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Asian Pacific Middle Eastern Research Project

Founded by co-directors Professors Francis Tanglao Aguas and Deenesh Sohoni, during the centennial of Chen Pu-Kao's admission to William & Mary in 2021, the Asian Pacific Middle Eastern Research Project (APM Project) aims to excavate primary sources in order to explore the experiences of earlier students of Asian, Pacific Islander and Middle Eastern descent.

The APM Research Project will award Faculty Research Fellowships to faculty whose research portfolio expands the objectives of discovering the APM story at William & Mary and how it fits in the broader conversation of diversity, inclusion and equity in the community.

The projects are jointly supervised by Vivian Hamilton, Professor of Law, and Director of the Center for Race & Social Justice, and Deenesh Sohoni, Professor of Sociology, and Director of the Asian Pacific Islander American (APIA) Studies Program.Asian Centennial Faculty Fellows

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Professor Deenesh Sohoni (Sociology & APIA Studies)

Deenesh Sohoni is Professor of Sociology and Director of the Asian Pacific Islander American (APIA) Studies at William & Mary. His research examines the significance of race, ethnicity, nativity, and citizenship status in a variety of social institutions such as education, the military, marriage, the media, and the law. His work has been published in academic journals such as Social Forces, Sociology of Education, Law and Society Review, Ethnic and Racial Studies, Sociology of Race and Ethnicity among others.

For the APM Research Project, Professor Sohoni will be working with student researchers conducting archival research to create a list of early APM students, gather information on their experiences at W&M, and place these experiences within the legal and social context of race relations at the local, state and national level.

Professor Chinua Thelwell (History & Africana Studies)

Chinua Thelwell is an Associate Professor of History and Africana Studies at William & Mary. He is a core faculty member of the Asian & Pacific Islander American Studies program—and teaches a course on Asian American history for the program. His research interests include: Afro-diasporic history, history of the idea of race, blackface minstrelsy as a popular culture export, performance studies, post-colonial hybridity theory, Asian American history, and hip-hop studies.

For the APM project, Thelwell will be conducting archival research cataloging the history of Asian and Asian American students at William & Mary.

Professor R. Benedito Ferrão (English & APIA Studies)

R. Benedito Ferrão in an Assistant Professor of English and Asian & Pacific Islander American Studies, with an affiliation in Asian and Middle Eastern Studies. Dr. Ferrão was named a Fellow of the Africa Multiple Cluster of Excellence at Bayreuth Academy of Advanced African Studies (University of Bayreuth, Germany, 2020-21) and is also the recipient of a Fulbright-Nehru Academic and Professional Excellence Research Award (2019-20). His scholarly and teaching interests are in Afro-Asiatic connections between Portuguese and British post/coloniality, as well as diaspora and transnational fiction with a focus on race, gender, and sexuality. In 2017-18, he curated the exhibition Goa/Portugal/Mozambique: The Many Lives of Vamona Navelcar at the Fundação Oriente gallery in Panjim, Goa and edited a book of the same title to accompany the retrospective (Fundação Oriente 2017). His scholarly writing has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Research in African Literatures, Middle East Journal of Culture and Communication, Society and Culture in South Asia, and recent edited books from Hong Kong University Press and Routledge. As an internationally published writer of creative fiction, non-fiction, and public commentary, his work can be read in The Wire, The Good Men Project, João Roque Literary Journal, and Mizna among other publications.

For the Asian Pacific Middle Eastern Research Project, Dr. Ferrão will work with diverse APIA writers who have a relationship to William & Mary and its environs. The object of this study to understand how the locale and its history influences their oeuvre.

APM Project Student Researchers
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Diana Kim, '25

As part of the APM Research Project, Diana has done archival research with Special Collections and has had the privilege to conduct an oral history in researching the first three Asian-American women at William & Mary. She has also worked on developing Asian-American history lesson plans for widely available use in schools. She hopes Virginia’s K-12 curriculum will include more Asian American stories and voices and for Asian American students to feel more empowered to speak up for themselves and others. 

Outside of academic pursuits, you can see Diana hanging out with friends, running around campus, and trying to convince her peers to become orientation aides. She enjoys hearing life stories and philosophies and working with the beloved Asian American Student Initiative (AASI), the Asian-American advocacy group on campus. 

Alex Park, '24, APIA Studies and International Relations

Alex Park is a junior majoring in International Relations and Asian and Pacific Islander American Studies. Her research interest includes immigration, assimilation, mixed-race identity, and Asian-American history. As a member of the APM team, Alex has contributed to archival research, oral histories, and exhibit curation concerning the first three Asian Ancestry women to go to William and Mary. Moving forward, Alex is excited to contribute to research concerning the first Asian faculty at William and Mary and work on the KAASE initiative.

Outside of APM, Alex is a Senior Research Assistant on the Tracking Underreported Financial flow team at AidData tracking Chinese financing to less developed countries. In her free time, Alex can be found cooking, watching movies and TV shows, playing guitar, or hanging out with friends. She is a member of Tribetones acapella, KASA, CSO, and AASI on campus.

Brian Zhao '23, APIA Studies and Asian & Middle Eastern Studies

Brian Zhao's current research interests include the intersection of critical ethnic studies, postcolonial studies, and intellectual history within US academia. In his free time, he can be found cooking with his trusty cast-iron skillet or watching his friend’s collegiate and professional basketball games on television. When he’s not jamming out to Olivia Rodrigo or Paramore, there’s a good chance that he’s reading work from Cedric Robinson, CLR James, or Walter Rodney.

As a seasoned researcher with numerous past experiences working in digital and physical archives, Brian has served an invaluable role as a member of the APM Research Project team by helping uncover the lived-experiences and historical context of numerous of the first Asian and Asian-American students at William & Mary. Over the course of the coming months, Brian looks forward to building out the organizational infrastructure needed to sustain the broader, long-term efforts of the APM Research Project.

Asian Centennial Law Research Fellow
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Yusuf Jafri (William & Mary Law School)

Hello, my name is Yusuf Jafri and I am a research fellow with the Center for Racial & Social Justice currently working on the 1921-2021 Centennial Commemoration of Asians and Asian Americans at William & Mary. I am currently a 2L at the W&M Law School, sit on the board for two international-oriented clubs, and have a demonstrated interest in Immigration Law through an externship I completed at Roth Jackson. I am a proud South Asian and Muslim American, and I recognize the importance of recording and publicizing the stories of the Asian and Asian American community here in Virginia and at William & Mary. I hope the research we are doing here will be a permanent reminder of where we come from, how far we have come, and how far we have left to go.

Make a Contribution to the APM Project Fund