Syllabus: Hist 820-99: Asia-US Migration (Fall 2012)

Prof. Jonathan Dresner
Online Course
Fall 2012
Phone: 235-4315
Office: RH 406F
Office Hours: MWF 11-12, 1-2
Tu 10-12, 1-3

The history of migration between Asia to the United States  is long, complex, and increasingly critical to our understanding of the past and present. This course will look at that history, emphasizing recent scholarship on diasporic networks and transnationalism.


History is about real people, diverse cultures, interesting theories, strongly held belief systems, complex situations, conflicts and dramatic actions. This information may be disturbing. Such is the nature of historical study.


In the event of a disparity between the original syllabus and online schedule, the online schedule will be correct: I reserve the right to change readings, test dates, due dates, grade weights and assignments as necessary throughout the semester.


For Purchase:

  • Ronald Takaki, Strangers from a Different Shore: A History of Asian Americans, Updated and Revised Edition, Little, Brown and Company (1998) ISBN-13: 9780316831307
  • Gary Okihiro, Columbia Guide to Asian American History, Columbia UP (2001). ISBN: 9780231115117
  • Brown, Judith M. Global South Asians: Introducing the Modern Diaspora. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006. ISBN-13: 9780521606301
  • Philip A. Kuhn, Chinese Among Others: Emigration in Modern Times (Rowman & Littlefield, 2008) ISBN-13: 9780742567498
  • Madeline HSU, Dreaming of Gold, Dreaming of Home: Transnationalism and Migration between the United States and China, 1882-1943 (Stanford University Press, 2000). ISBN-13: 9780804746878
  • Eiichiro Azuma, Between Two Empires: Race, History, and Transnationalism in Japanese America, Oxford UP (2005) ISBN13: 9780195159417
  • Greg Robinson, A Tragedy of Democracy: Japanese Confinement in North America, Columbia UP. (2010) ISBN-13: 9780231129237

Course Goals

Students will gain a strong background in the practice of history as done by professional historians and issues of world history. Students will apply their learning to the selection and execution of an in-depth historiographical essay.


Students are expected to behave respectfully towards their peers and instructor. Online comments must be constructive and reasonable. Disruptive behavior will result in participation penalties. This does not mean that there can’t be lively discussions and disagreements, but personal attacks, vulgar language, threats, and failure to give others a chance to speak and be heard are not acceptable.

Academic Honesty

Plagiarism will not be tolerated in this course. Plagiarism is the use of the words or ideas of another person without proper acknowledgement. Plagiarism is intellectual theft; in an educational setting it is particularly repugnant. Plagiarism in my courses will be punished. It’s simple: Anytime you copy words into your own work, you must clearly mark them and acknowledge the source of those words. Anytime you use someone else’s ideas, you must admit it. There are three options: put it in quotation marks and footnote; paraphrase and footnote; or be original. If you have any questions or any concerns about citation format or necessity, ask someone who knows what they’re doing.

Other forms of academic misconduct will not be tolerated either, including the use of unauthorized aid on tests, failing to write one’s own papers, using papers for more than one course without permission. None of this precludes group study and discussion: those are actually really good ideas. Academic misconduct will result in zero credit for an assignment, and may result in failure of the course or other penalties.

For more detail, see the University Catalog:


Advising is designed to help students complete the requirements of the University and their individual majors. Students should consult with their advisor at least once a semester to decide on courses, check progress towards graduation, and discuss career options and other educational opportunities. Advising is a shared responsibility, but students have final responsibility for meeting degree requirements.

Student Accommodation

Any student with a documented disability who would like to request accommodations should contact the instructor as early in the semester as possible. For more information, contact the Center for Student Accommodations (235-4309,

Syllabus supplement

For official PSU policies and information about campus resources, notifications, attendance, financial aid, expectations, grades, etc., see:


All schedules, assignments, and policies in the syllabus are subject to change. Check the website, which will have the most current and accurate information possible, as well as copies of course handouts.

