The founding mandate of Center for Transpacific Studies (CTS) is to coordinate the research and teaching activities of faculty members who work on people, cultures and ideas that move across the Pacific. In the spirit of expanding USC’s presence in Transpacific Studies to the fullest extent possible, the Center incorporated the Political Economy of the Pacific Rim research cluster into its own research and administrative structure in 2010. Thus, CTS now embraces two main academic themes under the rubric of Transpacific Studies, one based on social and cultural research and the other dealing with key political economy concepts and trends across the Pacific Rim. With the inclusion of political economy into the Center’s mission statement, we remain committed to enlarging the scope of CTS-backed research and programs to address the Pacific Rim in its entirety, including its impact upon the United States, and vice versa. Using Transpacific Studies as a new kind of cross-disciplinary research paradigm, we seek to forge a dynamic research and teaching model that goes beyond conventional area studies approaches.
The Center works on the premise that USC’s fate is tied to its relationship with Asia, with Transpacific movements, and with Asian American populations. California has about 40% of the nation’s population of people of Asian heritage, and 25% of the USC student population is of Asian heritage. With almost 5 million Asian Pacific residents, southern California has the largest and most diverse set of Asian communities. L.A. County has the largest percentage of Asian Americans in the state—more than a million people, according to the U.S. Census, of whom 70 percent are immigrants. The people who cross the Pacific to come to L.A. and the U.S. include not only immigrants but dual citizens, “flexible” citizens, refugees, exiles, all of whom transmit their own ideas, languages, and cultures as well as new forms of social and economic capital. Los Angeles has become what former USC President Max Nikias calls the “intellectual melting pot of the Pacific Rim,” a place where the world is richly represented.