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The Oxford Handbook of Asian American History
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The Oxford Handbook of Asian American History (Hardback)

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The academic field of Asian American history traces its roots to social movements of the late 1960s, when individuals and communities attempted to expand and challenge the existing frame of United States history to take into account their experiences. There were of course people who had documented and written about Asian Americans in earlier eras, but a recognizable field did not develop until the Asian American movement. The publication of Ronald Takaki's Strangers from a Different Shore: A History of Asian Americans (1989) and Sucheng Chan's Asian Americans: An Interpretive History (1991) signaled a coming of age for the field in which these narratives of the Asian American past synthesized the literature that had been produced to date. These two landmark works reflected the rise of social history, which stressed the agency of individuals and communities. Historians of many immigrant groups challenged the framework of assimilation and highlighted ethnic retentions. The result was a more nuanced understanding of how immigration had shaped the contours of United States history.

The attention paid to the sending countries placed immigration history within a transnational context and underscored global processes linked to labor, capital, and empire. As part of these historical developments, scholars working in Asian American history helped unearth buried pasts. The Asian American movement and post-1965 migrations of Asians to the United States sparked classes, programs, and other developments on college campuses that led to students entering graduate school to specialize in Asian American history. While the Japanese American incarceration during World War II and racial exclusion remain the most documented and analyzed dimensions of Asian American history, the body of scholarship produced over the past two decades or so has deepened and broadened the scope of knowledge. Numerous monographs and anthologies have included a greater number of ethnic groups and issues. The influence of cultural studies, transnationalism, regional diversity, and interdisciplinary and comparative frameworks (to name only a few) has added to the richness of the theoretical and methodological approaches to the study of Asian American history.

Nevertheless, there remains much work to be done in the field, given the tremendous internal diversity within this umbrella category. The Oxford Handbook of Asian American History represents an ideal opportunity to engage in state of the field essays that are historiographically informed, but that provide a platform for historians to think creatively about their areas of research expertise. What kinds of questions and issues remain, how do recent developments in related fields affect the historical treatment of Asian America, and what theoretical and methodological concerns have emerged? These questions are merely suggestive of many more that will be asked through the collection's essays. Given the development of the field, the time is ripe for a volume that simultaneously assesses where the scholarship has been and what the future holds.

David K. Yoo is Professor of Asian American Studies and Director of the Asian American Studies Center at the University of California, Los Angeles. Eiichiro Azuma is the Alan Charles Kors Endowed Term Associate Professor of History and Asian American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania.

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