Webster University Professor Elsa Fan Awarded ASIANetwork Grant to Amplify Asian Voices 

Webster University entrance sign on the Webster Groves campus.

Elsa Fan, associate professor of anthropology in the Department of Global Languages, Cultures, and Societies at Webster University, has been selected as a grant recipient from ASIANetwork. This grant provides funding for her project, titled "Elevating Asian Voices Through Digital Storytelling.” Fan’s project aims to highlight the voices of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities in the Midwest by challenging stereotypes and emphasizing diversity.  
"This is a great opportunity for students to learn more about AAPI history in St. Louis but also to be part of collecting and sharing those stories with the community,” said Fan. She continued to stress the importance of focusing on community experiences through storytelling, noting how the project will help highlight the diversity of AAPI voices in the Midwest.   

Headshot of Elsa Fan.

Photo of Elsa Fan.
The grant arrives as the AAPI population in the St. Louis region has increased by 37% over the last decade, according to the 2020 U.S. Census. Despite this, Asian Americans often describe feeling invisible in the social and political landscape, exacerbated by historical narratives like the "Mysterious Asia" exhibits during the 1904 World's Fair that portrayed them as homogeneous.  
 Fan’s project aims to counteract that sentiment. As part of the project, four Webster University undergraduate students will partner with faculty or community members to interview Asian Americans living in the Midwest. These interviews will give AAPI locals the opportunity to share their stories, histories and lived experiences. Then, the stories will be amplified through several mediums – including a website, art exhibit, booklet and digital archives. 
Interviews will be conducted in close collaboration with the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), the oldest Asian American civil rights organization in the United States, to ensure authentic representation. The AAPI oral histories collected will be maintained and shared with the wider community via an online website managed by JACL.  
"The St. Louis chapter is excited to partner with Webster University on this digital storytelling project,” said Robin Hattori, board member of JACL-St. Louis. “Building upon our own archive of Japanese American oral histories, we look forward to working with students and faculty to capture new narratives that illuminate what it means to Asian in America."  
As this project unfolds, it promises to create a more representative narrative that celebrates the diverse experiences of Asian Americans in the Midwest. The significance of this project is echoed by Danielle MacCartney, interim dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences: "This grant provides unique opportunities for our students to work with the oldest Asian American civil rights organization in the U.S., learn oral history methodology and highlight the diversity of stories among Asian American and Pacific Islanders in St. Louis.”

Related News