New faculty hires mark step forward for Asian American Studies program

(Clockwise from top left) Faculty members Hardeep Dhillon, Tahseen Shams, and Bakirathi Mani and co-director David L. Eng will join the Asian American Studies program next year.

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Three new faculty members will join the Asian American Studies program next year, sparking new hope for the program’s future after a historic struggle for support between the university and faculty.

Hardeep Dhillon, Bakirathi Mani and Tahseen Shams will join the University in 2023 as core faculty members of the ASAM program. Penn English teacher David Eng is now the program of the faculty director alongside ASAM co-director and professor Fariha Khan this fall semester. New hires and leadership raise hope for faculty after fears the program will survive at Penn, faculty said.

“For 25 years, the ASAM program faced this intellectual starvation that our students had of wanting to learn more about this material, their stories, and to see teachers who looked like them,” Khan said. “It’s very exciting that with the new colleagues, we can answer some of these questions with more course offerings.”

New hires are the result of efforts announcement by the Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences Steven Fluharty in March 2021 to fill the program’s permanent faculty positions, Khan had announced in September 2021.

Tahseen Shams will join Penn as an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology and the ASAM program in the spring of 2023. She is currently an assistant professor at the University of Toronto with academic interests in “international migration, race/ethnicity, and religion” , according to its website.

legal historian Hardeep Dhillon, who recently obtained his doctorate. in History from Harvard University, is expected to join ASAM and the History Department in the fall of 2023. She is currently postdoctoral fellow at the American Bar Foundation, researching law and inequality.

Bakirathi Mani will join the ASAM program and the English department in the fall semester of 2023. Mani, who currently teaches at Swarthmore College, founded the Tri-College Asian American Studies Programwho developed the Asian American Studies programs at Swarthmore, Bryn Mawr and Haverford Colleges.

Khan was named co-director of the program amid a tumultuous period in the program’s history. Eng — a Richard L. Fisher English professor — was due to leave Penn in March 2021, citing a longstanding issue of declining support for the program.

“This is an incredible time of growth and opportunity, but I wouldn’t want anyone at Penn to forget that this happened at a time when the Atlanta shooting happened, when anti-Asian violence was at its peak,” Khan said.

Ultimately, Eng decided not to leave Penn and the ASAM program and now serves as faculty director. He is also teaching a course this semester called ASAM 0103: “Introduction to Asian American Literature and Culture.”

“I really hope that this moment is not the end of our growth, but only the beginning,” Eng said.

Along with the new hires, the program also received a grant to offer a new program called “The Third Space: Deployment of South Asian Diasporic Arts. Aisha Khan, founder and executive director of the Twelve Gates Arts gallery in Philadelphia, will carry out a curatorial residency as part of the ASAM program in the spring of 2023. The program aims to highlight the South Asian diaspora within contemporary art. American.

Eng and Khan said they are excited for the future of ASAM at Penn, noting the program’s new student and faculty development support. However, faculty have always warned of the risk of complacency among students in the face of recent growth in the ASAM program.

“You deserve a program to understand the history that brought you here,” said Eng.

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