- Mission: Developing deep and nuanced understandings of Asia and the Middle East for a better world.
- Vision: Increasing expertise related to languages and cultures of Asia and Middle East in a local and global context.
- Values: Student Focus, Scholarly Excellence, and Inclusivity and Diversity.
The Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies engaged in a strategic planning exercise in 2016 that resulted in the above articulation of our mission, vision, and values. This text replaced our previous mission statement, developed through departmental conversation in 2012.
This text has been enhanced in the intervening years by a series of statements that the department has issued in response to University struggles with issues of racism, police brutality, and white supremacism, quoted fully below as representations of our evolving sense of the role of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusivity in our mission:
- Unanimous department faculty support for the Roadmap for Racial Equity at UNC-Chapel Hill
- The Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies Antiracist Toolkit (2020)
- The Department of Asian Studies statement on racism and police brutality (2020)
- The Department of Asian Studies stands united with our students, university colleagues, and community members against racism and police brutality. We reject systemic bias and violence against people of color. At this moment in particular—amidst anti-Asian discrimination in the age of COVID-19 and as protests erupt around the U.S. against the dehumanization of black lives by the police and others—we recommit ourselves to social justice and global education. This is why we in Asian Studies teach, research, and build programs about Asia and the Middle East.
- The Department of Asian Studies statement on the Confederate monument settlement (2019)
- The Department of Asian Studies joins with many other units on campus in opposing the decision to offer the statue known as Silent Sam to the Sons of Confederate Veterans along with a payment of $2.5 million from the university’s own endowment. This is, as the Chairs of the Fine Arts and Humanities division put it, “continued abuse of our core mission.” Likewise, in the words of the Faculty Council resolution condemning the action, “such a settlement supports white supremacist activity and therefore violates the university’s mission as well as its obligations to the state.” Our department is committed to teaching and researching Asian and Middle Eastern languages and cultures in the name of mutual understanding, social justice, and the global education of each new generation of students. Likewise, Carolina is committed to the systematic pursuit of truth and knowledge through the careful examination of empirical evidence, and we urge the leadership of the university to redouble its efforts to preserve these core principles.
- The Department of Asian Studies statement on the Confederate monument at McCorkle Place (2018)
- The staff and faculty of the Department of Asian Studies express their abhorrence for the toppled Confederate monument that formerly stood at McCorkle Place, and their support for the students and community members who performed the ethical act of civil disobedience that brought down the statue, a hateful symbol of white supremacy on our campus, on August 20, 2018. We further urge Chancellor Folt, the UNC Board of Governors, the North Carolina Legislature, and the district attorney to refrain from levelling charges against any of the protesters of the monument. We also register our support for Maya Little, a former teaching assistant in Asian Studies, who has played a prominent role in sustaining the protests against Silent Sam.
- The faculty of Asian Studies teach students to understand and respect other cultures and perspectives. We also routinely teach and research the relationship between power and the right to write history and create knowledge. Many of the regions and cultures of Asia and the Middle East have suffered from a history of colonialism and its legacies. Among those legacies is an ongoing racialized imbalance of power between the Global North and the Global South, which manifests itself in an imbalance in the power to name, to narrate, and to represent. What we do in our classrooms is not divorced from events outside the classroom, including the types of monuments that stand on the UNC campus. For more than 100 years Silent Sam celebrated bigotry and valorized the racism that made both slavery and colonialism possible. Its removal facilitates our work, as well as that of UNC as a whole, whose mission “to discover, create, transmit, and apply knowledge to address the needs of individuals and society” we share.