Spring 2023 - CMNS 486 D100

Special Topics in Communication (4)

Asian/Cdn Cultural Politics

Class Number: 2928

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Jan 4 – Apr 11, 2023: Wed, 2:30–5:20 p.m.

  • Prerequisites:

    Depends on topic; published before enrollment.



Intensive analysis of a particular topic in the general area of communication and/or attention to the work of a particular writer or school of thought. This course can be repeated for credit up to a maximum of three times, if topic studied is different.


“Asian Canadian” as a term has been discursively constituted through, on the one hand,  the geopolitical imaginings that have shaped and justified the policies and programs of Western imperialism (Said 1993), Cold War politics (Yoneyama 2016), national population management programs (Adachi 1978); and, on the other hand, and the mobilization of immigrant communities demanding recognition of their rights (Miki 2004). In Canada, over the last 40 years, the term Asian Canadian has also been shaped by the depoliticizing discourses of multiculturalism, neoliberalism, new forms of exclusionary nationalism and shifting imperial centres coupled with the increasing cross-border transnational flows of bodies, commodities and information. This seminar examines the critical roots of “Asian Canadian” as a term and a political identity. While recognizing the racialized construction of Asian can’t be understood in isolation outside of large imperial and racial regimes, throughout, we turn to the work of critical Asian / Canadian / North American scholars who have made interventions in the reified discursive constitution of Asian Canadians whether as “the Yellow Peril”, model minorities, exoticized others or figures of disease and fear.

Critical of race-based and nationalist ethnic identities, for literary scholar and activist Roy Miki (1998), the term “Asian Canadian” designates a ‘practice’ rather than a static ethnic identity that serves the dominant regime of knowledge. It involves deterritorialization, resists assimilation, challenges aesthetic norms and homogenizing political systems while remaining open ended and flexible. In this course we will consider Asian Canadian grassroots activism and art practices in the 1970s; the national redress and cultural politics movements of the 1980s and 1990s; and the late-1990s onwards when the centrality normative white nation began to give way to transnationalism with new diasporas, queer and “mixed race” voices as well as growing efforts to create alliances with Indigenous and Black movements.


  • Attendance 15%
  • Tutorial presentations 15%
  • Assignment #1 (Week 7) 20%
  • Assignment #2 - Group Presentation & Research on Asian Canadian Art/Media Activism (Week 8) 20%
  • Final Assignment (April 10) 30%



Readings are posted on-line on CANVAS. Given the small body of scholarship on Asian Canadian art, media and activism, other readings will provide historical, political and theoretical contexts for the art we examine. Alongside of Asian Canadian art scholars, we’ll examine the work of Asian and Asian American Cultural Studies scholars as well as anti-colonial and Indigenous theorists and contemporary art scholars.


Your personalized Course Material list, including digital and physical textbooks, are available through the SFU Bookstore website by simply entering your Computing ID at: shop.sfu.ca/course-materials/my-personalized-course-materials.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity website http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating. Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the university community. Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the university. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the university. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html