Project Title: Asian American Midwest

Project Description: This group formed from two other groups that shared questions about Asian American Midwest. These groups are:
  • Mapping the Global Hmong
  • Making a New Midwest: Public Culture, the Global, Asian America

This project explores the rich history and presences of Asian America in the Midwest. Chinese were spotted in Chicago and rural Wisconsin towns as early as the 1870s, and the flows of diverse Asian migrations never stopped: Japanese Americans after the Second World War; South Asian Indians in Chicago during the 1970s; and Hmong, Lao, Vietnamese, and Cambodian resettlements in the 1970s to the early 2000s. Bringing together perspectives from a number of disciplines, including history, literature, and digital humanities and media, we seek to bring together the rich archival materials on Asian Americans that can be found in sites across the Midwest; document the emergence of a literary global Midwest, from memoirs that describe new immigrant history to poetry and fiction that imagines the Midwest as an nexus between Asia and America; and develop digital tools to connect these materials and narratives to a wider public, including a new online portal for global Midwestern cultures.

Our project will have a particular focus on the Hmong, who are the largest Asian ethnic group in Minnesota and Wisconsin. The Midwest can be considered the center of “Hmong America,” as well as the center of Hmong-related scholarship. The centrality of Hmong in the Midwest makes them particularly important to our understanding of the Global Midwest, as their participation in transnational cultural exchange and identity formation are constantly shifting due to the maintenance of physical and symbolic connections to Laos, Thailand, and other parts of Asia. Building on the work of the existing Hmong Consortium, we will develop Hmong Studies through bringing together a wide range of scholars and institutions with an interest in Hmong Studies, both in the US and globally. We will also develop more collaborative resources for scholars interested in the Hmong. In particular, our research seeks to develop tools for understanding the impact of global cultural flows on Hmong communities in three areas—media, religion, and language. We seek to use methods from the disciplines of Communication, Geography, Anthropology, History, Religious Studies, and Linguistics in order to assess the intersection of these inquiries, but we also want to develop tools for making our findings widely available to both academic and non-academic communities.

Organizer Names: Ian Baird (Geography), Victor Jew (Asian American Studies), Lori Kido Lopez (Communication Arts), Timothy Yu (English, Asian American Studies)

Organizers' University Affiliation: University of Wisconsin-Madison