The Subject(s) of Human Rights

Crises, Violations, and Asian/American Critique

Edited by Cathy J. Schlund-Vials, Guy Beauregard, and Hsiu-chuan Lee, With an Afterword by Madeleine Thien
Book Cover

PB: $39.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-1573-8
Publication: Dec 19

HC: $105.50
EAN: 978-1-4399-1572-1
Publication: Dec 19

Ebook: $39.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-1574-5
Publication: Dec 19

262 pages
6 x 9
1 halftone

Considers the ways Asian American studies has engaged with humanitarian crises and large-scale violations

Read the Introduction (pdf).


Human rights violations have always been part of Asian American studies. From Chinese immigration restrictions, the incarceration of Japanese Americans, yellow peril characterizations, and recent acts of deportation and Islamophobia, Asian Americans have consistently functioned as subordinated “subjects” of human rights violations. The Subject(s) of Human Rights brings together scholars from North America and Asia to recalibrate these human rights concerns from both sides of the Pacific.

The essays in this collection provide a sharper understanding of how Asian/Americans have been subjected to human rights violations, how they act as subjects of history and agents of change, and how they produce knowledge around such subjects. The editors of and contributors to The Subject(s) of Human Rights examine refugee narratives, human trafficking, and citizenship issues in twentieth- and twenty-first century literature. These themes further refract issues of American war-making, settler colonialism, military occupation, collateral damage, and displacement that relocate the imagined geographies of Asian America from the periphery to the center of human rights critique.

Contributors: Annie Isabel Fukushima, Mayumo Inoue, Masumi Izumi, Dinidu Karunanayake, Christine Kim, Min-Jung Kim, Christopher Lee, Vinh Nguyen, Christopher B. Patterson, Madeleine Thien, Yin Wang, Grace Hui-chuan Wu, and the editors


"This volume is a welcome addition to the scholarship on human rights and underscores the contributions that Asian American Studies, as an inter-disciplinary and transnational field, can offer.."
Pacific Historical Review

This collection shows us why and how, as a field of study born of twentieth-century Cold War acts of dehumanization, Asian American Studies in the twenty-first century is bound to be a leading edge of human rights critique.
Colleen Lye, Associate Professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley

This book is an exciting and entirely new contribution in the cultural studies of human rights and in Asian American Studies. It brings a transnational—and, in particular, transpacific—approach to the study of human rights, establishing how central the presence of Asia has been in the iteration and practice of human rights from the end of World War II to the present. The editors and contributors make clear the varied and significant interventions that Asian Americanist critique poses for the study of rights discourses, geopolitical crises, state formation, and humanitarianism.”
Crystal Parikh, Professor in the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis and the Department of English and Director of the Asian/Pacific/American Institute at New York University

"The Subject(s) of Human Rights powerfully centres human rights discourse as a framework within which to develop a transnational, global Asian/American critique.... (It) opens up important conversations about animating human rights discourse within Asian/American studies, both in its limitations and possibilities."
Canadian Literature

Table of Contents


Introduction: The Subject(s) of Human Rights; Recalibrating Asian/American Critique | Guy Beauregard, Cathy J. Schlund-Vials, and Hsiu-chuan Lee

1. Human Rights and South Korea: U.S. Imperialism,State Ideologies, and Camptown Prostitution | Min-Jung Kim
2. After 1947: The Relative, the Refugee, and the Immigrant in the Chinese Canadian Family Narrative | Christopher Lee
3. The Vancouver Asahi Connection: (Re-)engagement of the Families of Returnees/Deportees in Japanese Canadian History | Masumi Izumi
4. A Journey to Freedom: Human Rights Discourse and Refugee Memory | Vinh Nguyen

5. “Every Bombed Village Is My Hometown”: James Baldwin’s Engagement with the American War in Vietnam | Yin Wang
6. Matronly Maids and Willful Women: Migrant Domestic Workers in the Plural | Christopher B. Patterson
7. (De)humanizing Labor: Southeast Asian Migrant Narratives in Taiwan | Grace Hui-chuan Wu
8. Factories, Farms, and Fisheries: Human Trafficking and Tethered Subjectivities from Asia to the Pacific | Annie Isabel Fukushima

9. Reframing Cambodia’s Killing Fields: The Commemorative Limitations of Atrocity Tourism | Cathy J. Schlund-Vials
10. Reclaiming Home and “Righting” Citizenships in Postwar Sri Lanka: Internal Displacement, Memory, and Human Rights | Dinidu Karunanayake
11. Toward an Aesthetics and Erotics of Nonsovereign Rights in Okinawa | Mayumo Inoue
12. Figuring North Korean Lives: Reading at the Limits of Human Rights | Christine Kim
Afterword: The Act of Listening | Madeleine Thien


About the Author(s)

Cathy J. Schlund-Vials is a Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor of English and Asian/Asian American Studies at the University of Connecticut-Storrs. She is the author of Modeling Citizenship: Jewish and Asian American Writing and War, Genocide, and Justice: Cambodian American Memory Work.

Guy Beauregard is a Professor at National Taiwan University. He is an Associate Member of Simon Fraser University's Institute for Transpacific Cultural Research.

Hsiu-chuan Lee is Professor in the Department of English at National Taiwan Normal University.


In the Series

  • Asian American History and Culture edited by Cathy Schlund-Vials, Rick Bonus, and Shelley Sang-Hee Lee

    Founded by Sucheng Chan in 1991, the Asian American History and Culture series has sponsored innovative scholarship that has redefined, expanded, and advanced the field of Asian American studies while strengthening its links to related areas of scholarly inquiry and engaged critique. Like the field from which it emerged, the series remains rooted in the social sciences and humanities, encompassing multiple regions, formations, communities, and identities. Extending the vision of founding editor Sucheng Chan and emeriti editor Michael Omi, David Palumbo-Liu, K. Scott Wong and Linda Trinh Võ, series editors Cathy Schlund-Vials, Rick Bonus, and Shelley Sang-Hee Lee continue to develop a foundational collection that embodies a range of theoretical and methodological approaches to Asian American studies.