentations should be five minutes long and feature five slides at most.

Afro-Asian Solidarity Public History and Mapping Project: We will spend the first several weeks of the seminar learning about various moments and sites of Afro-Asian solidarity. In a series of collaborative brainstorming sessions, each of you will be asked to identify a site of interest in New York City for a public history and mapping project. As part of this project, each student will be required to visit the site several times over the course of the semester to either: 1) conduct one oral history interview with a community member of your choice or 2) curate a community archive of materials about the site. Part of this project involves drawing from your own research to collaboratively design an interactive map that explores Afro-Asian political intimacies in New York City. Throughout this process, we will consider these questions: What are ethical ways to conduct public research? What are your responsibilities to the communities you choose to write about? What are the ways in which archives and oral histories can build community power? Your individual contribution to this project is due Monday, December 2. Towards the end of the semester, we will visit some of these sites together as a class.

Final Research Project: I will assign a final 10–12 page research paper at the end of the semester. The paper will allow you to select a topic of interest that critically engages issues related to contemporary Afro-Asian American politics and diasporic cultures. Students are expected to draw from academic sources and discuss relevant themes from the assigned readings or other course materials. The paper is broken down into two smaller parts: 1) 1–2 page research proposal and annotated bibliography and 2) in class peer review session three weeks before the final version is due. To become more effective writers, I will also make time during our seminar to provide you with the opportunity to workshop ideas collaboratively. The final paper is due Monday, December 16.

Grading Policy

Weekly Memos…………………………………………………..15%
Personal and Family History Zine……………………..…….….20%
Afro-Asian Solidarity Public History and Mapping Project…...20%
Final Paper……………………………………………………..…20%

Other Course Information

Email Policy​: Feel free to email me with questions or to set up an appointment outside of office hours. Longer discussions and all conversations about grades must take place in person. I will check my email more frequently during the school week and before assignments are due. Please do not wait until the last minute. There is no guarantee that I will receive, read, and respond to last minute requests or questions.

Electronic Devices:​ The success of our seminar rests on active participation. Laptops and tablets will be allowed for tasks relevant to the class. If laptops are misused, students will lose points from their participation grade and be prohibited from bringing laptops to future class meetings. I expect that you will abstain from texting, sending emails, and doing other work during class.

Campus Resources

Students with Disabilities​: ​Academic accommodations are available for students with disabilities. Please contact the Moses Center for Students with Disabilities (212–998–4980) or email for information. Students who require academic accommodations are encouraged to reach out to the Moses Center as early as possible in the semester for assistance​.

Statement of Nondiscrimination: ​New York University is committed to maintaining an environment that encourages and fosters appropriate conduct among all persons and respect for individual values. The University enforces non-discrimination and anti-harassment policy and complaint procedures at all levels to create an environment free from discrimination, harassment, and sexual assault. Discrimination or harassment based on race, gender and/or gender identity or expression, color, creed, religion, age, national origin, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, pregnancy, marital status, citizenship, or on any other legally prohibited basis is unlawful and will not be tolerated.

Academic Integrity

As a Gallatin student you belong to an interdisciplinary community of artists and scholars who value honest and open intellectual inquiry. This relationship depends on mutual respect, responsibility, and integrity. Failure to uphold these values will be subject to severe sanction, which may include dismissal from the University. Examples of behaviors that compromise the academic integrity of the Gallatin School include plagiarism, illicit collaboration, doubling or recycling coursework, and cheating. ​Plagiarism means knowingly misrepresenting someone else’s work as your own. This includes offenses like buying a paper off the Internet, as well as appropriating another author’s words or ideas without citation. ​If uncertain, you can consult the Gallatin website:​.

