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A Place of Our Own: The Basement Workshop and the Making of Asian America

ong, christina noelle (2024) A Place of Our Own: The Basement Workshop and the Making of Asian America. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This three-article dissertation investigates how imagined diasporic communities are created, sustained, and shift their political commitments over time. Specifically, this work examines the development of Asian America as a place of radical imagining for people of Asian descent living in the United States. Using an in-depth historical case study of the first pan-Asian political and arts organization based in New York City, the Basement Workshop (1969-1986; Basement), this research asks: how and to what extent were people of Asian descent able to cultivate their own imagined diasporic communities under a US racial landscape? Elaborating a theory for how imagined diasporic communities develop, this dissertation focuses on three aspects: collective identity formation and maintenance, relationship-building through emotional transnationalism, and practices of activist placemaking. The first article lays the foundation by discussing the ways that people of Asian descent mobilized around a new political identity rooted in their racialization. Through interviews with former members of Basement and archival analysis of their early artworks and internal documents, I uncover how members employed a panethnic Asian American framework rooted in their lived experiences as racialized people in the US, as well as through members’ ethnic-specific histories. The second article focuses on the ways that relationships developed between Basement and other community members influenced the Asian America they set out to build. I utilize a framework of emotional transnationalism to uncover the importance of relationships and emotions in forging Basement members’ diasporic consciousness. Using interviews with former members and analysis of various archival documents and first-person narratives, I center the ways that deep friendship and mentorship relationships drove Basement members’ dedication to a wider Asian American diaspora. The third article takes seriously the role of place in imagined diasporic community creation. Specifically, this article highlights translocal placemaking practices of Basement members over the course of the organization’s history. By examining the organization’s social services, arts, and protest activities rooted in Manhattan’s Chinatown, I show how place-specific actions influenced members’ understanding of and commitment to the Asian America they envisioned.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
ong, christina noellecno4@pitt.educno40000-0001-7829-6647
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairBloom,
Committee MemberHughes,
Committee MemberTormos-Aponte,
Committee MemberMurphy,
Committee MemberOkamoto,
Date: 13 May 2024
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 19 March 2024
Approval Date: 13 May 2024
Submission Date: 26 March 2024
Access Restriction: 2 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 2 years.
Number of Pages: 151
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Sociology
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: race, asian american, activism, history, diaspora, radicalism, panethnicity, art, ethnic studies
Date Deposited: 13 May 2024 13:55
Last Modified: 13 May 2024 13:55


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