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UC Santa Barbara General CatalogUniversity of California, Santa Barbara

Asian American Studies

Division of Social Sciences,
Humanities and Social Sciences 5044;
Telephone (805) 893-8039
Department Chair: erin Khuê Ninh


The Department of Asian American Studies was one of the very first autonomous academic departments in the United States completely devoted to the study of Asian Americans. The department was founded by Professor Sucheng Chan, a pioneer in our field. Over the years, the department has consistently offered students the opportunity to study and understand the experiences of Asian Americans, particularly their histories, communities, and cultures. Our students learn to evaluate the existing literature on Asian American communities, to analyze a variety of perspectives on Asian Americans, to conduct original research, and to engage in community-based work. Professors in the department offer courses informed by approaches from the traditional disciplines, including history, sociology, law, education, psychology, and literature, as well as from interdisciplinary scholarship in women’s studies, law and society, public policy, global studies, social movements, cultural studies, and film and media studies.

Although the department offers a wide range of courses through multiple approaches, we share a common commitment to progressive scholarship of the highest caliber. We also share a commitment to engaging directly issues of inequality, both in United States history and in our own time. To that end, the lower-division courses offer a thorough introduction to Asian American history and culture, including how migration resistance, culture, and globalization have profoundly shaped Asian American life in the United States. The upper-division courses further explore Asian American contributions to literature, art, culture, film, and performance, in addition to Asian American struggles for political, economic, and social equality, opportunity, and fairness. These courses also highlight contemporary issues facing Asian American communities, issues that require leadership and meaningful intervention. As Asian American communities continue to grow and develop, we hope that our students will be better prepared to play an active role in confronting the many challenges faced by all of us living in a multiracial, multicultural world.

Students with a bachelor’s degree in Asian American Studies may pursue a wide range of career choices. As interdisciplinary majors, students will be exposed to several substantive areas of knowledge and multiple approaches to learning. These should provide a substantial basis for success in any number of careers immediately after graduation. In addition, students are encouraged to consider further graduate studies in literature, history, sociology, and other traditional disciplines. Students are also encouraged to consider professional programs, such as in film production, law, public policy, public health, education, business, and social welfare. Please consult with individual faculty members who work in these fields for any additional advice.

Senior Honors Program

The Department of Asian American Studies Honors Program is designed for seniors who wish to receive Distinction in the Major at the time of graduation. Majors who have a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0 and major GPA of 3.5 may apply during spring quarter of their junior year for the program beginning the next fall. The Honors Program is comprised of two required courses and one optional independent study course, facilitating the research and writing of an honors thesis. The required courses are: Asian American Studies 175 - Theory and Method in Asian American Studies, offered in Fall quarter; Asian American Studies 195H - Senior Honors Project, offered in Winter quarter. Students who need additional time to complete the honors project may also enroll in Asian American Studies 199 - Independent Studies, in Spring quarter. Students have the option to present their research in the departmental spring quarter colloquium and/or the University-wide Undergraduate Research Colloquium.

The format for the thesis may be, 1) scholarly work, 2) expressive art, or 3) community studies fieldwork in conjunction with an internship. During the senior year, each student's work will be evaluated by the Honors Program Director and an Asian American Studies faculty advisor. Honors Program graduates will receive the award of Distinction in the Major upon graduation.