Asian & Pacific Islander American Studies


With a population surge of 46% between 2002 and 2014, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders now constitute the fastest growing and most culturally diverse community in the United States. William and Mary faculty and students collaborated to build this new Asian & Pacific Islander American Studies program (APIA.) The program seeks to provide an academic home where students will gain research, interpretive, and creative skills necessary to study the cultures, contributions and experiences of nearly 20 million Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

Students can declare a minor in APIA Studies, or pursue the field as a self designed interdisciplinary major. Interested students may contact the program director, Professor Francis Tanglao Aguas at


The importance of the field of Asian & Pacific Islander American Studies (APIA) lies in its underscoring of the heterogeneity of the American populace on the one hand, but also its emergence from an epistemology deeply rooted in the U.S. Civil Rights movement that is historically linked to international movements for decolonization and Third World solidarity. In accounting for American and global cultural diversity, APIA is constituted as being interdisciplinary in nature, and encompasses the Arts, Social Sciences, Humanities, Critical Race and Legal Studies, Languages, Gender and LGBT/Queer Studies, Disability Studies, Islamic Studies, among others.

Asian Pacific Islander American experiences are constituted as much through immigration and settlement as they are through displacement and transnationalisms. Hence, empire, migration, refugees, trade, and war, are key terms in the contemporary focus of APIA. If situated at the nexus of Postcolonial and Ethnic Studies, then APIA owes a debt to the former’s emphasis on studies of subalternity and orientalism while being part of the latter’s stress on pan-ethnicity, anti-racism, and minority rights.

The discipline further recognizes and critically engages with the legacies of First Peoples and black slavery in the United States as it simultaneously acknowledges the histories of Pacific Islanders as forms of community knowledge. In its evocation of globalization, APIA contextualizes discourses of nation and territoriality, particularly on issues of peace and homeland security. In this regard, it is interlinked with the arenas of Islamic/Muslim Studies, Trans-Pacific and Indian Ocean Studies.  Additionally, it attends to gender, sexuality, class, and race as complex identity formations across disparate and geographically connected sites. In so doing, APIA seeks to destabilize notions of essentialism. Consequently, it allows for explorations of subjectivity, negotiations in individual and group identities, and community formation, as well as the rigorous academic querying of such phenomena as they overlap and diverge in national and international contexts.

Furthermore, the field is uniquely qualified to explore the social and economic realities of Asian Pacific Islander Americans, particularly the health, social, and economic challenges they face. In this regard, this major finds it important understand issues of education, health, and public policy and practice, from access to education to work to reproductive health, that affect the Asian Pacific Islander American community. Graduates of the program will be equipped for graduate study in diverse fields and leadership careers in public service, the health sector, law, education, business from the local sector to multinational companies and international development.