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New major program Global Asian Studies added to Fall 2022 offerings

Students asked UIC for an Asian Studies program almost thirty years ago. However, in planning its curriculum, the problematic limitations of both Asian Studies and Asian American Studies pigeon-holed its topics from colonialist, nationalistic, or imperalistic perspectives, as well as discluding South Asia.

“Students have always asked the question of what it means to be Asian in America,” Anna Guevarra, Founding Director of the Global Asian Studies Program and Co-PI of UIC’s AANAPISI Initiative said. “Now, it’s about asking what being Asian in America means in the context of community–whether it’s your own or in conjunction with other PoC communities so that we can empower each others’ experiences.”

Since her arrival to UIC in 2007, Anna Guevarra has devoted her career to developing a one-of-a-kind program, in a “labor of love” that broadens the preconceived boundaries of ethnic studies and area studies. With the UIC AANAPISI Initiative, the program has been allowed to explore Global Asian Studies through unique courses and experiences.

“UIC is a magnet for these communities. They are looking for a place that engages with these histories,” she said.

“The fact we are federally recognized as a minority serving institution through the Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institution (AANAPISI) Initiative is a testament that we have this population to serve and it will speak to their needs, histories, and everyday lives.”

Today, Global Asian Studies makes its debut as a new major–a culmination of past and present student efforts that modernizes the discipline to include Asian culture and the arts, migration and diasporas, transnationalism, and globalization. It also reflects a field that has continually expanded and transformed in relation to new immigration patterns and historical shifts in U.S. racial formations, including, most recently, phenomena such as Islamaphobia, new Orientalisms, and anti-Arab/South Asian/Muslim racisms.

The major offers a variety of interdisciplinary coursework–from the cultural politics of Asian American food, to Asian diasporas in Latin America, to Afro-Asian solidarities, students can expect engaging courses in the semesters to come. Vivian Jin, a GLAS alumna, said she was particularly drawn “to the colorful mix of history, literature, sociology, and ethnic studies that this minor provided.”

The GLAS major made its debut in Fall 2022.