Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Theme Studies

What are National Historic Landmark Theme Studies?

National Historic Landmarks are often identified through theme studies. Theme studies are an effective way of identifying and nominating properties because they provide a comparative analysis of properties associated with a specific area of American history, such as the fur trade, earliest Americans, women's history, Greek Revival architecture, Man in Space, or labor history. Theme studies provide a national historic context for specific topics in American history or prehistory. In order to make the case for national significance, a theme study must provide that necessary national historic context so that national significance may be judged for a number of related properties.

A Brief Glimpse: Asian American Pacific Islander National Historic Landmarks Theme Study (.pdf | 2.5MB)

Asian American Pacific Islander Theme Study Panel
  • Milton Chen, Senior Fellow, The George Lucas Educational Foundation, San Francisco, CA
  • Christine DeLisle, Assistant Professor, American Indian Studies, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Yen Le Espiritu, Professor, Department of Ethnic Studies, University of California San Diego
  • Donna Graves, Historian and Cultural Planner, Berkeley, CA
  • Robert Hayashi, Associate Professor of American Studies; Chair of American Studies, Amherst College, MA
  • Michelle G. Magalong, Chair, Asian Pacific Islander Americans in Historic Preservation, Corona, CA
  • Martin F. Manalansan IV, Associate Professor of Anthropology & Asian American Studies, Department of Anthropology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Davianna McGregor, Professor, University of Hawai'i
  • Konrad Ng, Director, Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center, Washington, DC
  • Franklin Odo, Chair, National Park Service Asian American & Pacific Islander Theme Study, Washington, DC
  • Karthick Ramakrishnan, Professor and Associate Dean, School of Public Policy, University of California, Riverside
  • Greg Robinson, Professor of History, Universite du Quebec a Montreal, Canada
  • Khatharya Um, Associate Professor, Ethnic Studies Department, University of California Berkeley
  • Ji-Yeon Yuh, Associate Professor, Department of History, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL
  • Helen Zia, author, activist, and journalist, Oakland, CA
  • Barbara L. Voss, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, Stanford University, CA
  • Bill Watanabe, Executive Director, Little Tokyo Service Center, Inc., Los Angeles, CA
  • Christopher Yip, Professor, Architecture Department, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo
  • Elaine Jackson-Retondo, National Historic Landmarks Manager, Pacific West Regional Office, National Park Service, San Francisco, CA
  • Stephanie Toothman, Associate Director, Cultural Resources, Partnerships and Science, National Park Service, Washington, DC
  • Barbara Wyatt, Historian, National Register/National Historic Landmarks Programs, National Park Service, Washington, DC

Asian American Pacific Islander Theme Study Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Understanding AAPI History through Place and Time, by Franklin Odo. An introductory essay defining terms and highlighting seven specific places to introduce the breadth of AAPI history.

Chapter 2. Contact, Imperialism, Migration and 'Exploration,' by Gary Okihiro. This essay focuses on the results of contact between Europeans and Americans and Asians and Pacific Islanders. This includes a discussion of early immigration, the issue of continuity and change in Asian and Pacific Islander cultures as a result of contact, and the development of the idea of Asians and Pacific Islanders in American Culture.

Chapter 3. Early Foundations and Mobilities of Pacific Islanders, by Amy Stillman. An essay exploring the early history of Pacific Islander cultures focusing on inter-island trade and migration, the development of political systems, and the expression of cultural values.

Chapter 4. Archeology at Methodology for the Study of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, by Doug Ross. This essay summarizes contributions made by archeologiests in recovering early histories of AAPIs. Some of this background is fairly well-known and critical to the understanding of pre-contact Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders. But scholarship over the last half-century has uncovered significant amounts of information which will be useful to academics and preservationists alike.

Chapter 5. Immigration, Exclusion, and Resistance, by Erika Lee. This essay focuses on the impact of immigration, the emergence and structure of early communities, and early backlash against Asian immigration. It will also include a discussion of the ways in which immigrants and first generation Americans fought back against exclusion.

Chapter 6. Establishing Communities, by Nayan Shah. This essay focuses on the development of communities and the expansion or contraction they experienced during their early histories in the United States.

