Global Development Studies

An undergraduate interdisciplinary program with a focus on social justice, sustainable economic development, public health, global interconnection, and public service.

Statement Regarding Racism Against Asian-Americans | March 2021

The following is a statement in response to recent and ongoing acts of violence against the Asian American community, written by GDS faculty in collaboration with GDS students.
- With love, and in solidarity, David, Gabi, Sylvia, and Cliff

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We find ourselves confronting white supremacist violence once again, this time targeting Asian American women in the Atlanta area. We want to recognize the personal nature of the tragedy for the families and communities involved and, of course, the deceased themselves: Soon Chung Park; Hyun Jung Grant; Suncha Kim; Yong Ae Yue; Xiaojie Tan; Daoyou Feng; Delaina Ashley Yaun; and Paul Andre Michels. We also recognize the pain, trauma, fear, anger and exhaustion in Asian and Asian American communities across the country, including here at UVA.

These murders are part of a recent surge in such violence, particularly in areas with large Asian and Asian American communities, such as San Francisco, Oakland, Seattle and New York. The attacks have been brutal. They have been encouraged not only openly by those in power, but also by everyday practices & conditions of white supremacy which normalize and welcome anti-Asian violence. This continues a long-standing pattern in the US and other colonized areas of the globe, where Asian communities are both demonized and set against other oppressed groups to further the political projects of white supremacy. Anti-Asian violence is inextricably linked to the legacies of slavery and settler colonialism that are the foundations of white supremacy. That much of this violence is directed at Asian women highlights the deep interconnections of misogyny, racism, and xenophobia. The response of local law enforcement to the recent acts of terror in Atlanta, also continuing a pattern with deep roots, is sadly but predictably to defend the racialized and gendered status quo. The structures are heavy.

We want to acknowledge the acts of resistance to these structures among Asian American communities, and the solidarity offered by other victims of racist violence. Building on the work of those already active in anti-racist struggles, new coalitions are forming across the country to organize community-led safety measures, such as escorts for the elderly and mutual aid networks. These community-generated responses reject practices of policing and the carceral state, building instead on practices of community care and transformative justice. New voices are also added to those who have long been demanding accountability from government, civic institutions, and large employers for patterns of anti-Asian racism, and for investments in programs to combat such violence. Dr. Sylvia Chong, Associate Professor of English, Associate Director of American Studies, and Director of Minor in Asian Pacific American Studies at UVA, has begun an on-going list of links of Asian American advocacy and mutual aid organizations, including those that support women workers like those who were killed in Atlanta.

Close to home, we also acknowledge the histories, legacies, and current practices of white supremacy at UVA, and within our own field of study — development — and, indeed, within our own program: GDS. We must, as a program, do more to grapple with the legacies and ongoing practices of U.S. imperialism and militarism, often in the name of “development,” in regions around the world, and specifically in Asia, which are root causes of the violence we witness. We also acknowledge the tireless activism of student organizers seeking to highlight and combat those practices and to build communities of care within UVA. Several UVA Asian/Asian American student organizations have drafted this letter responding to the recent and ongoing violence. Within GDS, and within all our communities, we must listen to and support those already working to combat such violence.

At a personal level, we need to be present for all Asian and Asian American people at UVA – students and workers – and in our home communities, in whatever ways they ask us to be. We must also reflect on our own entanglement and complicity, however small or large, with the forces that promote anti-Asian violence, racism, and misogyny.


Statement Regarding Racist Policing | June 2020

The Global Development Studies Program at UVA condemns the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, Ahmaud Arbery, Elijah McClain and many other Black and Brown people by US security forces.  As a program, we state unequivocally that Black lives matter.

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Racist violence is not unique to the US, though it has taken particularly virulent forms here at many junctures in our history.  We recognize that fighting white supremacy is a global project, requiring the coordination of strategies, sharing of resources, and a commitment to mutual moral and political support among anti-racist groups. 

Recent video recordings of police violence in the United States are horrifying. They should not surprise us.   As survivors, activists and scholars have been telling us, controlling Black and Brown bodies – and the thoughts, actions and relations associated with them – has always been central to policing in the United States.  From slave patrols, on to chain gangs and lynchings, and through to racial profiling, mass incarceration, and the militarization of police forces, policing as an institution has never strayed far from this core mission.  Black and Brown people living in the U.S. have resisted control in creative and courageous ways since the country’s founding, as the recent passing of John Lewis reminds us.  Some of our students carry on this tradition of resistance today.  More of us need to join them, particularly those of us who by race, gender, class and other forms of privilege have benefited psychologically and materially from current social structures. 

Though policing is in the headlines now, racist violence is made manifest in myriad ways: in political and economic institutions that generate persistent racialized inequalities, in glaring racial disparities in the quality of housing and health care available to Black and Brown people, and in the form and content of education, including at UVA.  GDS commits to resisting control, exploitation and abuse of Black and Brown people on Grounds and off, within the US and globally, using the tools available to us at the University.  In the first instance, these tools include teaching, researching and elaborating strategies for resisting white-supremacist policing. We, as a program, can also show up to protests, hearings, budgeting meetings and other events organized and led by Black and Brown neighbors at the University, in Charlottesville, and around the globe.  We can support Black and Brown communities as they build new institutions for assuring collective well-being, and new mechanisms for accountability for those in power.  We can challenge white supremacy within the US, and seek to recognize and challenge racism in development theory and practice in settings around the globe.   We can offer material resources to those who are creating new ways of being together that challenge rather than reproduce racial hierarchies. Crucially, we must offer emotional and spiritual support to Black and Brown friends when they grow weary from their own efforts. 

This commitment must be enduring, but must be made tangible today. Looking forward to the 2020-2021 academic year, GDS will support the following actions:

  • Together with colleagues in the Global Studies Program, we will create a course where faculty and students can engage directly with ongoing movements for social justice.
  • We will form an advisory group comprised of colleagues outside the university who are active in movements for social justice, and we will link them to students and faculty who can support their work. 
  • We commit to listen to, take seriously, and respond to our students when they signal space for betterment with respect to how the GDS program is organized. This includes commitments, once faculty searches resume at UVA, to prioritize hiring Black and Brown scholars and praxctitioners, to develop courses that reflect the knowledge created by and relevant to Black and Brown people around the globe, and to promote engaged learning that contributes to on-going efforts for racial and social justice appropriate to our skills and experiences.
  • We commit to forming an advisory group of students to identify other promising initiatives to advance racial and other forms of social justice. 
  • We will encourage the formation of a social support organization among GDS students to care for each other’s affective needs, enabling students to continue their living and learning in the classroom and out of it.  

We will add to this list as guided by our advisory boards and as circumstances change. 

UVA sits on Monacan land, amid buildings constructed by enslaved labor, supported by workers today who are often Black, Brown, immigrant and refugee and who – despite recent and long-overdue increases in wages – still struggle to survive in Charlottesville. GDS joins a chorus of voices at UVA pushing the university to address these injustices on Grounds, and in our relations across the globe.