The thirtieth anniversary of the 1992 Los Angeles Uprising comes at a moment of renewed public discourse about Black urban rebellion, policing and prisons, violence in Asian American communities, and the conditions that necessitate thinking these issues as extensions of one another. Still, contemporary academic and political narratives, and in some cases movement praxis, reflect both a departure from and stubborn adherence to the imaginative constraints that marked collective analyses of 1992 and subsequent ideas about what was to be done.
The carceral responses to recent attacks against Asian Americans, framed as instances of interpersonal rather than state violence, echo the analytical enclosures imposed by the “Black-Asian” conflict frame. At the same time, the already-emergent liberal attempt to misremember as a series of reformist, non-violent protests the imaginative openings to emerge from the flames of the 2020 rebellions, recalls the misreading of 1992 as a riot against an isolated and aberrant judicial outcome, rather than an uprising against the anti-Black foundations of the carceral state.
This symposium brings together scholars and organizers to discuss the enduring dilemmas that structure activist, scholarly, and popular attempts to understand Black and Asian American relationships to state violence, and to foster the radical possibilities to emerge from sustained rebellion against it.
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Claire Jean Kim is a Professor of Political Science and Asian American Studies at University of California, Irvine, where she teaches classes on race, politics, animals, and ecology. She is the author of two award-winning books: Bitter Fruit: The Politics of Black-Korean Conflict in New York City and Dangerous Crossings: Race, Species and Nature in a Multicultural Age. Her third book, Asian Americans in an Anti-Black World, is forthcoming from Cambridge University Press in early 2023. Dr. Kim has been a commentator on MSNBC and NPR, and her popular writing has appeared in The Los Angeles Times, The Nation, and Ms. Magazine. She is currently working on a book about Asian Americans and the pending case Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard, which may end race-conscious admissions in U.S. higher education.
Gaye Theresa Johnson, an associate professor and core faculty member in UCLA's African American Studies Department, writes and teaches on race and racism, cultural history, spatial politics, and political economy. Her first book is Spaces of Conflict, Sounds of Solidarity: Music, Race, and Spatial Entitlement in Los Angeles. Her current work includes The Futures of Black Radicalism, co-edited with Alex Lubin, and These Walls Will Fall: Protest at the Intersection of Immigrant Detention and Mass Incarceration. Dr. Johnson has also contributed journal articles and book chapters to historical, cultural studies, and ethnic studies volumes. She has been a visiting researcher at Stanford University’s Center for the Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity, and at the African Leadership Academy in Johannesburg, South Africa. She is active with the Los Angeles Community Action Network’s struggle for housing and civil rights on L.A.’s skid row, for which she earned the 2013 Freedom Now! Award. Dr. Johnson serves on the board of directors for the Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy (CAUSE) and on the advisory board for the Rosenberg Fund for Children.
Discussant: Elizabeth Hanna Rubio is a UCLA Chancellor's Postdoctoral Fellow in the Institute of American Cultures and Asian American Studies Center. In June 2021, she received her PhD in Cultural Anthropology at UC Irvine. Based on five years of ethnographic research with undocumented Korean American organizers in Southern California, Washington D.C., and Chicago, her current book manuscript examines the fraught politics of multiracial coalition-building in immigrant justice spaces and the complexities of enacting immigrant justice through an abolitionist lens. Elizabeth builds on her work as a community organizer to conduct research that responds to emergent questions and practices in social justice spaces. Her work has been published in Amerasia, The Journal for the Anthropology of North America, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and other mediums. Outside of her academic work, she engages in mutual aid work with unhoused neighbors in Orange and Los Angeles Counties and organizes with undocumented Korean American communities.
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