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Dr. Leanne Day to teach four AAPI Studies courses in 2019-2020 academic year

Dr. Leanne Day (WGS/GRALL), the Florence Levy Kay Fellow in Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Studies, has been officially hired as one of the faculty members who will spearhead the Asian American Pacific Islander Studies minor at Brandeis.

Day sees her role in the new AAPI program largely as a support for incoming faculty member Yuri Doolan, as well as ensuring that the “PI” in AAPI remains a central part of the program. “I also want to be advocating that we center Pacific Islanders and that they don’t…get lost in the fold. So I really sort of feel like, as much as I was advocating for that the last two years, now it can kind of become my central focus,” she said.

Day highlighted that the 2019-2020 academic year will decide the future of the AAPI program at Brandeis. “This is not an independent project of Brandeis, but that so many schools on the East Coast are advocating in whatever variation or whatever name they’re calling it, but it’s a critical ethnic studies project,” she said. “So my hope with that would be that this momentum continues, and that what you actually get besides the AAPI minor, is you get a robust sort of push towards critical ethnic studies.”

She also hopes that because of the addition of an AAPI minor to Brandeis course offerings, expansion will continue with other critical ethnic studies, including Latinx studies and a separate indigenous groups studies component. “I think that what’s happening right now is so exciting and groundbreaking that it has the momentum to continue. So that’s my hope, and I think it is an attainable goal,” Day said. “I can see it. It’s not right here, and probably not by the end of next year, but I can see it happening.”

Dr. Day feels that supporting students will be one of her most important roles as a faculty member in this new program, but that students have supported her as well. On March 4, 2019, the Brandeis Asian American Task Force (BAATF) circulated a petition signed by over 400 members of the campus community and beyond, requesting that Day be kept on as a faculty member for another year so she could help build the AAPI program. Although Day had to go through a normal application process to obtain the position, she believes that student support did indeed play a role in her hiring in the new department.  

Doolan, a Ph.D. candidate at Northwestern University who specializes in Asian American history, was recently hired as the first tenure track assistant professor in AAPI Studies in the upcoming 2019-2020 academic year. Doolan will be teaching one class in the Fall 2019 semester: AAPI/HIS 163A, “Asian American History.”

Day will be teaching two courses in the Fall 2019 semester: AAPI 141A, “Oceanic Cultures and Representation” and WMGS 105B, “Feminisms: History, Theory, and Practice.” AAPI 141A is meant to focus only on Pacific Islander Studies, according to Day, since Doolan will already be covering Asian American History in general.

“When we’re thinking about building a program, Yuri will be teaching an Asian American History course, and so we really want to make sure that the ‘PI’ is part of the foundational part of the program,” Day said in an interview with The Brandeis Hoot. “I’m really excited about the course. We haven’t had anything like it, and as much as I’ve built in Pacific Islander Studies into the courses I’ve already taught, this one is the first one that’s really focusing on it.”  

Day spoke about some ideas she had for the course, and while she is playing with the idea of an introduction to the breadth of the Pacific Islander culture through travel narratives by authors like Mark Twain, she wants the main focus to be centering indigenous Pacific voices. “…I really want it to be about Pacific indigenous voices, their epistemologies, ontologies, perspectives,” she said.

Aside from the historical and political contexts, Day also wants to showcase “the ways in which Pacific Islanders are representing themselves through cultural production,” she said, which will include looking at various genres and mediums of art, like literature, short stories, spoken word and film.

WMGS 105B is a course Day has taught in the past, and she will teach it in the fall again as part of the terms of her re-hiring (part of her appointment as a faculty member is doing a service for the departments that host her, which includes Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies and German, Russian and Asian Languages and Literature).

Although she will be re-teaching this course, she plans to add a new spin on it for the fall. “I’m actually really excited because the course does look at…a lot of women of color feminist theory, but I also will be doing a section or two…on sex trafficking and Pacific Islanders in that whole field,” she said.

In the spring, Day will also be teaching two courses for the AAPI minor, but these have not been definitively decided yet. However, one will likely be an Asian American Literature course, and the other will be a re-teaching of another course she has taught previously: AAPI 150B, “Asian American Pacific Islander Literature and Popular Culture.” This is also part of the program’s aim to flesh out what the requirements for the minor could be.

“We’re thinking it’s the Intro to Asian American Studies, Asian American History, and then Asian American Literature. And then you can take all the other electives…I mean it’s not set in stone, but what we’re thinking about is that you can take all these other courses or you can build in from pre-existing courses,” Day said.     

“The hope is that people who have not already been actively advocating and taking these courses will be interested in them, and hopefully that can help the Task Force garner more support,” she added.  

General registration for classes begins on July 17.

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