A big win for the decades-long movement for Asian American Studies (AAS) at Williams! From Annie Lu at the Record:

Jan Padios, a professor of American studies at the University of Maryland, officially accepted a position at the College as a tenured associate professor of Asian American studies (AAS) in the American studies department on Feb. 17. …

The position is one of two tenure-line hires in AAS approved by the Committee on Appointments and Promotions (CAP) in February 2019 …

The hiring marks a significant step taken by the College towards the AAS program after over 30 years of activism, including protests at past Previews and graduation, as well as a photo campaign in 2018. To date, AAS at the College has been largely scattered across courses in several departments, including American studies, history, English and women’s, gender and sexuality studies.

Awesome news! Very cool, to me, that Padios will automatically come to Williams with tenure, and with the explicit purpose of teaching Asian American studies–not a visiting professor, on whose shoulders the work of teaching ethnic studies classes seems to often be put, and not someone hired for a more generalist position who might also teach the occasional course on Asian American studies-related topics.

On Padios herself:

At the University of Maryland, Padios is currently a tenured associate professor of American studies, the department’s director of graduate studies and an affiliate faculty member in women’s studies and the Asian American studies program. She is also a writer of creative nonfiction, essays and poems about “family, trauma and mental illness,” she said. … At the core of her work is a historical and anti-colonial analysis of the Philippines and Filipino people, particularly in relation to the U.S. “This is how I became a scholar of Asian American studies, a field to which I am very dedicated, and one of the reasons I decided to join the faculty at Williams College,” Padios explained.

To me she sounds eminently qualified, and the relevant people who are always quoted in Record articles about Asian American studies–notably, Professor Dorothy Wang, who is an American Studies teacher who has long shouldered much of the burden of teaching Asian American-focused classes in the past, and Suiyi Tang ’20, co-head of MinCo and a major leader of the student AAS activism movement–seemed to express excitement for her hire.

Looking ahead, the religion department will be hiring a junior professor in Asian American religions next year, for which a search committee has yet to be assembled. Once the hiring process is complete, all the faculty members teaching in the AAS field will have a discussion regarding whether AAS should become a free-standing program like Africana studies and Latino/a studies or remain a part of the American studies department.

This is the one thing that perplexes me. What are “Asian American religions”? As far as I know, there are no religions that were developed independently by Asian Americans, only religions practiced by Asian Americans that might have been brought from Asia. Certainly, I think “Religious practice in Asian American communities” is a great subject for a course, but for the second Asian-American-studies-specific hire to be in religion strikes me as a pretty unexpected choice. Given that the committee on appointments and promotions gave Asian American Studies two tenure-track positions, an American Studies professor certainly makes sense to me, so Padios’ hire fits the bill perfectly. For that second position, I would have thought it would fall to a literature field (English or Comp Lit, but more likely English), or maybe something like ANSO, maybe something like WGSS. But Religion? Does anyone have thoughts on why that’s the department where the next Asian American Studies tenure-track position will be filled? To me, it doesn’t add up.

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