Featuring Asian American Feminisms and Women of Color Politics for women’s history month offers us the opportunity to speak on the feminist and racialized gender politics that terms like “women” and “women’s history” often serve to marginalize and erase. In many ways, our collection is about naming, addressing and navigating the many silences and invisibilities that emerge not only between the white/Anglo middle-class heterosexual presumptions of who counts as “women” and who determines mainstream feminist agendas, but also between concepts explicitly named in the title: “Asian American” and “Feminisms; “Asian American Feminisms” and “Women of Color Politics.” At the heart of our book is the question, what is an Asian American feminism and what is its genealogy as a political formation? Situated within, and in relation to a Women of Color politics, what are the complexities and contradictions within the field of Asian American feminisms, and what are the possibilities for cross-racial solidarity through an Asian American feminist praxis?
Noting the difficulty to name and identify an existing collection that grapples with the relationship between Asian American feminisms and Women of Color politics, we set out to create a collection that did not assume to be exhaustive of all Asian American ethnicities, identities, or political struggles. Rather, we wanted our contributors to engage the broader political questions: What theoretical interventions, resistant strategies, and epistemic shifts shape the field of Asian American feminisms? How are these central concepts, theories, and praxical strategies in dialogue with the coalitional politics of Women of Color and US Third World feminisms? What tensions or disconnections push against and redefine or re-imagine the possibilities for an Asian American feminist politics? In so doing, we were able to create a collection that not only speaks to particular sites of Asian American feminist epistemologies, struggles, and theorizations traditionally marginalized in mainstream feminist genealogies, we were able to grapple with existing tensions and contradictions within an Asian American feminist approach.
We were clear that we wanted to name and accentuate the on-going political tension between Pacific Islander Studies and Asian American Studies more broadly. While Asian settler-colonialism is recognized within Asian American studies we wanted to push Asian American feminisms to embrace and recognize the two fields as completely separate operating from different histories and epistemological frameworks. Thus, as our author’s Nohelani Teves and Maile Arvin emphasize, we chose not to title the book Asian Pacific American Feminisms, as this falls into the practice of establishing false equivalencies.
As co-editors we consciously engaged in a feminist praxis editorial model. Early on we established ground-rules for collaborative writing, one of which was that we never simply erase or replace each other’s words without consultation. We clearly documented and reiterated our plans, with our deadlines clearly set. We discussed deliberately every issue we encountered knowing the politics at stake, and never minimalized each other’s concerns. We worked closely with the Editor in Chief over major decisions as a collective, neither one of us ever acted or engaged in conversation over decision-making issues without the other’s presence. We sent out carefully crafted invitations, and all email correspondences were seen and edited by each other before they were sent. We crafted a long-term writing system, where we first requested abstracts, discussed them and made decisions, then we requested each contributors first five pages, read them, provided feedback, discussed them, and returned them with suggestions for revisions and our vision on their developing essays. We repeated this process with the next 10 pages, 15 pages, and then the full rough draft. As co-editors we were very hands-on in the development and edited as each chapter came along. This enabled us to engage with each author as they worked through their original essay specifically keeping in mind the larger questions driving this collection.
Throughout the process of editing this collection, we along with our contributors were fortunate to participate in multiple roundtables and panels at several major conferences. Extending this conversation outward we learned early on that wider audiences are still grappling with identifying an Asian American feminisms. In one instance we experienced divergent desires to see a collection that was less theoretically driven and more definitional in scope. We stood committed to developing a collection that could grapple with the larger conceptual frameworks of state and interpersonal-violence, decolonization, and resistance prominent in Women of Color politics yet sorely missing in Asian American feminisms as a collective body. We see this collection as an entry point in which to further timely discussions of coalitional possibilities as Asian American feminists engaging in Women of Color politics.
In the spirit of “women’s history” month, we offer Asian American Feminisms and Women of Color Politics to those who seek to live a political commitment that not only identifies the intricacy of our interlocking oppressions, but also, and most importantly, our expansive and deeply interdependent modes of resisting, building, flourishing, and rising up despite state-sponsored (neo)colonial racial projects seeking to quell our refusals to be complicit in our own and others’ destruction.
Lynn Fujiwara is associate professor at the University of Oregon. She is the author of Mothers without Citizenship: Asian Immigrant Families and the Consequences of Welfare Reform. Shireen Roshanravan is associate professor of American ethnic studies at Kansas State University. She is the coeditor of Speaking Face to Face / Hablando Cara a Cara: The Visionary Philosophy of María Lugones.