Anti-Asian Violence: Origins and Trajectories Research Initiative

Anti-Asian Violence: Origins and Trajectories Research Initiative

Background image: Concrete square with broken ceramics inside.

Violent attacks against Asian Americans have risen exponentially since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic. Nearly 40 percent of incidents reported nationwide have occurred in California. Our transdisciplinary research team will undertake an in-depth examination of the multi-faceted conditions of this violence, and of possible responses.

One predominant narrative of anti-Asian violence posits a unitary historical figure subject to exclusion, drawing a direct line between the historical legal context and the violence of today. A predominant response is to assume that this violence will end through more surveillance, policing, and the designation of cases of anti-Asian violence as hate crimes. These dominant narratives put too much weight on the concept of hate, rendering anti-Asian violence the effect of individual prejudice, leading to limited responses. The Anti-Asian Violence: Origins and Trajectories (AAVOT) Research Initiative plans to study several historical trajectories of anti-Asian violence across multiple scales, in relation to causes that are local, national, and transnational; to interrogate differences of gender, class, nationality, sexuality, and ethnicity elided in the idea of a unitary “Asian American” victim of violence; and to critically examine how the Asian/American body is mobilized in relation to the carceral state while working to envision diverse modes of sustaining livable communities and forging multiracial alliances.

Concrete square with broken ceramics inside.

Photo by Colin Davis. 


Drawing from expertise in the fields of Asian American Studies, Law, Gender Studies, Art, Performance, Social Welfare and American Studies, our research will tackle this problem with multiple approaches. We plan a working group to research historical trajectories of and existing responses to anti-Asian violence and will generate a white paper with our findings. We will edit a special issue of a journal devoted to new approaches to anti-Asian violence. We will co-teach an undergraduate course drawing from our expertise on this issue, and will organize a graduate student workshop that will lead to peer-reviewed publication. Finally, we will curate a creative production and mini-exhibition to showcase the role of the arts in responding to anti-Asian violence. These activities will enable the University of California to emerge as the thought leader on the urgent issue of how to understand and address anti-Asian violence. 

This research initative has been generously funded by the University of California Research Grants Program Office, the Othering & Belonging Institute, and the Asian American Research Center.

People of AAVOT

Photo of Leti Volpp

Leti Volpp

Founding Researcher and Principal Investigator, Anti-Asian Violence: Origins and Trajectories Research Initiative

Leti Volpp is the Robert D. and Leslie-Kay Raven Professor of Law at UC Berkeley School of Law.  She is a scholar of immigration law and citizenship theory whose research examines how law is shaped by culture and identity.

Her most recent publications include “Protecting the Nation from ‘Honor Killings’: the Construction of a Problem” in Constitutional Commentary (2019), “Refugees Welcome?” in Berkeley La Raza Law Journal (2018), “Passports in the Time of Trump” in Symploke (2018), “Feminist, Sexual, and Queer Citizenship” in the Oxford Handbook of Citizenship (2017),  “Immigrants Outside the Law: President Obama, Discretionary Executive Power, and Regime Change” in Critical Analysis of Law (2016), “The Indigenous As Alien” in the UC Irvine Law Review (2015), “Saving Muslim Women” in Public Books (2015), “Civility and the Undocumented Alien” in Civility, Legality, and Justice in America (Austin Sarat, ed., Cambridge University Press, 2014), “The Boston Bombers” in Fordham Law Review (2014), “Imaginings of Space in Immigration Law” in Law, Culture and the Humanities (2012), the edited symposium issue “Denaturalizing Citizenship: A Symposium on Linda Bosniak’s The Citizen and the Alien and Ayelet Shachar’s The Birthright Lottery” in Issues in Legal Scholarship (2011), and “Framing Cultural Difference: Immigrant Women and Discourses of Tradition” in differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies (2011). She is the editor of Looking for Law in All the Wrong Places: Justice Beyond and Between (with Marianne Constable and Bryan Wagner) (Fordham University Press, 2019) and Legal Borderlands: Law and the Construction of American Borders (with Mary Dudziak) (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006). She is also the author of “The Culture of Citizenship” in Theoretical Inquiries in Law (2007), “The Citizen and the Terrorist” in UCLA Law Review (2002), “Feminism versus Multiculturalism” in the Columbia Law Review (2001), and many other articles.

Laura HyunYi Kang

Laura HyunYi Kang

Founding Researcher and Co-Principal Investigator, Anti-Asian Violence: Origins and Trajectories Research Initiative

Laura Hyun Yi Kang is a Professor of Gender & Sexuality Studies and UCI Chancellor's Professor at the UC Irvine. She is the author of Traffic in Asian Women (Duke University Press, 2020) and Compositional Subjects: Enfiguring Asian/American Women (Duke University Press, 2002). With Elaine H. Kim, she co-edited the anthology, Echoes Upon Echoes: New Korean American Writings (Asian American Writers Workshop, 2002). Laura Hyun Yi Kang’s research focuses on the shifting historical conditions of knowledge production about marginalized and newly emergent groups through a focus on “Asian women” and “Asian American women.” By paying close attention to the varied contours and permutations of how these two constituencies are rendered intelligible, she explores the uneven friction of gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, and class within and across several disciplines and interdisciplinary fields.

Susette Min smiling

Susette S. Min

Founding Researcher and Co-Principal Investigator, Anti-Asian Violence: Origins and Trajectories Research Initiative

Susette S. Min is Associate Professor and Department Chair of Asian American Studies at UC Davis, where she teaches Asian American studies, art history, and cultural studies.  She is the author of Unnamable: The Ends of Asian American Art (NYU Press, 2018), which centers attention on the categorical imperatives of Asian American Art. She is currently working on a book project focused on exhibition-making, immigration and terrorism. Susette Min is also an independent curator and served as Associate Curator of Contemporary Art at The Drawing Center in New York City. Her research interests include Asian American Literature, Ethnic American Literature, Asian American Art, contemporary art, and visual culture.

