By Linda Trinh Võ

About Linda Trinh Võ

Linda Trinh Võ is Associate Professor in the Department of Asian American Studies at the University of California, Irvine. She is the author of Mobilizing an Asian American Community (2004) and co-­editor of Contemporary Asian American Communities: Intersection and Divergences (2002), Asian American Women: The “Frontiers” Reader (2004), and Labor versus Empire: Race, Gender, and Migration (2004). She is a series editor for the Asian American History and Culture series published by Temple University Press and is president of the Association for Asian American Studies.


First and foremost, we want to publicly thank all the contributors to this Keywords for Asian American Studies volume, whose work renders visible the capaciousness, strength, and growth of the field. They patiently worked with us through our requests for revisions to make this a cohesive project and it is through their immense scholarly contributions to the field that we are able to produce this collection.

We likewise owe much to Eric Zinner, who had the foresight to envision the need for such a volume; without hesitation and with considerable consistency, he provided indefatigable support and offered invaluable advice from the planning stage to the production phase. Alicia Nadkarni at NYU Press in comparative fashion ushered us through all facets of the process. This volume benefits greatly from anonymous readers, who productively pushed us to reconsider and reevaluate the overall scope of the project.

In a more local vein, Keywords


“Community,” or “communities,” is an amorphous keyword in Asian American studies that has evolved along with societal transformations, and its meaning is highly contested. The Oxford English Dictionary defines “community” as a “body of people organized into a political, municipal, or social unity”; it can be characterized as those “who have certain circumstances of nativity, religion, or pursuit, common to them, but not shared by those among whom they live.” In Asian American studies, the term is most often associated with bounded, geographic localities that incorporate people, places, and institutions that have an affinity to one another or intricate connections. Additionally, communities are interpreted as non-territorial spaces, formed by individuals residing in various locations who share similar interests or objectives. They can be created as a result of people being excluded or treated interchangeably, thereby compelling them to come together, or they can be forged by internal notions of sameness, …


Born out of the civil rights and Third World liberation movements of the 1960s and 1970s, Asian American studies has grown considerably over the past four decades, both as a distinct field of inquiry and as a potent site of critique. In the late nineteenth century, most of what was written about the Asian presence in America was by those who sought to impede the immigration of Asians or to curtail the social mobility of Asians already in the country. This tendency in the literature of the time, and subsequent scholarship on Asians and Asian Americans that appeared into the late 1960s, led Roger Daniels to observe, “Other immigrant groups were celebrated for what they had accomplished, Orientals were important for what had been done to them” (1966, 375). As the field developed starting in the late 1960s, more emphasis was placed upon the lived experiences of Asian Americans, in …

Note on Classroom Use

As we assert in the introduction to Keywords for Asian American Studies, this volume – like other volumes in the series – is not an encyclopedia. Rather, Keywords for Asian American Studies is inspired and shaped by Raymond Williams’s still-relevant contention that various terms represent a flexible yet identifiable vocabulary that “has been inherited within precise historical and social conditions” that nevertheless must “be made at once conscious and critical” (1985, 24). Keywords for Asian American Studies likewise reflects the contours of a multidisciplinary field that encompasses the social sciences, humanities, and cultural studies.

While we encouraged contributors to think capaciously with regard to a term’s currency across multiple disciplines, we urge you to think thematically with regard to the collection. Correspondingly, Keywords for Asian American Studies highlights different approaches, methodologies, and frames to consider what has become a historical set of field standards: various exclusionary acts (for instance, …

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