Introduction: Through “Our” Eyes: Asian/Pacific Islander American Women’s History
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Introduction Through “Our” Eyes: Asian/Pacific Islander American Women’s History Shirley Hune There is a great need for an anthology of recent scholarship on Asian/Pacific Islander American women’s history that both centers women and reinterprets their lives through“our”eyes—the viewpoints of the participants themselves and the critical perspectives of scholars of women’s history. In this book, we reframe history about Asian/Pacific Islander American women by considering them as historical agents actively engaged in determining their lives and those of their families, communities, and larger entities, albeit within multiple and complex constraints.As such, Asian/Pacific Islander American Women recognizes the“simultaneity of oppression and resistance”as a “qualitative difference” in the lives of women of color.1 This anthology goes beyond simply contesting male-centered or other privileged analyses of women’s lives to present new knowledge and fresh perspectives for both teaching and advancing research. Its purpose is twofold. We are concerned about the absence of curriculum materials on the history of Asian/Pacific Islander American women. Collections of literary writings, criticisms, and contemporary studies are available , but anthologies devoted to historical studies are woefully lacking. Furthermore, much of the new research on Asian/Pacific Islander American women’s history remains inaccessible to the classroom, being scattered in monographs, book chapters, journal articles, and unpublished dissertations. This book can serve as a major text in Asian/Pacific Islander American women’s courses and as an additional resource in Asian American and Asian/Pacific American Studies,2 Women’s Studies, Ethnic Studies, American Studies, and U.S. history courses. We also seek to advance research and scholarship by bringing together in one volume some of the best new works in Asian/Pacific Islander American women’s history. We have been excited by research that focuses on the women’s lives and viewpoints and that gives them voice. Such an approach transforms epistemology—what we know and how we know it—and how we do history. Fresh perspectives, innovative methodologies , and newfound and underutilized sources are contributing original findings and alternative interpretations about Asian/Pacific Islander American women. To better understand how this anthology both is innovative and fills a gap, I briefly assess the 1 current limitations and the common approaches to teaching and scholarly writing on their history to date. The Difference That Asian/Pacific American Studies and Women’s Studies Make and Their Limitations What do we know about Asian/Pacific Islander American women in history? How do we know what we know about them? And in what ways did our knowledge about their lives, aspirations, choices, and contributions change over the last three decades of the twentieth century? Since the early 1970s, new interdisciplinary fields of study have challenged the omission, invisibility, and misrepresentation of women and of racial and ethnic minority groups in all disciplines, especially history.Asian American Studies, for example, has sought to recover and reclaim Asian Americans, and to a lesser extent Pacific Islander Americans, from the margins of history and to envision a new history of their presence, goals, and activities in the United States and other homelands. Similarly, Women’s Studies has sought to transform historical knowledge and practice by centering women’s viewpoints and experiences. Both fields have questioned traditional interpretations and methodologies; promoted alternative approaches, such as oral history; identified additional and often undervalued sources, including personal journals and community newspapers; and encouraged new research topics. They also have embedded their analyses in structures of power and linked historical inquiry to social change. In short, epistemological concerns have been and continue to be central issues of Asian/Pacific American Studies and Women’s Studies. The contemporary struggles to make Asian/Pacific Islander American women visible , to give them voice, and to acknowledge their role in community and nation building are an outgrowth of the establishment of Asian/Pacific American Studies and Women’s Studies on U.S. campuses after 1969. Nevertheless, numerous scholars have commented on the extent to which women of color are marginalized in history (and other fields). Both Asian American Studies and Women’s Studies have illuminated aspects of Asian/Pacific Islander American women’s lives, yet these fields are not without their shortcomings. In Asian American Studies, race is the organizing category and the master narrative remains male-centered. Hence the historical significance of women is rendered invisible when their lives, interests, and activities are subsumed within or considered to be the same as those of men. And...



Subject Headings

  • Pacific Islander American women -- History.
  • Asian American women -- History.
  • United States -- Ethnic relations.
  • Pacific Islander American women -- Social conditions.
  • Asian American women -- Social conditions.
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