Lee Ann Wang with grass in the background

Lee Ann S. Wang

Founding Researcher and Co-Principal Investigator, Anti-Asian Violence: Origins and Trajectories Research Initiative

Lee Ann S. Wang is an Assistant Professor of Asian American Studies and Social Welfare at the Luskin School of Public Affairs at UCLA. Her current work is an ethnographic study of immigration law and enforcement at the site of gender and sexual violence, focusing on the work of service providers and legal advocates with Asian immigrant women and their communities.  She examines how the law writes and maintains the meaning of protection under the Violence Against Women Act’s immigration provisions, the enlistment of the non-citizen legal subject towards policing, accumulative cooperation, and the visa petition’s role in neoliberal punishment practices.  At its core, the work strives to take up the already gendered and racialized task of writing about people and life, without re-inscribing victimhood in legal evidence and the violences of legal archive.  She has taught courses on Asian Americans and law, gender and sexuality studies, feminist theory, immigration law and public policy, gender violence and policing, social welfare policy, and legal intimacies.  Dr. Wang is a former UC President’s Postdoctoral Fellow at UC Berkeley School of Law and held faculty appointments in Law and Public Policy, Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies, and Ethnic Studies at the University of Washington Bothell and visiting positions at the University of Hawai‘i Mānoa.

Jessica seating with bush behind her.

Jessica Jiang

Graduate Student Researcher (UC Berkeley), Anti-Asian Violence: Origins and Trajectories Research Initiative

Jessica Jiang is a second-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, with a Designated Emphasis in Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies. Her research looks at Exclusion era histories of Chinese migration in relation to Indigenous space in the Pacific Northwest, examining migrant border crossing via Coast Salish canoes, through Colville Reservation's North Half, and with the aid of Native guides and navigators. Her broader interests lie at the intersection of Native American and Indigenous Studies, Asian North American Studies, critical geography, and borderlands history. Jess' article "The Limits of Labor Solidarity: Competing Organizing Ideologies of Filipino Migrant and Alaska Native Workers in the Pacific Northwest Canned Salmon Industry, 1928-1946" is forthcoming in Kalfou (2023), and her illustration work has been published in Sinister Wisdom, comics anthology Threads that Connect Us, artbook Toward a World Without Prisons, and more.

Kai smiling with graduation stoles.

Kai Nham

Graduate Student Researcher (UCLA), Anti-Asian Violence: Origins and Trajectories Research Initiative

Kai Nham (he/they) is a queer and trans Chinese-Vietnamese son of a refugee from Vietnam and immigrant from Hong Kong. He is deeply interested and committed to how our communities can imagine and build new worlds for themselves. Currently, they are a second year doctoral student at UCLA's Department of Information Studies, where they are advised by Professor Safiya Noble and Professor Tonia Sutherland. His current research interests include how information infrastructures help build and maintain trans of color care webs, as well as the development of grassroots and community-based interventions and technologies to resist violence and build new futures. They received their Master of Information and Data Science from the University of California, Berkeley's School of Information and their B.A. in Asian American and Asian Diaspora Studies from the University of California, Berkeley.

Angel smiling with head turned.

Angel Trazo

Graduate Student Researcher (UC Davis), Anti-Asian Violence: Origins and Trajectories Research Initiative

Angel Trazo is a third-year Ph.D. student in Cultural Studies at UC Davis. She received her Master's in Asian American Studies from UCLA. Her current research examines the intersections of race, gender, and sexuality in the Asian Baby Girl (ABG) youth subculture. 

April smiling with white blouse

April Yang

Graduate Student Researcher (UCLA), Anti-Asian Violence: Origins and Trajectories Research Initiative

April Yang is a graduate student in UCLA's Asian American Studies MA program and UCLA's Luskin School of Public Affairs MSW program. She was born and raised in Sacramento, CA, home to one of the largest Hmong American communities which heavily influences her research interests. Her current research explores care work produced by Hmong American women to address gender-based violence. 

Amanda wearing glasses and sweater vest

Amanda Young

Graduate Student Researcher (UC Berkeley), Anti-Asian Violence: Origins and Trajectories Research Initiative

Amanda Young (she/her) is a third-year JD student at UC Berkeley School of Law. She is a Public Interest Scholar and has worked on criminal justice and reproductive justice issues through internships with public defender offices and community organizations. Before law school, she was an organizer and led state-wide campaigns to pass racial justice legislation in California. She received her BA from Duke University, where she studied Public Policy and Asian and Middle Eastern Studies.

Funders & Awards



2023 UC Multicampus Research Programs and Initiative (UCMRPI) Award
Project:  Anti-Asian Violence:  Origins and Trajectories
Award Type: Planning/Pilot Award
Host Campus: BerkeleyLead Investigator: Leti Volpp 
Collaborating Sites: Davis, Irvine, Los Angeles

The Anti-Asian Violence:  Origins and Trajectories Research Initiative received $243,000+ UCMRPI Award for a multi-year, multi-campus research project from the UC Research Grants Program Office.

2022 Asian American Research Center
Project: Anti-Asian Violence: Origins and Trajectories
Leti Volpp

The Asian American Research Center, provided additional seed funding for the Anti-Asian Violence: Origins and Trajectories Research Initiative.

2022 Othering & Belonging Institute (OBI)
Project: Anti-Asian Violence: Origins and Trajectories
Leti Volpp

The Othering & Belonging Institute provided seed funding through the OBI Faculty Cluster Research Grant for the Anti-Asian Violence: Origins and Trajectories Research Initiative.