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American Quarterly 55.3 (2003) 333-352
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Where in the World Is American Studies?
Presidential Address to the American Studies Association
November 15, 2002
Stephen H. Sumida
University of Washington
TO PREPARE THE FIRST THIRD OF MY REMARKS FOR THIS OCCASION, I EXPRESSLY asked some colleagues for thoughts about the international dimensions of American studies, the field, and American studies, the Association. I have also reflected upon the unsolicited words, insights, and examples of colleagues who have been involved in various and significant ways with concerns about international dimensions of American studies. I would like to acknowledge the following scholars for their generous replies to my questions or for the examples they have shown me over the years, of American studies in theory, practice, and history internationally. I thank and acknowledge: Olutayo Charles Adesina, Frances Aparicio, Martha Banta, Gülriz Büken, Pedro Castillo, Young Choi, Youn-Son Chung, Emory Elliott, Doris Friedensohn, Mike Frisch, Fumiko Fujita, Masako Iino, Djelal Kadir, Amy Kaplan, Mary Kelley, Linda Kerber, Paul Lauter, Günter Lenz, Bernard Mergen, Gail Nomura, Masako Notoji, Gary Okihiro, Naoki Onishi, Anne Pakir, Gönül Pultar, Janice Radway, Yasuo Sakakibara, Eric Sandeen, Hiroko Sato, Sandeep Shastri, Kirpal Singh, and Takeshi Suzuki. [End Page 333]
In addition to ASA colleagues worldwide, institutions have been sustaining me in my efforts—that is, in my privilege to be involved—in American Studies internationally: Tsuda Women's College, Tokyo; International Christian University, Tokyo; the University of Tokyo Center for Pacific and American Studies; the Doshisha University, Kyoto; the Japan/United States Friendship Commission; the Japan Association for American Studies and our joint ASA/JAAS Project; the American Studies Association of Korea; the South India American Studies Network; and, through its members' history of scholarly contributions to the field, the European Association for American Studies.
My colleagues in the Association for Asian American Studies include many who have given me roadmaps and directions, especially for South Asian American and diaspora studies in recent years. I shall not attempt to name these friends here because I have already unintentionally left many names out and would only compound the mistake by trying further to list you all.
I am gratified that a number of colleagues sent me remarks that are critical and candid, in particular in reply to my questions about how the ASA is doing internationally and how the association may do better. I will not, however, be attributing specific remarks to specific colleagues unless: (1) their remarks have already been published under their names; or (2) you come to me after this speech and ask that I credit you by name, in print, for specific thoughts you shared with me. Some of the colleagues I have named may well be surprised by my naming them aloud: we have "merely" been fellow travelers in American Studies in the world, yet I cannot help but to have learned from watching their moves and how they do them. Paul Lauter, for instance, may not recall that on his way to an ASA conference he had a change of planes at Detroit Metro Airport, where I was beginning my trip. We crossed paths there. Paul was busy at a pay phone, his two small bags snugged against his legs. We grinned at each other. It was as if our grins said, "Here we are again, slouching toward another Willy Loman convention." Paul and I have also traveled together internationally, trying to be of service to American studies.
Let me begin by mentioning some practical considerations given me by international colleagues. One cautions that scholars of American studies abroad are uncertain of what the name of the field means any more, when it seems that in the United States we concern ourselves [End Page 334] mainly with a "discussion of identity politics variously represented as universalism, multiculturalism, nationalism, postnationalism, American Studies, New American Studies, globalism, localism." This leader of a national association for American studies outside the United States goes on to state that in...