Course Schedule

Week 1: Introduction

Monday, September 9
— Introductions

Week 2: When and Where I Enter

Monday, September 16
— Gary Okihiro (1994) Margins and Mainstreams, “Is Yellow Black or White” and “When and Where I Enter”
— Christina Sharpe (2016) In the Wake: On Blackness and Being, “The Wake”
— Robin D.G Kelley (2003) Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination, “When History Sleeps” and “When History Wakes”

Week 3: The Atlantic World and Enslavement

Monday, September 23
— Christina Sharpe (2016) In the Wake: On Blackness and Being, “The Ship”
— Stephanie Smallwood (2008) Saltwater Slavery: A Middle Passagee from Africa to American Diaspora “The Political Economy of the Slave Ship”
— Saidiya Hartman (2006) Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route, “Prologue: The Path of Strangers”
— Saidiya Hartman (2008) “Venus in Two Acts” in Small Axe
— Lisa Yun (2008) The Coolie Speaks: Chinese Indentured Laborers and African slaves in Cuba, “Historical Context of the Coolie Traffic to the Americas”
— Rona Akbari (2017) “How to Create a Zine” in Creative Independent.
—Amita Manghnani visits from the Asian/Pacific/American Institute

Week 4: Entangled Colonial Histories and Intimacies

Monday, September 30
— Gary Okihiro (1994) Margins and Mainstreams, “Family Album History”
— Lisa Lowe (2015) The Intimacy of Four Continents, “Introduction”
— Lisa Yun (2008) The Coolie Speaks: Chinese Indentured Laborers and African slaves in Cuba, “The Coolie Testimonies” and “Chinese Freedom Fighters in Cuba: From Bondage to Liberation”
— Vivek Bald (2015) Bengali Harlem and the Lost Histories of South Asian America, “Bengali Harlem”
— Jaeah J. Lee (2018) The Forgotten Zine of 1960s Asian American Radicals” on Off Topic.
— Zine making workshop with Em He, Barnard Feminist Zine Collective and Ramija Alam, CAAAV’s Asian Youth in Action Summer Leadership Program

Week 5: North American Enslavement and Genealogies of Resistance

Monday, October 7
— Stephanie Camp (2004) Closer to Freedom: Enslaved Women and Everyday Resistance in the Plantation South, “Intoxication of Pleasurable Amusement: Secret Parties and the Politics of the Body”
— Robin D.G Kelley (1993) “We Are Not What We Seem: Rethinking Black Working-Class Opposition in Jim Crow South,” in Journal of American History
— Lisa Yun (2008) The Coolie Speaks: Chinese Indentured Laborers and African slaves in Cuba, “The Petitions”
— Alessandro Portelli (1998) The Oral History Reader, edited by Alistair Thomson and Robert Perks, “What Makes Oral History Different”

Week 6: What is Politics?

Monday, October 15
Robin D.G Kelley (1994) Race Rebels: Culture, Politics, and the Black Working Class, “The Riddle of the Zoot: Malcolm Little and Black Cultural Politics During World War II”
bell hooks (1990) yearning, race, gender and cultural politics, “choosing the margin as a space for radical openness”
— Andrea Roberts (2018) “Performance as Place Preservation: The Role of Storytelling in the Formation of Black Counter Publics”
— Linda Shopes (2002) “Oral History and the Study of Communities: Problems, Paradoxes, and Possibilities,” in Journal of American History

Week 7: Black Power and Third World Liberation

Monday, October 21
— Robin D.G Kelley (2003) Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination, “Roaring From the East: Third World Dreaming”
— Diane Fujino (2008) Afro Asia, “Black Liberation Movement and Japanese American Activism: Radical Activism of Richard Aoki and Yuri Kochiyama”
— Daryl Joji Maeda (2009) Chains of Babylon: The Rise of Asian America, “Black Panthers, Red Guards, and Chinamen”
— Stephen Ward (2006) Rethinking the Civil Rights Black Power, “ Third World Women’s Alliance: Black Feminist Radicalism and Black Power Politics”
Glenn Omatsu (2000) Asian American Studies Reader, “Four Prisons” and the Movements of Liberation: Asian American Activism 1960s -1990s”
Guest Lecturer, Zifeng Liu, PhD Candidate in Africana Studies and Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Cornell University

Week 8: The Dialectic of Yellow Peril and Model Minority

Monday, October 28

— Ishle Park (2008) Afro Asia, “Samchun in the Grocery Store”
— Gary Okihiro (1994) Margins and Mainstreams: Asians in American History and Culture, “Perils of the Body and Mind”
— Tiffany Diane Tso (2018) “Nail Salon Brawls and Boycotts: Unpacking the Black Asian Conflict in America.”
— Mari J. Matsuda (1996) Where Is Your Body, “We Will Not Be Used: Are Asian Americans the Racial Bourgeoisie?”

