Alumni and Community
Born from strikes in the 1960s, Ethnic Studies emerged through university student demands for epistemological representation, in theory and practice. Not only did these students feel allied to Third World people and to one another—across the differences of race, ethnicity, gender, and culture—some participated in direct action advocacy work in communities. Although this early fieldwork contributed to the content of the nation's first ethnic studies curricula, the projects of our department's founding alumni also evolved into their own entities in nearby San Francisco, such as the Asian Community Center and Asian Community Health Clinic, or supported local political coalitions, including the protest of elder evictions from Manilatown's I-Hotel. Our department's alumni and their communities are thus deeply interconnected in local and global fights against historical and structural oppression.
Students and faculty in today's department of Comparative Ethnic Studies articulate our commitments to communities in a variety of ways. Quite often, we research communities through intersecting axes of orientation and through interdisciplinary analytics and methodologies. In understanding the repercussions of migration and settlement of communities, for example, we might linger upon concepts of diaspora, borders, or transnationalism. Sometimes our work is aligned with advocacy of a particular marginalized community, reflecting our discipline's orientation towards social awareness and transformation. Such notable commitments on the part of students, faculty, and alumni alike reflect our interconnected historical legacies and our ongoing sense of coalition, not only with one another but also with our communities of interest and belonging.
—Julie Thi Underhill