Keohane Professor Brings Together UNC and Duke Faculty and Students to Energize Asian American Scholarship on Both Campuses

Esther Kim Lee, Pawan Dhingra and Heidi Kim

“These are the conditions that make immigration a reality and fuel immigrant pride and mobility,” he said. “Mobility requires an ability to endure a racial history of unwanted foreigners. It also involves activism by them in the face of racist double standards. And it depends on anti-Blackness that keeps others down so as to create more material and cultural opportunities for them as the model minority. Asian American studies scholars know this, but we do not do enough to argue it, and we need to.”

Dhingra urged his colleagues to broaden the reach of Asian American studies by connecting Asian immigrants’ place in the economy to other people of color. “We have the tools,” he said. “We must be brave enough to use them.”

Professor of Theater Studies Esther Kim Lee, who directs Duke’s Asian American & Diaspora Studies program and its new minor, was instrumental in bringing Dhingra to the Triangle area. Her UNC colleague Heidi Kim, professor of English and comparative literature and director of the Asian American Center, also played a vital role.

“Collaborating with Heidi Kim provided an incredible opportunity to connect the two programs,” Lee said, “and it is heartening to see students from both campuses making new friends who share their enthusiasm for Asian American Studies.”

Prior to his evening lecture on Jan. 19, Dhingra met with faculty, spoke with students over brunch and signed copies of his books. Earlier in the academic year, he discussed ways to combat anti-Asian violence during a lecture at the Carolina Inn in Chapel Hill. Dhingra’s final lecture, which is open to the public, will take place on March 29 at 6:30 p.m. in the Nasher Museum of Art auditorium. [Editor's Note: The time and date of the lecture has changed since this story was originally published.]

About Pawan Dhingra

Dhingra is the Aliki Perroti and Seth Frank ’55 Professor of U.S. Immigration Studies at Amherst College, where he also serves as associate provost and associate dean of the faculty. He is a renowned scholar of Asian American studies, inequality, immigration, race, identity and culture. The current president of the Association for Asian American Studies, Dhingra has authored several books on the Asian American experience, including “Hyper Education: Why Good Schools, Good Grades, and Good Behavior Are Not Enough,” “Life Behind the Lobby: Indian American Motel Owners and the American Dream,” and “Managing Multicultural Lives: Asian American Professionals and the Challenge of Multiple Identities.”

About the Keohane Professorship

The Nannerl Keohane Distinguished Visiting Professorship at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University was created in 2004 by James Moeser, who served as UNC’s chancellor at the time. It recognizes Keohane’s contributions during her term as Duke’s president and seeks to strengthen the collaboration she and Moeser built between the two institutions. The professorship, which brings prominent faculty to serve as visiting professors at UNC and Duke for a one-year period, during which they deliver a lecture series and engage students and faculty around areas of shared interest, was funded by the late Josie and Julian Robertson (parents of Spencer Robertson, Duke ’98, and Alex Robertson, UNC ’01) and the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust.