Community & Activism

A Statement: Palestine as an Asian American Studies Issue

The field of Asian American Studies began through student activism in the late 1960s grounded in critiques of systemic racism, imperialism, and power, and developed through theories of settler colonialism and critical refugee studies. Since its inception, Asian American Studies scholars, activists, and artists have articulated social problems through anti-imperialist and anti-racist critiques that developed in the context of US wars in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos; atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands; occupations of Okinawa, the Philippines, Guam, Hawai`i; and colonial histories of most of Asia. We acknowledge that Palestinian American scholar Edward Said’s Orientalism served as an important, if not foundational, text to Asian American Studies for understanding Euro-American formations of the “Orient.” For the past two decades, at least, the field has engaged the potential of West Asian and SWANA (South West Asia and North African) studies to re-imagine the field and propel knowledge production and praxis beyond the post-9/11 liberal response to Islamophobia. In 2013, the Association of Asian American Studies (AAAS) became the first scholarly association to pass a resolution in favor of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions.  

In November 2023, AAAS, in conjunction with the Critical SWANA Diaspora Studies Section, issued a statement that includes; “Anticolonial critique is not only a legitimate political and ethical position but also a long and transdisciplinary academic tradition. Furthermore, critiquing the state of Israel or advocating for Palestinian struggles are not the same as antisemitism. Equating the politics of all Jewish people with Israel’s state policies in the face of ongoing, worldwide Jewish solidarity with Palestinians distracts from actual antisemitism on the rise.” 

We stand opposed to antisemitism, anti-Palestinian racism, anti-Blackness, and other forms of oppression. We further stand opposed to the closing of crucial student spaces like the MultiCultural Center, which has been an integral part of the UCSB student community for more than 36 years. We urge strong policies in support of academic freedom and the right to assembly and to protest. We want to see the administration strengthen policies and practices that protect all of our students, especially those who have been the most vulnerable targets of hegemonic discourse and institutional racism.

At this historic juncture, we join with others in our field to center Palestine as an Asian American Studies issue. In recalling a century of US or US-backed wars in Asia and West Asia, we call for an end to the bombings and to the US-supported and state-sanctioned violence against Palestinian people, and the ensuing crisis in the form of starvation, desperate medical and health care needs, and displacement. This builds on sixteen years of the siege of Gaza, 75 years of occupation and settler colonialism, and 100 hundred years of war. We deeply mourn the loss of the 1,114 Israeli lives on October 7 and the 31,000 Palestinian since then. These numbers alone reveal the lack of equivalencies at work, with massive disproportionality in weaponry, resources, and political power.  We thus reject “both sides” arguments that rest on false assumptions about level playing fields. We summon the long history of Asian American Studies and its critiques of imperial power to call for an end to the genocide in Palestine. From our position as settlers on Chumash land, we stand with the Palestinian people in their ongoing struggle for the right to life, land, and liberation.

In keeping with the educational mission of a university, the Asian American Studies department offers this page as a living document for resources and the beginnings of a public syllabus. Related events will be offered in Spring 2024; details forthcoming.

A preliminary list of resources


The Faculty of the Department of Asian American Studies

March 14, 2024


Note: this statement does not represent an official position of the university.

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