What is Asia?

Happy Family Night Market


By Ash Goh Hua

View Film


2nd Edition

The word “Asia” was invented by the ancient Greeks to distinguish the territories east of their empire. Its original intended meaning is a term of othering and otherness. 

2500 years later, we still use the term “Asian,” to describe the inhabitants of this geographic region—in addition to people belonging to a global diaspora—who may or may not share ethnic, linguistic, or cultural heritage, and who perhaps don’t even self-identify as Asian. 

What does it mean to be Asian?
What is Asia today, and how has it changed over time?

Screening Tips

For the best viewing experience, we encourage you to watch this series in its entirety, in one sitting, in the order in which the films are presented. The total runtime is 97 minutes and 24 seconds.

We also recommend you watch the films on a large screenas large as possiblewith stereo speakers (as opposed to your phone, tablet, or mobile device).

If you only have a laptop or mobile device, please connect it to external speakers or headphones.

Try your best to create an intentional and uninterrupted viewing experience. Dim any ambient lights, turn off notifications, and allow yourself to focus on the films.

Once you are finished, return to the WHAT IS ASIA? landing page and consider the questions below.

Questions for consideration

What does “Asia” mean to you and why? How do you define “Asian?”

How do political borders and global economics shape cultural identity?

Who invented the word “Asia” and why?

Who invented the term “AAPI” and why?

Do you self-identify as “Asian?” Why or why not?


WHAT IS ASIA? showcases filmmakers and artists of the Asian and Pacific Islander diaspora whose works examine our relationships to place, the feeling of belonging (or not belonging), and the idea of home. 

This year’s edition features a 97-minute program of short films from CHamoru, Iraqi and Yemeni American, Pakistani, Punjabi Malaysian, Indian and Greek American,  Singaporean Chinese, Korean American, and French and Chinese American artists.

Our intention with this program

is to question and critique the term “Asia”—a homogenizing, othering, and imperialist term—by engaging a diversity of perspectives in thoughtful dialogue, and encouraging audiences to do the same. 

We seek to raise awareness on the conflicting geopolitical and sociocultural definitions of “Asia,” on the problem of reducing a diversity of people and cultures into a singular, oversimplified identity, and on the unconscious biases that exist because of the racial and ethnic stereotypes associated with what it means to be “Asian” or “AAPI.” 

Our working definition of “Asian diaspora”

includes: any individual who self-identifies as Asian, Asian American, Asian [insert nationality here], any member of an indigenous group historically located in what is now commonly referred to as Asia, any foreign-born person of Asian heritage, adoptee of Asian descent, and multi-racial person with Asian ancestry.

We include individuals who identify as Pacific Islander and Kānaka Maoli—however, we also acknowledge that people who are indigenous to Hawaiʻi and the Pacific Islands may or may not self-identify as part of the Asian diaspora, and therefore may or may not wish to be included and identified as such, nor associated with Asia. (Read: Why We Are Dropping The Term “AAPI.”

We respect how individuals self-identify

and do not intend to impose our definitions on anyone. All featured artists have explicitly consented to participating in this program and engaging with the question: “What is Asia?" The 2nd Edition of WHAT IS ASIA? was curated by Angeline Gragasin, Gerry Leonard, Vaishali Sinha, Karishma Dev Dube, TJ Collanto, Miko Revereza, and Alexa Lim Haas.

This program was made possible in part by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature, and the Queens Council for the Arts’ Queens Arts Fund. 

Learn More: What is Asia? First Edition

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