Reading and Assignment Deadlines

All assignments are due  by 7pm or 9am on the date indicated. Since you have to complete the readings to do the assignments, you will want to make sure that you start doing them well before the deadlines. Comment replies to at least two of your colleagues should be posted within 48 hours of the assignment deadline. Comments must be substantive and civil.

You should check your email at least daily: if you don’t use a university email account regularly, set it to forward mail to your preferred address. I check email regularly: you should hear back from me within 24 hours. If you send me an assignment, I will reply with an acknowledgement. If I don’t reply, I probably did not get the email: try again.

Professionalism: Preparation, Attendance and Preparation

This is not just an online classroom: it is a work space, and you are adults. You are expected to be present and prepared, not only physically but intellectually, and to carry out your assignments in a timely and careful fashion. You are responsible for keeping track of assignments, due dates, and announcements made through the course website.

The essence of scholarship is constructive engagement; the best learning comes from doing. It is very important that everyone keep up with the readings, and be prepared to think and talk and question and listen. The class should be a collaborative conversation, with a wide range of contributions; this requires respect and civility towards your classmates as well as your instructor. Specifically, students are responsible for responding in a timely fashion to each other’s postings with comments, arguments and constructive criticism. Asking good questions is an important form of participation. Asking questions which can be easily answered by referencing the syllabus, course website or textbooks is not.

Late assignments may be excused for illness or family-related problems, but only if I am informed in advance (email is fine) or you have documentation (such as a doctor’s note). Unexcused late assignments will affect your professionalism grade. Failure to complete assignments, or consistently sloppy or incorrect work, will also affect your grade.

Writing Assignments

To go along with the readings in the first half of the course, there will be short writing assignments. These will serve as the starting place for the discussion forums. You are also responsible for commenting substantively on at least two other students’ work for every assignment. Comments will count towards the professionalism grade.

Assignments are due either by 9am or by 7pm on the day indicated, depending on the assignment. Comments should not be posted until after the deadline, so that you can read the entire class’s work before commenting. Details on the writing assignments are in a separate handout.

Historiographical Essay

Historiography is the study of history itself: the themes, growth, errors, changes and methods of historians. For this essay you will either examine the work of a particular historian who has made a significant contribution to the field, or you will examine a topic or school of thought within migration history. You will need to come to a conclusion about the state of scholarship on the topic, as well as your own ideas for fruitful directions or new questions.

For the first assignments (Topic, Annotated Bibliography, Thesis/Outline) you will post your assignment in the appropriate discussion forum and you will comment on at least two other students’ assignments. The drafts (partial, complete, final) will be turned in directly to me. I will repost the final version of all essays and each of you will read and comment on all of them.

The final essay will be graded on the quality of the thesis, use of evidence, cohesion of argument, structure and writing, as appropriate to graduate-level historical work. Other assignments will be graded primarily on timely completion, evidence of appropriate work, and responsiveness to constructive feedback.

Topic Selection due (1 page) 10/19 (F)

A short description of the subject and basic issues you’ll be researching, as well as a discussion of how that topic is covered in Okihiro and other materials we’ve read.

Annotated and expanded bibliography 10/29 (M)

Starting with the resources in Okihiro, your instructor’s feedback and your own searches, put together a collection of scholarship and sources for your essay. “Annotation” means short commentaries making it clear to your readers the relevance and value of the sources for your paper, which means you need to have at least looked at these materials.

Thesis and Outline 11/5 (M)

First, a clear statement — a paragraph, at most — of the issue, the state of scholarship, and your perspective. Then, an outline (bullet points, classic outline, whatever format is clear and useful to you) explaining how you will present the material, and bring your reader to that conclusion as well.

Partial Draft  (10+ pages) 11/16 (F)

This is an incomplete draft, but it should be a substantial portion of the essay. It does not have to be the first ten pages. Include your outline (revised, no doubt) so that I can see where it all fits together and what remains to be done.

Complete Draft (20+ pages) 11/28 (W)

While this may not be a finished paper, it should be a complete essay, with all major sections written, including introduction and conclusions.