Week 9: Towards a Movement for Black Lives

Monday, November 4
— Christina Sharpe (2016) In the Wake: On Blackness and Being, “The Hold”
— Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor (2016) From Black Lives Matter to Black Liberation, “Black Lives Matter: Movement Not Moment”
— Movement for Black Lives Platform and Demands
— Soya Jung (2014) “What a Model Minority Mutiny Demands” in RaceFiles
— Annie Tan (2016) “Peter Liang Was Justly Convicted , He’s Not a Victim, Says the Niece of Vincent Chin,” on Medium
— Mark Tseng-Putterman (2017) “On Vincent Chin and the Kind of Men You Send to Jail,” in Asian American Writers Workshop’s The Margins
— Letters for Black Lives (2017) “An Open Letter to Our Families About Black Lives Matter

Week 10: Cultural Production Practices and Possibilities

Monday, November 11
— Yusef Omowale (2018) We Already Are, on Medium
— Lisa Lowe (1998) “Work, Immigration, Gender: New Subjects of Cultural Politics” in Journal of Asian American Studies
Cheryl Higashida (2008) Afro Asia: Revolutionary Political and Cultural Connections, “Not Just a “Special Issue”: Gender, Sexuality, and Post-1965 Afro Asian Coalition Building in Yardbird and This Bridge Called my Back”
— Rachel Kuo, (2018) “Building an Asian American Feminist Movement,” digital zine for the Asian American Feminist Collective
— Ann-Derrick Gaillot (2017) “Why Art Collectives are Gaining Ground: NYC-based BUFU is Using Art as a Means of Black-Asian Solidarity
Guest Lecturer, BUFU Collective

Week 11: Decolonization Is Not a Metaphor

Monday, November 18
— Eve Tuck and K Wayne Yang (2012) “Decolonization Is Not a Metaphor” in Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education, and Society.
— Poka Laenui (2006) “Process of Decolonization”
— Janani Balasubramanian (2013) “What Do We Mean When We Say Colonized?” in BDGBlog.
—Luz Calvo and Catriona Rueda Esquibel (2016) Decolonize your Diet: Plant-Based Mexican American Recipes for Health and Healing, “Introduction” and “Decolonize!”
— Class visit AFRO SYNCRETIC exhibit, curated by Yelaine Rodriguez

Week 12: Abolition, Reparations, and Insurgent Politics

Monday, November 25
— Angela Y. Davis (2003) Are Prisons Obsolete, “Introduction — Prison Reform or Prison Abolition”
—Rachel Kushner (2019) “Is Prison Necessary? Ruth Wilson Gilmore Might Change Your Mind” in New York Times Magazine
— Kimberly Yam (2018) “The Forgotten Asian Refugees Fed Into the Prison System” in Huffpost
— Ta-Nehisi Coates (2014) “The Case for Reparations,” in The Atlantic, also available as audio on soundcloud
— Rhonda E. Howard-Hassmann (2004) “Getting to Reparations: Japanese Americans and African Americans” in Social Force

Week 13: Collective Care and Healing Justice

Monday, December 2
Jasmine Syedullah, Lama Rod Owens, and angel Kyodo Williams (2016) Radical Dharma, “Preface: A Lineage of Insurgence”Informal Contemplation on Healing” and “It’s Not About Love After All”
Healing Justice Podcast episode De-spa-ifying Healing and Accessibility with the Third Root Community Health Center

Week 14: Storytelling Afro-Asian Futurisms

Monday, December 9
— Gloria Anzaldúa (1981) This Bridge Called My Back, “Speaking in Tongues: A Letter to Third World Women Writers”
Jasmine Syedullah, Lama Rod Owens, and angel Kyodo Williams (2016) Radical Dharma, “Remembering in Seven Movements” and “A Different Drum”

Professor, multimedia storyteller, and artist in NYC.

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