Afro-Asian Lens on the Past

Dr. Crystal Anderson

Dr. Crystal Anderson

***This is the third installment of a short series on Afro-Asia in which I examine the cultural and political exchanges and historical connections between people of African and of Asian descent. See part one on the “Deep Roots of Afro-Asia” and part two on Yuichiro Onishi’s Transpacific Antiracism.

This month, I invited Crystal S. Anderson to share a guest post based on her current research. Dr. Anderson is an Associate Professor of English at Elon University. She teaches courses in American literature and American studies and conducts research in comparative ethnic studies (African American, Asian, Asian American), focusing on literature and visual culture. Her other research interests include modernism, speculative fiction, and Asian film.  Her work has appeared in Extrapolation, MELUS and Ethnic Studies Review, as well as several book collections. Her first book, Beyond The Chinese Connection: Contemporary Afro-Asian Cultural Production (University Press of Mississippi, 2013), explores the cultural and political exchanges between African Americans, Asian Americans, and Asians over the last four decades. Her next project will explore Orientalism and African American modernism in the twentieth century.


As a scholar of comparative ethnic studies who focuses on African American, Asian and Asian American cultures, I often face assumptions that these interactions are solely based in the 20th century.  While much of my research is contemporary, it is also informed by the knowledge that these interactions stretch far back into history.  A look at three images involving the Japanese allows us to frame past Afro-Asian discourse more comprehensively. [Continue Reading…]

Some Tips on Writing a Strong NEH Proposal

With the deadline for the National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship program a little over a month away, I thought I’d share some insights from a talk that my department chair, Jurgen Buchenau, gave to faculty members at UNC Charlotte a couple weeks ago. Jurgen has won two NEH fellowships and served on the selection committee twice so is very familiar with the process.

Fellowship Program

This portion of Jurgen’s talk dealt solely with the standard NEH fellowship application due on April 30. There is also an NEH Public Scholar program application that is due earlier in April but we did not focus on that at all.

For those interested in a fellowship to revise a dissertation, the NEH can be difficult to get. This is of course true for winning an NEH at all. If you are trying to revise your dissertation, it is not impossible to win a fellowship, but your revisions must be of a very extensive nature to justify the year of funding. The committees examining the proposals know that your dissertation is usually a pretty good draft of your book and that most people can complete the manuscript either while teaching or with a semester of leave. So you really need to make a strong case for why revisions are necessary and for the extensive nature of these revisions. If you fit into this category, you might also consider applying for the ACLS fellowship in the fall, which has specific categories for faculty members at different levels in their careers. [Continue Reading…]

Frederick Douglass’s Narrative and Teaching Intellectual History


Frederick Douglass is widely recognized as one of, if not the, foremost black intellectuals of the 19th century. His wide-ranging speeches, essays, editorials, and correspondence cover topics that include abolitionism, feminism, theology, liberalism, … [Continue reading]

Let’s Talk about Race!, or Let’s Talk about Race?

In the past week or so, Starbucks has made itself an easy target for criticism and ridicule with the “Race Together” campaign. The ideas that employees would engage strangers in “a conversation about race” and that these conversations might be … [Continue reading]

Why Does Death Make Us Think of Life?

life and death ying and yang

Why does death make us immediately think of life?  Why, once the passing of a person is known to us, do we immediately think of life?  Not just the life the person lived but also the life we, ourselves, are still presently living. The response to … [Continue reading]

Searching for Lucy Parsons: A Racial Riddle


This is a guest post by Emily England, a senior history and anthropology double major with a museum studies minor at Luther College. When I heard about the research Emily conducted last semester on anarchist Lucy Parsons at the Newberry Library, I … [Continue reading]

June Jordan, “Bringing Back the Person,” and a Call to Community

jordan-black studies

“Body and Soul, Black America reveals the extreme questions of contemporary life, questions of freedom and identity: How can I be who I am?” [1] With these words, June Millicent Jordan (1936-2002) poignantly begins a conversation about blackness, … [Continue reading]

“Black People and the Victorian Ethos:” Respectability Politics, Black Organizing, and Black Power

When someone is engaging in respectability politics, he or she is adopts the manners and morality of the dominant or white  culture in order to counter negative views of African Americans or blackness. This strategy reached its zenith in the late … [Continue reading]

Slave Trading and the “When” of Gender

In 1798, in the captaincy of Pernambuco in the northeast region of the Portuguese colony of Brazil, a young woman wound up in front of the High Court commission asking to be returned to her homeland. She was no native of Pernambuco. Nor, in fact, was … [Continue reading]

Time, Space, and Memory at Whitney Plantation

Field of Angels, Whitney Plantation, February 28, 2015 / Credit: Jessica Marie Johnson

On February 28, 2015, the last day of Black History Month 2015 (or Black Future Month as the #blacklivesmatter and #FergusonNext movement dubbed it), I met with friends and colleagues to visit Whitney Plantation and Slave Museum in Wallace, LA. Below … [Continue reading]