Final Essay (20+ pages) due.  12/7 (F)

This is the finished product: thesis, argument, conclusion, citations (bibliography, too, though that doesn’t count for pages).

You are also responsible for reading and commenting on your colleagues’ papers during Finals Week.

Grade Distribution

Short Writing Assignments 30%
Professionalism 25%
Historiography Assignments 15%
Final Essay 30%


The most important component of your grade on writing assignments will be whether you have used the historical materials available to effectively answer an interesting question. I will give you topics to focus on, but you will have to decide on and articulate a thesis, select and present relevant evidence, and make it clear to your reader how the evidence proves your point. I do not generally grade on style, grammar or spelling, unless they are so bad as to obscure the meaning of what you are writing.

  • Grades are generally recorded on a 4-point scale.
  • Assignment format, requirements and due dates will be included in the assignment instructions: read them carefully, and ask questions well in advance of the due date if there is anything you do not understand.
  • In the event of an excused absence on an assignment due date, the student is responsible for turning in the work no later than the next day, unless other arrangements have been made.
  • Unexcused late assignments, due to absence, technical problems, etc., will be penalized one-third grade level (0.33 on a 4-point scale) per day.
  • Even very, very bad (or very late) work will get partial credit, which is a lot better than a zero.
  • Plagiarism or other violations of academic honesty will result in zero credit on that assignment and may result in an F or XF for the semester depending on circumstances.


Administrative Deadlines and Instructional Holidays are in Italics
Assignments and Tests are in Bold



F (8/24) Self-introduction, personal migration history.
M (8/27) Okihiro, Part One (“Narrative Overview,” 1-40), Part Four (“Chronology,” 175-190); Takaki, chapter 1, “From A Different Shore”

Last day to enroll or add without instructor permission.
Last day for online enrollment.

F (8/31) Last Day to drop without ‘W’

Takaki, chapters 2-6

W (9/5) Takaki, chapters 7-10; Okihiro, Part Two (“Historical Debates,” 41-127)
M (9/10) Takaki, Chapters 11-13; Okihiro, Part Three (“Emerging Themes”, 129-174)
F (9/14) Brown, all
F (9/21) Kuhn, all.
M (9/24) Last day for half tuition refund
F (9/28) Hsu, all.
F (10/5) Azuma, All.
F (10/12) Robinson, all
M (10/15) Midsemester D/F Grades Due by Noon
F (10/19) Okihiro, part five (“Historiography and Resources”)
Research Topic Selection
F (10/26) Last day to apply for December graduation

Fall Break

M (10/29) Annotated bibliography, emphasizing materials not included in Okihiro
M (11/5) Thesis and Outline

Last day to drop single course.
Early Enrollment for Spring begins

F (11/16) Partial Draft  (10+ pages)
W (11/21) Thanksgiving Holiday
F (11/23) Thanksgiving Holiday
W (11/28) Complete Draft (20+ pages)
11/29 Last day to withdraw from entire term.
F (12/7) Final Essays (20+ pages) due
Final Exam Week Comment on other papers, discuss

 “As Troeltsch pointed out many years ago, it is one thing to speak of points of contact between different civilizations and diferent cultural groups, and quite another to suppose that their histories are linked by a real causal connexion which makes them subordinate parts of a single historical process.” — Geoffrey Barraclough, Main Trends in History (1991), in Dunn, ed., The New World History, p. 127.

“History reflects very critically on public policy and political behaviour; it is as likely to endorse subversion as authority; it is concerned with past abuses and discrimination, and by understanding how they operated it opens up current discrimination to critical review; it is concerned with understanding the past by challenging the patterns of myth-making that distinguish popular perception from the view historians may take.” — Richard Overy, “The Historical Present,” Times Higher Education, 29 April 2010.

“Who would think of using the word `un-Italian’ or `un-French’ as we use the word `un-American’?”– Daniel Boorstin, The Genius of American Politics (1953), cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 73.

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