Department of Asian Languages and Civilizations
Statement on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusive Excellence
The Department of Asian Languages and Civilizations offers degree programs in Arabic, Chinese, Hindi-Urdu, Japanese, and Korean; by its very existence, it brings global diversity to the curriculum and the Boulder campus of CU. Our department’s focus on a broad swath of the non-western world puts us in a position at CU to share world views and traditions of literature, thought, and artistic expression developed by civilizations in pre-modern and modern South Asia, East Asia, North Africa, and the Middle East. Though all people are equal, we remain aware that systemic problems of racism and inequality have created and continue to reinforce gaps in equity and access in our community. We can only become truly excellent when diverse voices are brought in from the periphery to the core of what it means to be in community with each other at CU.
The faculty of Asian Languages and Civilizations features a diversity of scholars and teaching professionals from around the world who work from a place of mutual respect based on the common understanding that all of us, regardless of origin, ethnic heritage, or race, have trained extensively in our areas of expertise. We do not divide ourselves into a false binary of native informants and outside observers of cultures. Instead, we recognize ourselves within a multiplicity of language experiences, including native bilingualism and multilingualism, secondary and tertiary language learning, and the space in between inhabited by immigrants, children of immigrants, and diaspora. Our mission is to foster mutual understanding, communication, and deepened insight across the boundaries of language, nation, and culture.
Language teaching is a core part of our mission. New languages help us embody new ways of being in and seeing the world. Studying them is an exercise in radical empathy, as the language learner submits to a new grammar, a new social context, and a new vocabulary with different values and affordances. All of the languages taught in our department are less commonly studied languages in North America, and they all require the learning of distinct writing systems. These languages have not received as much attention in the North American academy due to underlying presumptions that they are of less urgency or prestige. Our department is invested in righting this Eurocentric systematic bias in language education. CU students have responded enthusiastically to our offerings, demonstrating a strong interest in these rich languages and attendant cultures. Some have gone on from our courses to receive Critical Language Scholarships from the Department of Education and embark upon a career using their new languages. In serving these students, and the greater mission of diversity at CU, we consider it part of our scholarly and pedagogical duty to counteract structural orientalism in the academy and beyond.
Furthermore, we make it a point to directly confront predominant misconceptions of Asian cultural homogeneity. Recognizing that the current world map is a result of histories of colonization, division, and power struggle, many of us highlight the diversity of Asia itself in our research and teaching. We not only teach the canons of the dominant intellectual traditions like Confucianism and Islam, but we also take care to amplify minority voices - voices that are not only seldom heard in the United States, but also marginalized within Asia. We consider how historical class and caste divisions affect contemporary society as lasting cleavages, and we pay special attention to the traditionally elided roles of women, exploring their contributions both as creators of literature and as subjects in poetry and prose. In courses on religious literature, we incorporate the subversive, the popular, and the minority as counterpoints to mainstream traditions. We teach the elegant poetry and grand epics that form the canons of these cultures, but also the popular performing arts and regional conventions that give these works their tremendous depth and appeal. In each of these areas, we present hallowed, millennia-old cultural traditions that are fundamentally at variance with the contemporary United States, offering both a mirror with which to reflect upon our present moment and a chance to explore ethnic, gender, and cultural diversities across civilizations.
ALC welcomes the university-wide initiative to create more inclusion at CU, as these efforts echo the work that our department has performed for years. Our department has long served as a home for diverse students, including those from international and multilingual backgrounds, as well as students of various ethnic and national origins. We strive to provide a welcoming environment in which our students feel empowered to articulate their experiences and insights. Often, this involves the mediation of various positionalities among students, who bring to the classroom their own identities, cultural intimacies, and assumptions with regard to questions of international politics, religion, social roles, and expressions of gender and sexuality. We foster inclusive excellence by encouraging students to be both mindful of their individual strengths and actively open to their peers. For example, in our Cultures and Languages Across the Curriculum (CLAC) courses, which are special sessions of courses taught in English translation in which groups of self-selected students study original language material, we encourage native speakers of the target language and language learners to work in tandem. It is only in working together that the students reach the goal of gaining translingual and transcultural competence. In all of our courses, we believe that we serve all the constituencies of the class best when they come together on the grounds of mutual respect and learn from each other.
In the future, we will continue to recruit diverse pools of applicants for all open positions. We are eager to seek out faculty and staff who share our commitments to diversity and challenge us to expand our perspectives on inclusivity, with the goal of making ALC an even more welcoming home for all. We join the Association for Asian Studies, a professional organization to which many of our faculty members belong, in recognizing that the field of Asian Studies has fundamental problems of inclusivity and diversity when it comes to non-white, non-Asian scholars. As our professional organizations confront systemic racism in the field at large, we, too, must examine the part that we can play in fostering future talent among groups who have not traditionally felt welcomed into Asian Studies.
In conclusion, the faculty of ALC remain devoted to providing a window on global diversity as represented in the literary, cultural, and intellectual traditions of Asia while embodying diversity in the ethnic, national, religious, and gender diversity of our faculty.