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Who are AAPI or ASPA?

When referring to individuals who identify as Asian or Pacific Islander in the U.S. AAPI is the most commonly used acronym.  It stands for Asian American Pacific Islander and is a federal classification that refers to a person with origins in East Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, or the Pacific Islands.  There are several acronyms that are used to denote Asian and Pacific Islander populations, including Asian Pacific American (APA), Asian/Pacific Islander (API), Asian Pacific Islander Desi American (APIDA), and Asian American Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander (AANHPI).


The Kitchen Table Stories Project utilizes the acronym ASPA, which stands for Asian South Asian Pacific Islander American.  There is immense diversity of identities, ethnicities and cultures encompassed under the ASPA umbrella. The following is a guide* for referencing East Asian, South Asian, Southeast Asian, and Pacific Islander communities. This list is a guide and does not encompass the vast number of cultures and ethnicities that are under the ASPA umbrella.  We recognize that these descriptions and this language is ever evolving and will always be inadequate.

East Asians refer to people from China (including Macau and Hong Kong), Korea, Japan, Okinawa, Taiwan, and Mongolia.

South Asians refer to people from the following countries: Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Tibet. Ethnic groups include Sindhi, Gujarati, Punjabi, Tamil, and many others.

Southeast Asians refer to people from the following countries and ethnic groups: Burma, Brunei, Cambodia (Khmer, Cham, KhmerLoeu), Indonesia, Laos (Hmong, Lao, Lao Loum, Iu Mien, Khmu, Tai Dam, Tai Leu, and many other ethnic groups), Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Philippines, and Vietnam (Vietnamese, Khmer Kampuchea Krom).

Pacific Islanders refer to those whose origins are the original peoples of Polynesia, Micronesia, and Melanesia. Polynesia includes Hawaii (Native Hawaiian), Samoa (Samoan), American Samoa (Samoan), Tokelau (Tokelauan), Tahiti (Tahitian), and Tonga (Tongan). Micronesia includes Guam (Guamanian or Chamorro), Marinara Islands (Mariana Islander), Saipan (Saipanese), Palau (Palauan), Yap (Yapanese), Chuuk (Chuukese), Pohnpei (Pohnpeian), Kosrae (Kosraean), Marshall Islands (Marshallese), and Kiribati (I-Kiribati). Melanesia includes Fiji (Fijian), Papua New Guinea (Papua New Guinean), Solomon Islands (Solomon Islander), and Vanuatu (Ni-Vanuatu).

*This information was adapted from the Northwestern APIDA Staff Affinity Group informational site.   

Asian and Pacific Islander American History

Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have played vital roles in shaping the nation—from building the Transcontinental Railroad to advocating for labor law changes to fighting in multiple wars. They made these contributions while also facing persistent discrimination and violence throughout U.S. history.

Click HERE for an Asian American historical timeline

Learn About Asian, South Asian, Pacific Islander American History

Check out the PBS collection of stories that explores the history, traditions and culture of Asians and Pacific Islanders in the United States in celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month this May HERE.


PBS: The history of identity, contributions, and challenges experienced by Asian Americans.

Asian Americans is a five-hour film series that will chronicle the contributions, and challenges of Asian Americans, the fastest-growing ethnic group in America. Personal histories and new academic research will cast a fresh lens on U.S. history and the role Asian Americans have played in it. Watch HERE


All racial identities are interrelated. This timeline places Asian American history in the context of race, colonialism, and capitalism. Click HERE for a critical perspective of Asian American history.

Learn about Asian, South Asian, Pacific Islander American history, culture and stories...

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