Asian American Professionals
The twentie th century is the age of professionalism. While professional societies were nascent institutions in the nineteenth century, the twentieth century saw a fundamental shift in US labor economies. With a decline in manufacturing industries, the postwar economy underwent a major shift towards a service economy, where the categories of human resources and informational data replaced material production. This class will interrogate how the Asian American professional emerges as a key figure in enacting this shift, both in the workplace and in the university. How do Asian Americans place themselves in a new labor demographic consisting of middle-class professionals, executives, foreign students, low-wage temp workers, and guest workers? How do they perform their professional identity? What is their experience of being a raced body in this economy? And what is their relationship to manual labor? Simultaneously, we will examine how the Asian exclusion acts of the early twentieth century, the rise of “Study Abroad” programs, the Fulbright Act of 1946, and the Immigration Act of 1965 all culminate in an urgent discursive formation of Asian American literature. Through novels, short stories, institutional handbooks, legal documents, and film, we will study the changing landscape of labor, race, gender, and sexuality in the US. Towards the last third of the class, we will also turn our attention to global sites of professionalism. Literary readings will include authors like Maxine Hong Kingston, Frank Chin, Chang-Rae Lee, Jhumpa Lahiri, Mohsin Hamid, and Zia Haider Rahman; theoretical readings will include Ann Cheng, Colleen Lye, Junaid Rana, Erika Lee, and Lee Edelman. Assignments will comprise of five tasks: a short close-reading, a comparative paper, a class presentation, an annotated bibliography, and a final paper.