This Presidential Panel is dedicated to Prof. Nancy Abelmann, 2021 recipient of the Distinguished Contributions to Asian Studies, for her pathbreaking research on Asia, as well as her work on the Asias within the United States. Dr. Abelmann assumed Global Asias as a framework for her scholarly and personal pursuits. In this dedication, we honor Dr. Abelmann’s many professional achievements, not the least of which was her mentoring and shepherding generations of scholars. It is this combination of scholarship, personal responsibility, and social justice that comprise Dr. Abelmann’s distinguished contribution to Asian Studies. This panel pays tribute to her personal touch, defined by generosity of spirit and deep-seated integrity.
Frances Tran writes: ‘Undisciplining encourages a shift in perspective and affect, a disinvestment from the security of disciplinary formations and institutional paradigms of success.’ In 2021, I propose a kind of ‘undisciplining in Asian studies in the form of a new institutional formation – Global Asias. Global Asias does not turn us away from Asia, but recognizes shifting Asias globally, especially in diasporic settings. What I propose is that Global Asias be added to the more traditional regional silos of AAS – Northeast Asia, China and Inner Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia. In this additive process, Global Asias attempts to be generative in recognizing a separate but connected subject frame that takes Asia beyond its boundaries--that is, “undisciplining” Asian Studies. Global Asias does not do away with Asian Studies, so much as extends its purview in fundamental ways that recognize different diasporic communities situated around the world with connections to Asia and each other. Global Asias takes the transnational as a given and asks that we look at the practices and processes of interconnectivity itself. What do we gain by focusing on the spaces of betweeness created by the trans-geographic? Based in and through mobilities that shape many people’s lives, identities, affiliations, and consumption practices, that betweeness creates its own dynamic friction. Embedded within that betweeness are elements that do not fit established models, that refuse to be “disciplined,” and that therefore beg to be reframed as the uneasy purview of the “undisciplined.” This is the dynamic lens of Globa Asias. The reframing includes not only the immigrant communities that have established lives outside of Asia (e.g. Asian America and Asian communities elsewhere) but also those diasporic Asian communities within Asia itself (e.g. Chinatowns in Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, India, Singapore, Philippines, etc.). Reframing also includes some of the effects of new juxtapositions, including settler colonialism by which Asian immigrant groups may adopt the dominant practices of their new homes at the expense of disadvantaged indigenous populations.
Global Asias focuses on particular communities of study (e.g. diasporic, refugee, immigrant). But it also includes a methodological shift in the juxtaposition of disciplines of study. What does it mean to weave the enduring legacies of interdisciplinary area studies (traditional purview of Asian Studies) with emergent critical studies of race and late neoliberal capitalism? How might social justice fit into this emergent picture? The emphasis on Global Asias is not only on movement, diaspora, and trans-regional issues, but also on the theoretical and ideological apparatuses that might critically analyze these conditions.
In this Presidential Panel, speakers address from their particular perspectives what it might mean for the Association for Asian Studies to add a Global Asias component. Whether as journal editor, head of organization, scholar of Global Asias, administrative strategist, or activist – I ask the panelists to provide their own perspective on one or more of the following questions: