Fifty years ago a group of graduate students and young faculty came together in a Vietnam Caucus at the 1968 meeting of the Association for Asian Studies to oppose the war and question the relationship between the Asian Studies profession and government policy. Over three days of discussion, they founded the Committee of Concerned Asian Scholars to provide a national framework for education about and activism against the war rooted in Asian Studies programs at universities in the United States and beyond.
Issue number one of the CCAS Newsletter appeared in May 1968 to announce the new organization. As campus chapters formed in the next few months, representatives from several campuses convened in Cambridge, Massachusetts to discuss the issues raised at the Philadelphia meeting. Issue numbers two and three of the Newsletter reported on this and other efforts, critiqued assumptions underlying Asian Studies, questioned how to meld professionalism and citizenship, and catalyzed planning for a national conference in conjunction with the AAS meeting in Boston in March 1969. Issue number four, appearing in May 1969, was titled Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars and carried an organizational statement of purpose that was adopted at the conference.
CCAS functioned as a decentralized collective within which each local chapter organized its own activities. These varied widely and included demonstrations, teach-ins, workshops, conferences, and meetings. A national committee coordinated national events and annual conventions, and published the Bulletin. In addition, CCAS published several books on pressing issues of the time, including Indochina Story (1970), China: Inside the People's Republic (1972), and The Opium Trail: Heroin and Imperialism (1972).
After the U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam, the CCAS focus shifted. At the same time, the contraction of the academic job market in the late 1970s meant that many of the founding members left the field after – or before – completing graduate school. In addition, the AAS began to provide an outlet for scholarship which had previously been excluded. From a peak membership of approximately five hundred and more than a dozen chapters in the early 1970s, CCAS declined to the point that in 1979 the Committee was formally dissolved. However, the Bulletin continued to publish and in 1992, took on a new life as Critical Asian Studies. This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of this alternative platform for views on Asia.