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Asian Studies Department News

New undergraduate program in Asian American and Asian Diaspora (AAAD) Studies

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The Asian Studies department announces the successful launch of the Asian American & Asian Diaspora Studies (AAAD) program in the Vanderbilt College of Arts and Science. The program will begin spring 2023.

Asian American & Asian Diaspora Studies is an interdisciplinary academic program that offers a major and minor. The new program cultivates a critical understanding of Asian diasporic peoples, cultures, and histories, while advancing a more complete and accurate understanding of global history from the vantage point of Asian diasporas.

Undergraduate and graduate students led this initiative, advocating for a program following the anti-Asian rhetoric and acts of violence in recent years. Without their energy and determination, this program would not have come to fruition in such a timely fashion. Thank you, students! The College of Arts and Science made significant faculty hires to advance the research and teaching necessary for the establishment of an AAAD major and minor. Vivian Shaw joined the university in fall 2021 as a Mellon Assistant Professor of Asian Studies. She teaches courses in sociology and environmental studies. Mark Sanchez, a specialist in Asian American history, was hired as an assistant professor in fall 2021. In fall 2023, English professor Huan He will begin teaching Asian American literature and culture.

The development of Vanderbilt’s AAAD program has attracted local and national media attention. For more information, see the article.

Vanderbilt students comment on campus inclusivity

Asian American students got together to hear from author and activist Helen Zia to learn about Asian American activism.

"As Vanderbilt’s Asian American population grows, students say it’s time for campus to be more inclusive" reads the headline of Juliana Kim's piece on WPLN, Nashville’s NPR station. Vanderbilt students and faculty offer insight about the Asian American experience on campus and the growing opportunities to study Asian American history and culture. 

Vivian Shaw Joins Department; Asian American Studies Launches

Prof Shaw

The Asian Studies Department is elated to welcome sociologist Vivian Shaw among its ranks in a three-year appointment as Mellon Assistant Professor of Asian American Studies. Dr. Shaw earned her PhD at University of Texas at Austin and comes to Vanderbilt via Harvard University where she was a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Weatherhead Center for International Relations’ Program on U.S.-Japan Relations from 2018-2019 and a College Fellow in the Department of Sociology from 2019-2021. Her research and teaching interests embrace issues of race, gender, sexuality, and culture, particularly in the contexts of disasters, the  environment, human rights, and social movements, which she studies within global-comparative frameworks. She is also the Lead Researcher (co-PI) for the AAPI COVID-19 Project, a multi-method investigation into the impacts of the pandemic on the lives of Asian American and Pasifika communities, housed in the Department of Sociology at Harvard University. Her hire represents the first step in establishing an Asian American & Diaspora Studies track in the Department in support of its Global Asia Initiative.

Welcome Vivian!

Department Statement on March 16 Shootings in Georgia

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Dear Vanderbilt Community,

We, the members of the Asian Studies Department at Vanderbilt University, strongly condemn the shootings in Atlanta, on March 16, 2021, that claimed the lives of eight people, six of whom were women of Asian descent. We view these killings as anti-Asian hate crimes that intersect with patriarchy and misogyny following a year of heightened xenophobia wrongfully blaming Asians for the COVID-19 pandemic. These killings are the latest in a series of events endemic to the United States’ history of racialization and violence against Asian Americans. Public discourses and cultural representations in the US have routinely dehumanized and sexualized Asian/Asian American women as subservient objects of male desire and violence. The events in Atlanta are a tragic reminder that such discourses and representations can circulate with deadly consequences.

We mourn the loss of lives and grieve with the victims’ families and communities. Each of the murdered victims was denied the right and support to live their lives in safety and peace, to live according to their hopes and loves. We know that this incident has caused fear, frustration, and anger among Asian, Asian American, and APIDA communities, including our own colleagues and students. We will work with our communities, allied individuals, and organizations so that our fears, frustrations, and demands are heard and addressed. We join other organizations and activist groups in the calls of support and protection for Asian, Asian Americans, and APIDA members of Vanderbilt and middle Tennessee—and in the struggles for justice against all forms of racism.

We support the Vanderbilt students who have been organizing for the establishment of an Asian American Studies major and center at Vanderbilt. As a department we are committed to developing a curriculum that centers histories of anti-Asian discrimination and APIDA-led resistance movements in the United States and globally. To study these histories is to understand more accurately the racist foundation of the United States, the core of European imperialism, and Asia since the sixteenth century. Taken together, these pasts and ideologies constitute our present. To this end, the Asian Studies Department has initiated a search for a Mellon Assistant Professor of Asian American Studies. While being only a three-year non-tenure track appointment, it will immediately provide more course offerings in Asian American history and culture and serve as the initial steps towards expanding tenure-track faculty appointments in support of an Asian American Studies program.

We will continue this advocacy for resources and program-building for Asian American Studies, while working with students, colleagues, departments and programs toward an anti-racist, inclusive, and equitable curriculum and pedagogy.

Protect Asian Lives Vigil in Nashville; Action on Campus


On the evening of March 21, a coalition of state and local organizations—the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, API Middle Tennessee, the Tennessee-National Association of Asian American Professionals, the Tennessee Chinese American Alliance, and the Greater Nashville Chinese Association—hosted a Protect Asian Lives vigil to memorialize the victims of the March 16th shootings in Georgia and to stand against racism and violence against Asians, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders.

Vanderbilt Divinity School graduate Pastor Serim "Sam" Huh opened the event with a prayer, followed by a series of speakers from the local Asian American community, including Vanderbilt student Angie Liang ('21) whose hometown is Atlanta (pictured here top right with other supporters). Hers was an especially personal and powerful address. Nashville-via-Beijing guzheng virtuoso Wu Fei performed a stirring piece and two monks from the Thai Buddhist temple in Murfreesboro also chanted a prayer.

