Making Visible Asians and Asian-Americans in Introductory Women's Studies Courses: the Personal Voice in Pedagogy, Making Feminist Connections across Diversity

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2015
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The introductory course in women’s and gender studies (IWGS) first introduces centers, and problematizes the concept of gender and sexuality to undergraduate students, and at a depth not offered in other disciplines. It requires a political and critical approach to rethinking our place in society across the gender spectrum as this intersects with diversity by race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, ability, class (and more), and the power relations implicated within and between these dimensions of identity. Such a course needs to be flexible and continuously redefined in theory, content, and pedagogy to continue to be relevant to the academic endeavor as well as to the (broadly defined) feminist one. Flexibility is important not only in principle, but also as a pragmatic strategy, where this course draws majors and minors to WGS, and concomitant institutional and financial support. In principle, as well as strategy, including and highlighting diversity variously serves to sustain WGS programs in general.

In this context, my article suggests a need for greater visibility for Asians and Asian Americans in IWGS courses, in choice of text, and in effective pedagogy. This fast-growing, vastly diverse minority in the US needs to find a greater voice—in terms of students' awareness of how its issues intersect with issues of gender in an increasingly multiracial, multiethnic American society. Although the introductory course first addresses various forms of intersectionality to students, I have found, at least at primarily white institutions such as Virginia Tech, where I teach, that a largely black-and-white model defines students’ understanding of racial and ethnic difference.

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