Chapter 7. Labor, Labor Activism, and Workers, by Dorothy Fujita-Rony. This essay focuses on Asian American and Pacific Islander workers; it explores the various industries into which AAPIs were recruited and the emergence of labor activism. It further discusses the ways in which workers organized and resisted exploitative conditions.

Chapter 8. Asian Americans and Agriculture, Innovation and Business, by Lane Hirabayashi. This essay explores individual entrepreneurship and the creation of businesses by Asian Americans, their contributions to agriculture, and the roles they played in developing the American economy through innovation.

Chapter 9. Architecture and Landscape Architecture, by Gail Dubrow. This essay will focus on architecture/landscape architecture, exploring the ways in which Japanese forms, in particular, were adopted and adapted in the US as well as ways in which they merged with other styles to create new American visions. It will also explore and discuss the roles of AAPIs within these professional worlds.

Chapter 10. Battling Imperialism, by Davianna McGregor. This essay focuses on the impact of European, American, and Japanese imperialisms; the battle to contest these incursions and the emergence of nationalist movements among Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

Chapter 11. World War Two and AAPIs, by Brian Niiya. World War Two was a turning point for most of the world. AAPIs were no exception. The US Congress ended the Chinese Exclusion Act while 120,000 Japanese Americans were forcibly incarcerated. Tens of thouhsands served in the US military.

Chapter 12. The Cold War, by Richard Baldoz. The Cold War exacerbated anti-community attitudes and policies in America. Much of the animus was directed at the Soviet Union and Cuba but a new enemy emerged in "Red China" after the takeover in 1949. The negative impact on AAPIs was serious and destructive.

Chapter 13. The Interconnections: Cultural Production, Exchange, and Appropriation, by Bob Lee. This essay explores the ways in which AAPI cultures influenced America and the ways in which different visions of these cultures were incorporated into mainstream society. It will also critique the misappropiration of cultural production as well as the maintenance of traditions within the ethnic communities.

Chapter 14. AAPIs and Cultural Retention/Assimilation, by Mary Yu Danico. This essay focuses primarily on the tensions between assimilation and the retention of cultures associated with countries of origin. It explores this topic through cultural and social history. Among the issues examined are the origins of new groups within and among AAPI communities.

Chapter 15. Asian American Activism and Civic Participation/Battling for Political Rights and Citizenship, by Daryl Maeda. The post-WWII battles for civil rights included the significant emergence of Asian Americnas and Pacific Islanders on the political landscape and an ensuing backlash. it will examine the trajectory of the Asian American 'Movement' in the late 1960s and thereafter as well as the lyriad organized struggles for civil and human rights in AAPI communities.

Chapter 16. New Immigration, Migration and Refugees, by Linda Vo. New immigrant streams from Asia began immediately after the end of WWII but significantly increased after major reforms in 1965. This essay focuses on the development of new communities within the US.

Chapter 17. Community Development including Community Building and Dismantling, by Catherine Ceniza Choy. This essay focuses on the development of diverse communities within American society, including the rapid growth of various AAPI groups. It also includes the commodification of AAPI culture (e.g., through tourism), the revival of traditional cultures and cultural activities, and the development of new communities.

Chapter 18. Insider/Outsider Politics, by Kim Geron. This essay focuses on the emergence of and participation by Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in modern and contemporary politics, especially electoral, at local/state/regional/national/international levels. Included are the extraordinary population increases in various parts of the nation and their impact on issues of power.


Additional theme Studies focusing on Asian American or Pacific Islander heritage:


Civil Rights in America: Racial Voting Rights: The historic context contains separate essays on African American, American Indian, and the Hispanic and Asian American voting rights experience. All three stories begin at a different time period. Registration guidelines then outline how properties may qualify for National Historic Landmark designation under this theme study.

Japanese Americans in WWII (.pdf | 9.1MB): This Theme Study identifies, evaluates, and recommends designation as national historic landmarks those sites, buildings, and structures that best illustrate or commemorate the period in American history from 1941 to 1946 when Japanese Americans were ordered to be detained, relocated, or excluded pursuant to Executive Order Number 9066, and other actions.

WWII and the American Home Front (.pdf | 7.2MB): This theme study identifies historic places that best represents the wartime mobilization that occurred in the US and its territories between 1939-1945. A section of this four part theme study explores the African American and other minorities' experience during WWII.

Experience More