While we understand that everyone is busy with finals and the ever-annoying task of packing (who knew you brought so much to school?!), take a few minutes to read about the work of Juhee Kwon ‘14, who compiled archival material and created a website to highlight the scholarship surrounding Asian American Studies at Brown. The website launched earlier this month and provides unique insight into the dynamics of identity within the context of both Brown and the United States more broadly. Check out our exclusive interview with Juhee below:
BlogDH: How did your project come to fruition? What was your ultimate goal in creating the webpage?
Juhee Kwon: The project was the Asian American program studies website. I wasn’t initially going to do anything for my senior thesis unless it was practical and… applicable. Asian American Studies is a field that has been burgeoning recently; there was an ethnic studies movement in the 60s where a lot of West Coast schools established colleges of Ethnic Studies and programs like that, and it has moved over the East Coast since. Brown has an Ethnic Studies program, but it doesn’t have Asian American Studies or Latino Studies or Native American Studies programs… but there is a lot of scholarship that is being produced in terms of the faculty and the graduate students.
Robert Lee, who is in American Studies, requested that I compile an archive/website to showcase the amount of scholarship that has been produced, without any sort of University funding or help. Even without the University we have done this much… give us administrative support. [The website serves] as an abstract space so that scholars, graduate student and undergrads can come together and focus specifically on Asian American studies.
BlogDH: What was the process of compiling the database/archive housed within the website? Did it only involve work within Brown as an institution?
JK: Yes, it was specifically within Brown, but it involved a lot of comparative analysis with different schools that have Asian American studies programs. In 2006, there was a GISP by a bunch of Asian American Students who had already compiled a pretty extensive archive of different Asian American studies/Asian American student history at Brown, so I used that. There then there were also a lot of phone interviews with people at Dartmouth, Penn, and Cornell—which are the three schools that actually do have [Asian American Studies] programs. I interviewed them… they aren’t doing so well either in terms of funding and stuff like that, but it was interesting to get their insight into how their programs were established—largely based on student activism and student push. This was my thesis, but I also had a reflective project/paper.
BlogDH: How do you think Brown can address this institutional and departmental void within the context of the University?
JK: The big dream is [a] department… but it is and isn’t the dream. The institutionalization of a certain field, like Asian American Studies, that grew out of a grassroots movement, means that you will have to sacrifice a lot of its ideologies in order to move into department status. And so, you lose a lot of like creative aspects or certain things that aren’t considered serious scholarship… so there is a lot of conflict and tension there too. But ultimately, at least within the College, I think it would be helpful to have a baseline of Asian American Studies. I’m not dreaming that everyone takes an Asian American Studies course, but I think it should be offered… a general baseline knowledge would be very helpful.
Make sure to check out the website here.