English R1A

Reading and Composition: Theorizing Race and Space in Asian American Studies

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
5 Fall 2019 Su, Amanda Jennifer
MWF 1-2 78 Barrows

Book List

Chiang, Ted: Stories of Your Life and Others; Goh, Teow Lim: Islanders; Lai, Him Mark: Island: Poetry and History of Chinese Immigrants on Angel Island, 1910-1940; Ng, Fae: Bone

Other Readings and Media

Please obtain the texts on your own, as they will not be ordered through the campus bookstore. A course reader will also be assigned.


How does an understanding of space and the built environment inflect our understanding of ethnicized forms of belonging? My course charts the development of Asian American identity and literature through four sites in the Bay Area: Angel Island, the San Francisco Chinatown, UC Berkeley, and Silicon Valley. Beginning in the early 20th century with classical Chinese poems carved into the walls of the detention center on Angel Island by unknown immigrants, we will explore the impact of exclusion on Asian Amerian literature and the implications of writing from a liminal space. We will juxtapose the creation of Chinatown through public health and sanitary regulations in the mid-20th century against the contemporary threat of gentrification facing the neighborhood. Turning to the sixties, we will dive into the radical political activism of the Third World Liberation Front at UC Berkeley and the subsequent creation of Asian American Studies. Finally, we will conclude the course by speculating about how the recent spate of foreign Chinese investment in technology and real estate in the Bay Area might reshape our understanding of racialized geography and capital.

My course will entail an element of urban exploration—students will visit each of the sites and write about what they see and observe. We will learn to read buildings, streets, intersections and monuments as palimpsests of history and forms of institutional memory. Engaging the theories of Foucault, Bachelard, LeFebvre, among others, we will critically analyze our own relation to and movement within these structures. The goal of the course is to build a material account of the ways in which a certain space gives rise to a particular form of literature, as well as a dialectical understanding of how the reading of literature changes our relation to that space. Students will also learn to navigate a rich medley of personal, archival, literary and analytical data (field research, newspapers, manifestos, poems, public policies, financial reports) towards the construction of a final critical or creative project.

In accordance with the curricular requirements of the R1A, which focus on developing a strong expository and argumentative style over more research-based claims, students will write and revise a set of shorter-length essays over the course of the semester.

Note the new instructor and content of this section as of June 7.

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