Hawai’ian Eye: Asian American Studies conference
Just got back from the Association of Asian American Studies annual conference, which this year was held in Honolulu, HI. Needless to say it was a very well-attended event, taking place a block from the beach in Waikiki. I myself confess that the percentage of time I spent swimming in the ocean vs. attending panels and roundtables was pretty much skewed toward boogie boards and sandcastles, but I’d brought my kids along so I had an excuse.
I did manage to tear myself away from skimming stones and walking in the sea foam to attend a few presentations, however, and participated in a couple as well. UC Berkeley’s Elaine Kim organized a great panel, Bollywood, Believing Women, and the Female Bin-Laden, which included Huma Dar’s pointed critique of Hindi-language films that demonize Muslim men and exoticize Muslim women. Filmmaker and scholar Irum Sheikh displayed several images of “disappeared” individuals who have been detained by the U.S. government, many held for years on flimsy or nonexistent charges in the “war on terror” perpetuated by the Bush regime. Her straightforward and unvarnished presentation made an unimpeachable case against a foreign policy gone horribly awry.
I also ran into several former students, now all grown up, including Sudarat Musikawong, who’s a prof at Willamette University, Mitch Wu, now teaching at SUNY Hunter, Carolyn Tran, about to enter grad school at the New School for Social Research, Margaret Rhee, poet & PhD candidate at UC Berkeley, and Celine Parrenas-Shimizu, who’s a superstar professor at UC Santa Barbara and whose latest tome, The Hypersexuality of Race, won one of conference’s book awards this year. Plus, as at any good Asian American gathering, I spotted several people in felted hats, further supporting my contention that Asian Americans love stylish headwear.
I also took along a couple grad students from SFSU to present their research on a panel called Assimilation, Rice Queens, Porn, and the Mainstream: Constructing Media Images, which, in keeping with scholarly tradition, wordily includes a term from all of the panelists’ papers in its title. Pahole and RJ from SFSU and Kevin from UH Manoa rocked their presentations and made me feel like a proud mother fawning over her young. It ain’t easy covering topics ranging from “The King and I,” Asian & Hawai’ian women in online porn, and a new framework for Asian American cinema, but the guys pulled it off with flair. Larry Hashima provided excellent feedback and tied together the panel in style.
I also organized a panel called Art and the Academy: Working Artists In Asian American Studies wherein I talked about the legacy of creative work in SFSU’s Asian American Studies Department and outlined the production of POP! Producing Our Power: Presenting Asian American Culture, a student-run show at SFSU that asks the age-old question, “What is Asian American culture and how can we express it on stage?” Also presenting their awesome social practice projects were brilliant artist-scholars Ming-Yuen S. Ma, who talked about his amazing video art bus tours through Los Angeles, and Gaye Chan, chair of the Art Dept. at UH Manoa, who described her guerilla gardening project, Eating In Public. Both projects are unapologetic blows against the empire that conclusively prove that artists are indispensible in the battle against tyranny and injustice.
On the recreational tip, I managed to have shave ice nearly every day, though the Waikiki version is pretty tepid. The killer stuff is found on the North Shore in Haleiwa, at Matsumoto’s, where the sour lemon, lilekoi, and coconut combo I tried was stunning. Back in Honolulu, good eats were to be had at Sidestreet Inn, a formica-table sports/karaoke bar that serves up some of the best Hawai’ian food around, including excellent ahi poke, kahlua pig sliders, and fried chicken wings.
So despite my struggle to resist the lure of the beach and do my academic duty, the trip was pretty fun. I’m glad to be back in my cool grey city of love, but I sure do miss swimming in the tropical sea every day.
Entry filed under: asian american studies, interventionism, pahole sookkasikon, social practice, visual art. Tags: asian american studies, bollywood, fedoras, honolulu, san francisco state university, shave ice, sidestreet inn, social practice, visual art.