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Letter of Support for Naoko Shibusawa

By The Ending the Korean War Teaching Collective | February 14, 2023

Dear President Christina Paxson,

We call upon Brown University’s administration to lift its sanctions against Professor Naoko Shibusawa. We are deeply troubled by the highly punitive and humiliating way that she has been treated and singled out for censure. Institutional racism and sexism have often proceeded under the guise of proceduralism, enabling differential–indeed inequitable–outcomes to appear to be the neutral implementation of institutional policies. What makes Brown University’s leveraging of protocols around confidentiality and collegiality to neutralize and gag Professor Shibusawa all the more egregious is the fact that a discussion of how academic institutions reproduce anti-Asian racism is at the heart of her 2022 article, “Where is the Reciprocity? Notes on Solidarity from the Field.” In this essay, Professor Shibusawa challenges us to confront the racist targeting of Asians as “low-hanging fruit,” asking us to consider the lines of continuity between intensified anti-Asian violence during the pandemic, on the one hand, and the “suckerpunchability” of Asian Americanists when they decry anti-Asian racism in the academy, on the other. We find it grotesque and ironic that Brown University is proving her thesis by targeting Professor Shibusawa, subjecting her to totally unwarranted, outlandish consequences.

In its rash and deeply unjust decision to sanction Professor Shibusawa, Brown University is not operating in a vacuum. This is a time in which racist reaction against scholarship and teaching on race is in the spotlight, and the forms this repression has taken span the gamut from overt racism to bureaucratic proceduralism. Brown University’s actions, in other words, extend beyond Professor Shibusawa’s case, contributing to the chilling of academic freedom on a national scale. Published after undergoing double-blind, peer review in the flagship journal of the Association of Asian American Studies alongside the writings of other field-defining scholars and activists including Lisa Yoneyama, Yen Le Espiritu, Sunaira Maira, and Helen Zia, Professor Shibusawa’s article, “Where is the Reciprocity? Notes on Solidarity from the Field,” deliberates on the challenges facing Asian American studies, an understanding especially pressing today given the rise in politics that seek to silence critical race scholarship and to impede academic freedom.

In our careful reading of the article, nothing warrants the charge of academic misconduct. Even as this essay incorporates anecdotes and reflections on her experience working to build capacity for Asian American studies in the face of the myriad forms that anti-Asian racism takes in a range of academic settings, Professor Shibusawa makes it impossible to identify specifics related to events that occurred at Brown University. The inclusion of Professor Shibusawa’s experiences not only lends credence to the article’s underlying arguments but also gives urgent voice to Asian and Asian American scholars, students, and activists who have faced similar circumstances. Indeed, given the systemic nature of what she indicts, we believe Professor Shibusawa should be praised rather than punished for her willingness to broach such topics in a public forum.

We have worked closely with Professor Shibusawa as members of the Ending the Korean War Collective, an interdisciplinary group of scholars and activists from across the United States. Our work together has included the passing of public resolutions calling for a formal end to the Korean War at the American Studies Association (ASA) in 2021 and the Association of Asian American Studies (AAAS) in 2020. Professor Shibusawa’s participation in our collective is a profound testament to the way she envisions and enacts solidarity, particularly with regard to a war ironically memorialized as “forgotten” in the United States. As a scholar and mentor, she is deeply respected not just for her intellectual breadth, with her scholarship spanning the multiple fields of history, American studies, and Asian American studies, but also, her profound ethical solidarity. Professor Shibusawa’s entire career has been defined by courage and principle.

In closing, we reiterate our call for Brown University to immediately lift its sanctions against Professor Shibusawa and restore her full rights as a faculty member. As members of university communities across the country, we are stunned by Brown University’s overreach. Indeed, the way she has been silenced and punished echoes the critique Professor Shibusawa makes in her article of how Asian Americanists are silenced and sidelined in institutional settings that otherwise tout themselves on their commitments to diversity, equity, and inclusion. In addition to the personal injury experienced by Professor Shibusawa, we are deeply concerned about the far-reaching ramifications of Brown University’s impingement on academic freedom. By targeting an Asian Americanist who dares to expose how anti-Asian racism works to silence Asian Americanists in university settings, Brown University demonstrates its hostility to Asian American studies. We certainly hope this is not the message you wish to broadcast to the world.


The Ending the Korean War Teaching Collective

Jinah Kim

Professor, Department of Communication Studies

California State University-Northridge

Patrick Chung

Assistant Professor, Department of History

University of Maryland-College Park

Christine Hong

Director, Center for Racial Justice

Chair, Critical Race and Ethnic Studies

Associate Professor, Department of Critical Race and Ethnic Studies and Literature University of California-Santa Cruz

Crystal Baik

Associate Professor, Gender & Sexuality Studies

University of California-Riverside

Monica Kim

Associate Professor, Department of History

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Sung Eun Kim

Ph.D. candidate, Department of Asian Languages and Cultures

University of California-Los Angeles

Joo Ok Kim

Assistant Professor, Department of Literature

University of California-San Diego Youngoh Jung PhD Candidate, Department of History Critical Gender Studies Specialization Program University of California-San Diego

Clara Han

Professor, Department of Anthropology

Johns Hopkins University

Ka-eul Yoo

UC President’s Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Asian American Studies

University of California-Irvine

Minju Bae

Postdoctoral Associate, Institute for the Study of Global Racial Justice

Rutgers University - New Brunswick

Elaine H. Kim

Professor Emerita, Asian American and Asian Diaspora Studies

University of California-Berkeley

Madeleine Han

PhD Candidate, Department of American Studies

Yale University

Chisato Hughes

MFA, UC Santa Cruz

Alfred P. Flores

Assistant Professor, Asian American Studies

Harvey Mudd College

Deann Borshay Liem


Mu Films

S. Heijin Lee

Assistant Professor, Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

CC: Lawrence Larson, Interim Provost (

CC: Leah VanWey, Dean of the Faculty (


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