This introductory chapter supplies the background context for the study, as well as its limitations. It largely concerns the history and culture of foreign students studying in the United States, with particular emphasis on the political activism of Chinese students in the United States and their writings about America from the late nineteenth century to the present. These provide important insights into the transnational making of Asian America. The chapter also defines the term “Asian American”—which will be used throughout the book—to hold together the multiple desires and contrapuntal positions that the foreign student embodies in the transpacific flows of knowledge, capital, identity, and politics. By foregrounding the foreign student as an instance of the Asian American subject, the chapter attempts to identify a transpacific coming together that is based on discrepant relations structured upon Western domination over Asia.
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