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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.

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.