Asian American Studies Awards 2020-2021


I am pleased to announce the recipients of Asian American Studies Awards for the academic year 2020-21, including Student Research Awards and Service Awards.

We appreciate all of the scholarship on Asian Americans produced by graduate and undergraduate students in their classes, and the work of faculty and staff that allowed AAS to do its work in this incredibly difficult year.


Dr. Pranav Jani,

Director, Asian American Studies Program


AAS Student research awards 2020-21

 Graduate research award: Naomi Johnson for her work in the Law, Lawyers, and Social Movements seminar (Moritz College of Law) and her expertise on Asian Americans and the long civil rights movement. In her paper “Becoming More-Human Human Beings,” Naomi drew on Gary Okihiro's work and the course materials to critically reflect on her student organizing as an undergraduate, and her future work as a lawyer. The paper reflects Naomi's commitment to study-and-struggle, a dialectic of reflection and action, that is necessary to social change and solidarity work.

Undergraduate research award: Diana Miguel for the paper “Delicious, Delightful, and Dangerous,” written for Comparative Studies 2321, “Introduction to Asian American Studies.” In this paper, Miguel investigates the ways in which Chinese (or Chinese American) cuisine became associated with "dirty" or "unhygienic" in the US, simultaneously invoking and reinforcing discrimination against Chinese Americans. She examines the history of MSG, in particular, and links it to the contemporary climate of anti-Asian racism.

 Undergraduate research awards: Elizabeth Roka and Adesh Labhasetwar for their joint paper “How Race Works: A Historical Analysis of the Hypersexualization of Asian Women in Media,” written for English 4581, “Special Topics in Ethnic Studies.” Roka and Labhasetwar research histories of U.S. imperialism in Asia and the “war bride” and sex worker industries that emerged in war zones to reveal how gender and sexuality have always been tied to ideas of “the white man’s burden.” They then turn to the analysis of mainstream media and movies like Full Metal Jacket and Mean Girls to show that the hypersexualization of Asian women  reflected in the Atlanta spa killings of March 2021 is deeply embedded in U.S. popular culture.


AAS Service awards 2020-21

The period after the Atlanta murders of six Asian women on March 16, 2021 threw Asian American Studies into a frenzy of activity – as we aimed to meet the need of students, staff, and faculty in the aftermath while speaking, writing, and organizing in the context of a new awareness about anti-Asian racism across the country. We are so happy to be able to present several service awards this year. The awardees represent students, staff, and faculty whose efforts were crucial to the work of Asian American Studies after Atlanta:

Sophia Antoun, Intercultural Specialist, APIDA Student Initiatives at the Multicultural Center, now with the Office of Diversity & Inclusion

Bailee Burgard, Undergraduate Assistant, Center for Ethnic Studies

Dr. Meow Hui Goh, Associate Professor, Department of East Asian Languages & Literatures

Dr. Namiko Kunimoto, Associate Professor, Department of History of Art & Director of Center for Ethnic Studies

Alice Phan, Ph.D. candidate, Department of History of Art

Dr. Joe Ponce, Associate Professor of English & former co-director of Asian American Studies

The awardees, collectively, contributed by:

· creating intimate spaces for Asian/Asian American/APIDA students, faculty and staff to come together in the face of racist hate;

· speaking in public forums on the history of violence and the role of Ethnic Studies;

· writing articles and doing interviews in campus and city publications;

· collecting resources for students, scholars and activists to learn, reflect, and act;

· producing publicity materials for AAS events;

· building AAS infrastructure and capacity and/or working with AAS across units on this vast campus; and

· making themselves available, well beyond their job descriptions, to do the work.