Asian Studies Department Chair Gerald Figal and many others from the Vanderbilt community were among the audience that numbered several hundreds. Another vigil is being held at Vanderbilt on March 25, and an installment of Peabody College's Crucial Conversations series addressing the history and current state of anti-Asian racism in America is taking place on March 24.

As part of its educational mission, the Asian Studies Department has partnered with the Asian American Studies Initiative being led by Vanderbilt students and has begun a search for a three-year Mellon Assistant Professorship in Asian American Studies that will serve as the first step to building a long overdue Asian American Studies program at Vanderbilt.

New Faculty Join Department

Welcome icon The Asian Studies Department welcomes three new additions for 2020-21: Mabel Gergan, Assistant Professor of Asian Studies; Pengfei Li, Lecturer in Chinese; and Ji You Whang, Lecturer in Korean. Bravely joining us in the midst of the pandemic, their on-boarding and starts at teaching have been non-traditional, to say the least, but they are gradually acclimating themselves to Nashville and Vanderbilt and are enthusiastic about being here. We intend a proper welcoming reception for them toward the end of this challenging academic year. To learn a little more about each of them, please check out their pages linked to their names above.

In Recognition of Kamala Harris as US Vice President

Harris swearing in The Asian Studies Department and South Asian Language Program congratulate Vice-President Kamala Devi Harris on her historic ascendancy to the second highest office in the government of the United States of America. We are proud to see the achievement and recognition of an individual whose family originates in region of the world to which we have dedicated our careers.Her accomplishment reminds us of the tremendous opportunity we have to rise to important and meaningful work. Her image compels us to remember our responsibility to protect those opportunities for all people, to open and maintain the paths to success, and to provide support and encouragement to all people who chose to walk those difficult and rewarding roads. We are glad to see this representation and wish Vice-President Harris a successful term. வாழ்த்துக்கள் !

Asian Studies Program Moves to Department Status

Moongate in China After 53 years as first the East Asian Studies Program and then the Asian Studies Program, Asian Studies officially moved to Department status on July 1, 2020. This change reflects the dramatic growth in Asian Studies over the past five years, which has seen an overhaul of the major, the addition of Hindi-Urdu and Korean Language Programs, and corresponding minors in South Asian Language and Culture and Korean Language and Culture. It has also added new tenure-track faculty specializing in Korea and South Asia along with additional lines in Japanese and Korean language, both of which have had significant increases in students. Asia-related course enrollments and the number of Asian Studies majors and minors are at an all-time high. Now firmly established as a department and one of the fastest growing units in the College of Arts & Science, Asian Studies looks forward to furthering its expansion and profile at Vanderbilt.

New Team Japan Moving Forward from Fall 2019

Welcome icon The Asian Studies Program is excited to welcome a new team of full-time Japanese language instructors following the retirement of Keiko Nakajima and the departure of Michiru Ichihara Lowe. Asami Nakano, who had been teaching part-time for the past two years, is now a full-time Lecturer. She is joined by Senior Lecturer Dr. Hideko Shimizu, who is returning to Vanderbilt after nearly twenty years teaching in Colorado and Tokyo, and by Lecturer Nozomi Imai, who is coming from Indiana University where she completed her Masters degree in Japanese  Pedagogy in Spring 2019.

Divya Chaudhry Joins Growing Hindi-Urdu Program

Prof Chaudhry After single-handedly jump-starting the Hindi-Urdu Program two years ago, Dr. Elliott McCarter will finally have a much-needed colleague to meet the needs of an expanding South Asian languages and culture program. Dr. Divya Chaudhry left her position at Rice University to join the Asian Studies Program faculty at Vanderbilt as full-time Lecturer in Hindi-Urdu. Divya received her PhD in Linguistics and Certificate in Second Language Acquisition and Teaching from the University of Florida in 2016. With her teaming up with Elliott, the Program can now offer Sanskrit and South Asian culture courses in addition to Hindi-Urdu language.

Korean Language Teaching Fellow Arrives for 2019-2020

Prof Jang Student response to the introduction of Korean language courses in 2018-19 was so overwhelming for sole Senior Lecturer Dr. Seok Bae Jang that the Program has established a Korean Language Teaching Fellowship with Yonsei University's graduate program in Korean Language Pedagogy to help meet demand. Our first Korean Language Teaching Fellow, Ha Eun Choi, will be teaching part-time in the beginning level courses this year. Ha Eun received an M.A. in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages at the USC Rossier School of Education and she is currently pursuing an M.A. in Korean Language and Literature with Korean Language Teaching Certification at Yonsei. Stop by and say hi to her—she'll be in Prof. Guojun Wang's this year while he is on research leave.

Korean Language and Culture Minor Kicks Off Fall 2019!

Seoul at night Beginning in Fall 2019, Vanderbilt students can minor in Korean Language and Culture within the Asian Studies Program. Details on requirements are available on the Minors page.

Buddhism Scholar Joins Religious Studies Department

Prof McNicholl Adeana McNicholl, who focuses on early South Asian Buddhism and American Buddhism, has joined the Department of Religion as an Assistant Professor on the tenure track. Professor McNicholl's research and teaching examines the relationship between religion and the body and embodied identities, including race, gender, and sexuality. She will be among the Interdepartmental Faculty of the Asian Studies Program and her courses will generally be eligible for credit within the Asian Studies major and South Asian Language and Culture minor.