Building American studies programs in Japan

College of Arts and SciencesPamela Thoma, associate professor in the Department of Critical Culture, Gender, and Race Studies at WSU, will teach American studies courses at University of the Ryukyus and Meio University in Okinawa, Japan, as a Fulbright fellow from September 2016 through February 2017.

Her project, “Gender and Citizenship in Asian American Literature and Culture,” includes teaching courses focused on graphic narrative by Asian Americans and on the transnational and transpacific dimensions of Asian American women’s culture and politics.

“When I return to WSU, I plan to incorporate new materials in my classes that will help students appreciate how different concepts of citizenship are significant in the complex, global movement of people and culture today,” she said.

Her Fulbright award in the category “Study of the United States in Japan” requires specializations in women’s studies and international relations. It will allow Thoma, who is also an expert in feminist media studies, to build on her previous experience of living and teaching in Japan and will enable her to study the current anti-militarist feminist movement in Okinawa, she said.

“I am very excited to learn more about this movement, which is one of the largest and most active transnational feminist movements in the world, in alliance with others, such as environmental justice movements,” she said. “I will have the opportunity to meet activists and scholars at the cutting edge of understanding the ecological, indigenous and gendered dimensions of global citizenship.”

Thoma portrait

Thoma recently published “Asian American Women’s Popular Literature: Feminizing Genres and Neoliberal Belonging,” the first monograph on the fashioning of Asian American literary cultures in the neoliberal context. The book highlights how increased global demands for Asian American women’s labor, consumption, and cultural visibility are addressed in popular literature, especially through writers’ innovative development of genres such as mother-daughter narrative, chick lit, detective fiction and food writing.

While in Japan, she also will work on a coedited book,Teaching the Works of Karen Tei Yamashita,” in development with the Modern Language Association of America as part of its Teaching World Literatures series. The new volume will include Thoma’s scholarship based on her two decades of teaching work by Yamashita and other Asian American women writers to students at WSU and other institutions in the U.S.

Yamashita is a Japanese-American writer whose novels emphasize the necessity of multilingual, multicultural communities in an era of increasing globalization while they challenge notions of borders and national/ethnic identity.

Fulbright programs operate in more than 155 countries, sending American faculty members, scholars and professionals abroad to lecture and/or conduct research for up to one year.


By Adrian Aumen, College of Arts and Sciences