Why I Majored in Asian American Studies

Teoffany Saragi ’18

I chose to major in Asian American Studies because I appreciated the way my courses provide a progressive, anti-assimilationist political framework for understanding issues affecting the Asian American/Pacific Islander community. Through Asian American Studies, I have developed ideals of connectedness between the communities surrounding The Claremont Colleges and the university as an institution. Asian American Studies is an interdisciplinary safe space that provides counter-narratives and builds inclusive and intersectional coalitions. 

In Body Art in the Diaspora, I completed a photo project in which I explored how individuals and communities destabilize normatively White institutions of higher education by finding empowerment and agency in spaces that actively challenge the status quo.

Through the resources provided by the Margo Okazawa-Rey Fellowship, I was able to undertake a community-based, creative film project in the D.C./Maryland/Virginia area, where I conducted in-depth interviews with Southeast Asian individuals, mostly Indonesian individuals, in an effort to capture oral histories and highlight untold stories. The Intercollegiate Department of Asian American Studies (IDAAS) at The Claremont Colleges established Margo Okazawa-Rey Fellowship to encourage outstanding college students to implement community-based, creative, or research projects that integrate social justice, multi-racial solidarity, and feminism.

One of my favorite quotes: “Remember that consciousness is power. Consciousness is education and knowledge. Consciousness is becoming aware. It is the perfect vehicle for students. Consciousness-raising is pertinent for power, and be sure that power will not be abusively used, but used for building trust and goodwill domestically and internationally. Tomorrow’s world is yours to build.” -Yuri Kochiyama, Japanese-American activist