Asian American Studies Speaker Series
Thursday, October 19, 2017 4:30 PM - 6:00 PM

Speaker - Nayan Shah, Professor of American Studies & Ethnicity and Hisstory, University of Southern California

Discussant - Tala Khanmalek, American Studies and Gender and Sexuality Studies


The Program in American Studies of Princeton University is proud to present the Asian American Studies Speaker Series for 2017-2018. This series features oceans as sites of encounter and mobility as well as struggles over livelihoods and living space that hinge on relations to land. Examining the cross-currents shaping these variegated spaces, our interrogations draw attention to global commodity flows, militarism, migration, indigeneity, and globally oriented contestations in order to advance a transnational vision of Asian American studies. By bringing leading and emerging scholars to Princeton, we aim to spur dialogue about the state of Asian American Studies and to envision what it could become. As a starting point, we conceive of Asian American Studies as a coalitional project that attends to uneven power relations on a global scale with the potential to contribute to the unmaking of racial capitalism and war.

The presentation examines the two mass hunger strikes at the Tule Lake Stockade that held prisoners indefinitely and without trial during martial law in the Tule Lake Japanese Internment Camp in 1944. Unique prisoner diaries illuminate several problems in how prisoners sustain shared purpose and action in coordinating the refusal to eat, the communication of culturally specific concepts of masculinity and character and the tensions that can unravel solidarity.  The chapter investigates the complex emotional and bodily responses of hunger strikers, the challenges of coordinating and sustaining solidarity and fracturing of aims and commitments when extralegal detention isolates prisoners from family and advocates.



Nayan Shah is Professor of American Studies & Ethnicity and History and chair of the Department of American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California. His research examines historical struggles over bodies, space and the exercise of state power. His scholarship has contributed to studies of race, sexuality and gender, to the history of migration, health, law and governance. He is the author of two award-winning Asian American history books: Stranger Intimacy: Contesting Race, Sexuality and the Law in the North American West (University of California Press, 2011) and Contagious Divides: Epidemics and Race in San Francisco’s Chinatown (University of California Press, 2001). He is former co-editor of GLQ.  His new project on the Refusal to Eat in Indefinite Detention, explores the transnational history of mass hunger strikes, and political struggle and medical ethical crises with 20th century and contemporary case studies drawn from U.S. and British suffrage activists, Irish Republicans, Bengali Revolutionaries, Japanese American Internees, South African anti-apartheid activists, Guantanamo prisoners and refugees in Australia, US. and Europe.


Cosponsored by the Program in American Studies.