This Is Not a Game: Thai Americans, the Academy, and Everything In Between

Thursday, January 5, 2012: 3:40 PM
Armitage Room (Chicago Marriott Downtown)
Tanachi Mark Padoongpatt, University of Southern California
My presentation will focus primarily on both the personal and professional challenges and rewards of writing a dissertation on my community, the Thai American population in Los Angeles. First, I intend to discuss some of the challenges I have faced within academia since embarking on this project. This includes the question of whether or not writing on the history of Thai Americans, a relatively new, mostly immigrant community, constitutes history at all. I will also address the question of "marketability" in terms of the challenges faced when trying to publish on a community that has been severely neglected in large part because it is perceived to be a small and insignificant Southeast Asian group that very few will care about. Next, I intend to describe the burden of accountability and responsibility to the people in my community – this is in addition to the intellectual labor required to develop new modes of analysis that move toward discursive interventions. However, rather than see this as a burden, I feel more of an "ethical obligation" towards writing Thai American history – a story I felt I had to write long before I started working on my PhD. Thus, I want to explore some of the tensions involved when the topic chooses you, instead of the other way around. I suspect that this type of "burden" is shared among scholars of color who work on their own communities. Finally, I intend to discuss the ways we have our objectivity challenged by paying specific attention to my own experience of having to ignore the experiences of my parents, family members, and close friends because they are "too close."