Debt: The Cultural and Material Logics of Owing/Owning

full name / name of organization: 
Journal of Asian American Studies
contact email:

Debt: The Cultural and Material Logics of Owing/Owning

Guest editors: Cynthia Wu and Kritika Agarwal

Debt is what made the Asian American. Briefly put, indentured servitude created an Asian diaspora in the Americas. These asymmetrical relations of owing (for workers) and owning (for plantation capitalists, some of whom were themselves Asian) generated for the United States and other countries a post-emancipation workforce that blurred the lines between free and unfree labor. Yet, workers under these conditions improvised forms of barter, exchange, ownership, and intimacy that could not have been anticipated.

Following World War II, the economic landscape for Asian Americans shifted considerably. Federal housing policies placed Asian Americans in structural proximity to whites in the context of residential integration and mortgage lending. Local and transnational Asian investment accelerated the colonial settlement of Hawai`i and other Pacific islands. In the contemporary moment, how can we rethink the links among capital, accumulation, property, labor, kinship, affect, and the neoliberal state?

This special issue of the Journal of Asian American Studies invites contributors to become part of a timely discussion about debt that has been revived in the wake of twenty-first-century crises. The 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, the US invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, Hurricane Katrina, the earthquake in Haiti, and the global economic collapse have all provoked new thinking about the precarity of quotidian life. How might we reconfigure the terms on which the logics of owing and owning are based? How might the field of Asian American studies invite new ways to theorize debt?

Possible topics may include but are not limited to:

• consumer credit
• student loans
• subprime mortgages and foreclosures
• national debt
• former colonies and the International Monetary Fund and World Bank
• US universities’ budget shortfalls and recruitment of Asian international students
• non-material or affective debts
• medical expenses and illness or disability
• the Occupy Movement and Asian American activism
• militarism and security
• global austerity

Please submit all essays as a Word attachment to by SEPTEMBER 1, 2013. Manuscripts should follow the documentary-note style, as specified in the latest edition of the Chicago Manual of Style. You may cite your work, but do not use wording that identifies you as the manuscript’s author. Your name should appear only on the title page. You should also include a 100-word abstract following the title page. Articles should not exceed 30 double-spaced pages, excluding endnotes and other printed matter. The guest editors will acknowledge receipt of your manuscript. All submissions will also be considered for potential publication in the journal apart from the special issue.

cfp categories: