2017 Grant Awardees


Anita Casavantes

Anita Casavantes Bradford is associate professor of Chicano/Latino Studies and History at the University of California Irvine. Her research focuses on the history of immigration, foreign policy, and childhood. She is former chair of UCI’s Committee for Equity and Inclusion for Undocumented Students and leads several initiatives for first generation, low income and immigrant students at UCI.


Suffer the Little Children: Unaccompanied Child Migration and the Geopolitics of Compassion in Postwar America

Her book project, Suffer the Little Children: Unaccompanied Child Migration and the Geopolitics of Compassion in Postwar America (under advance contract to University of North Carolina Press) is the first book length study of the history of unaccompanied child migration to the U.S. It examines the motives and strategies of both state and non-state actors that sought to secure the admission or exclusion of select groups of unaccompanied child migrants, as well as to determine their eligibility — or lack thereof — for federally sponsored care and protection once in the United States..

Graduate Students

Jael Vizcarra

Jael is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Ethnic Studies at UC San Diego. She is interested in global population movements, racial formation theory, international labor recruitment programs, and hemispheric Asian-American Studies. Jael has published essays in Amerasia Journal and the popular historiography blog Tropics of Meta.


En Búsqueda de Posada: Military Rule and the Laotian Refugee Resettlement Program in Misiones, Argentina

My research documents and traces the histories of Laotian refugees resettled in Argentina in 1979, soon after the end of the U.S. wars in Southeast Asia and in the midst of the last Argentine military dictatorship (1976–1983). I call attention to the resettlement of refugees in countries in the Global South by arguing that this case sets an important precedent for understanding contemporary cases of refugee displacement and dispersal. I highlight the significance of peripheral spaces in Latin America for understanding how neoliberal development convenes and intersects with various militarisms that shape the lives of Laotian refugees and their descendants.

Loubna Qutami

Loubna Qutami is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Riverside. Her research is on transnational Palestinian youth movements before and after the 2011 Arab Uprisings. She is also a founder and former national and international board member of the Palestinian Youth Movement (PYM). Much of Loubna’s research interests and methods are informed by her experience as a student and youth organizer. In 2013, she co-published an intensive study with Dr. Mona El-Khafif titled “Beyond Census: The Lives of Middle Eastern Immigrants in Post 9/11 America” which was based on combining mixed methods of Geographic Information Systems mapping, oral history interviews, and participatory action research co-teaching at the California College of Arts.


Before the New Sky: Protracted Struggle and Possibilities of the Beyond for Palestine’s New Youth Movement

My research examines the ways in which Palestinian youth organizers, both in Palestine and in the Diaspora, are envisioning, articulating and practicing politics that exceed the intellectual, political and institutional regimes available to them in the post-1993 Oslo Peace Accords context. This project particularly investigates the ways in which these articulations and practices shifted after the beginning of the 2011 Arab Uprisings. Using activist-ethnographic methods, I aim to illuminate the ways youth engaged in new and revitalized old theorizations of the Palestinian colonial condition, resistance, de/anti-colonial opportunities, and a re-conceptualization of the social and political understanding of what it means to be a refugee. It sheds light on how youth organizers functioning in sites of full literal or epistemological siege and refugeehood, can make exhausted regimes productive for survival and how their social and political transnational identities and landscapes contribute to critical theorizations of nations without states. This dissertation reflects how these young people learn to exist within the site of the “last sky” while simultaneously cultivating the site of a new one.

Jerusalem in Athens: Refugees, the Youth Left and the Crises of Nation and Capital by Loubna Qutami:  https://www.juancole.com/2018/12/jerusalem-refugees-capital.html 

Olivia Quintanilla

Olivia Quintanilla is a 5th year Ph.D. candidate in the department of ethnic studies at UC San Diego. Olivia’s family is from Guahan (Guam) and she’s used her academic opportunities as a Chamorro scholar to research the unique histories and futures of Pacific island life. She currently serves on the board of directors for Chamorro Hands in Education Links Unity (CHE’LU), teaches history at Mesa Community College and is part of the San Diego Race and Oral History Project team.


Migrating Islands and Re(framing) Environmental Refuge(e) in the Pacific: Using Oral Histories and Climate Policy to Understand the Climate Refugee Experience

My project pivots on the figure of the “climate refugee,” climate change data and related policy in the Marshall Islands and Guam. Some Pacific islanders refuse the “refugee” designation because it assumes an islandless future while others stake claim for humanitarian protections and legal rights. Increasingly, high-level climate policy narratives attempt to legitimize problematic colonial and militarized interventions that undermine ongoing fights for indigenous sovereignty, self-determination, and transitional justice for Pacific islanders seeking redress for decades of environmental racism, toxicity, and genocide. This project asks: How do Pacific islanders intervene to restage conversations and refuse coercive climate schemes? What are the intersectional forms of activism forming around everyday climate change concerns and refugee movement?

Tsering Wangmo Dhompa

Tsering Wangmo Dhompa is the author of three collections of poetry: My rice tastes like the lake, In the Absent Everyday and Rules of the House (Apogee Press, Berkeley). Dhompa’s first non-fiction book, A Home in Tibet was published by Penguin, India, in September 2013. She was raised in the refugee Tibetan communities in India and Nepal. She is pursuing a PhD degree in Literature at the University of California in Santa Cruz.


From the Margins of Exile: Democracy and Dissent within the Tibetan Diaspora

Dhompa’s interdisciplinary dissertation project assembles an archive of Tibetan literary materials produced in exile to consider anew questions of identity, belonging, sovereignty and nationalism within the context of displacement. While post-colonial approaches to these issues presuppose a nation-state, her project, by contrast, casts critical light on Tibetan nationalism and the future nation as it is articulated by a refugee and diasporic peoples represented by a Government-in-Exile. This research juxtaposes the external struggle for international recognition by the Tibetan Government-in-Exile—a territory-less entity that behaves like a state—with the less examined internal struggle to command loyalty within the Tibetan diaspora. The award will support Dhompa to write a chapter of her dissertation and to complete her research in India and Nepal.


Anupama Chapagain – Nepali Association of Northern California

Anupama Chapagain is the community advocate for the Nepali and Bhutanese community. Born and raised in Nepal, she worked to uplift the quality of life of rural women of Nepal. She advocates for the Bhutanese, Nepali and other South Asian Communities and their issues. Anupama has a Post-Baccalaureate Degree in Women’s Studies and she focuses on Women Empowerment, Gender Awareness, Domestic Violence issues, Capacity Building, Healthcare Access and Income Generating activities for new immigrants.


Nepalis Leading Nepalis: The Status of Nepali Asylees/Refugees Living in the San Francisco Bay Area

As a result of the decade long Maoist movement in Nepal and ethnic cleansing in Bhutan, a majority of the Nepali-speaking population in the Bay Area are either asylees, undocumented or refugees. The journey to the US is incredibly harsh and being new immigrants gives them no protection once they arrive here. They have many stories to share and their need are different than the mainstream Americans. The intention of this project is to document the stories they shared during the focus group discussions and assess their needs.

Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC) – Kristina Shull

Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC) is devoted to abolishing U.S. immigration detention, while ending the isolation of people currently suffering in this profit-driven system. We visit and monitor 43 facilities and run the largest national hotline for detained immigrants. Through these windows into the system, we gather data and stories to combat injustice at the individual level and push for wide-scale systemic change.

Visit CIVIC website.


Climate Refugees: Environmental Justice Detained

Current U.S. policies of climate change denialism and refugee refusal are exacerbating a global refugee crisis and demand collective action. This multi-media stories project will comprise of a series of short animated films featuring the stories of “climate refugees”—people who have been forced to flee their homes due to the direct or indirect impacts of climate change, and whose lives are in limbo in immigration detention, refugee camps, or after deportation. Their stories will reveal the intersections of climate change and migration and show how communities are responding to these crises. Accessible and global in scope, this project will provide tools for allying movements for social and environmental justice.

Daniel Marith – Khmer Alliance Foundation

Daniel Marith is a Founding Member, former Executive Director, and current President of the Khmer Alliance Foundation (KAF). He was born in Cambodia where he held the positions of provincial supervisor and forestry chief. Marith came to the United States after escaping from the Communist Khmer Rouge and spending six months in a Thai refugee camp. He holds a Bachelor’s degree from Linfield College.

  • Khmer Alliance Foundation is a California non-profit organization. It has achieved many charitable projects through assistance programs such as:
  • Individual assistance, providing grants and scholarships to poor students in the U.S and in Cambodia;
  • Community assistance, building school house, religious and community hall; road improvement, dam and irrigation canals, Free English class, text books, and computers.

Advocacy, KAF also works with other non-profit organizations on promoting human rights and democracy in Cambodia.

Visit Khmer Alliance Foundation website.


California Cambodian Americans on the Move

The project aims to compile and document a largely undocumented history, through collection of personal and family stories, oral history, and video documentary of local and ethnic archives (e.g newspaper). It also aims to collect and preserve local archives, artifacts, and narratives that are presently scattered, and at risk of perishing through time, closure of program, and neglect. The final product will be used as an educational tool for future generation.

Sambo Ly – International Community Khmer Buddhist Monks Center

International Community Of Khmer Buddhist Monks Center (ICKMC) Oakland 2011-Present.

Founded by the supreme Patriarch of Cambodian Buddhism during the Khmer period and post-communist transition period of Cambodian history-Maha Ghosananda.

The center provides meditation, Buddhist teaching using culturally-specific religious beliefs, rituals, and social traditions and healing to traumatized Cambodian community members, Buddhist followers, trouble youth and others. The center provides temporary shelters for Cambodian international students and travelers.

Sambo Ly, ICKMC Program Chair: Sambo Ly is the Director of Interpreter services/Refugee Health Program Alameda Health System (1989-Present). She oversees interpretation services to LEP patients, health screening services to newly arrived refugees in Alameda County. Ly is the initial founder of Cambodian Community Development Inc. (CCDI) Oakland. She is the author of All I Heard Was My Sorrow (2015). She is also the community/board member of Peralta Hacienda Historical Park, and received the 2017 National Medal from Institute of Museum and Library Services for cultural/civic engagement of Cambodian New Year Event.


Preserving Khmer Art

This project is to provide workshops to community members on classic Khmer cement-carving, sculpture designs replicating the ancient art of Angkor period. Community members will have the opportunity to learn how to mix, pour mortar, and molding techniques. The workshop will be led by a master contractor from the Royal University of Fine Art of Cambodia. This site will serve as worship hall to community members as well as the heritage site preserving art, culture, literacy, religion and a healing center for Cambodian refugees living in the U.S. 

Amrah Salomon and Kent Wong – The UCSD Community and Labor Project

The Community and Labor Project (CLP) is dedicated to ensuring that the University of California- San Diego works for the greater San Diego-Tijuana community under the principles of research justice and equitable participation based on the needs of workers and marginalized community members. The CLP conducts community-based research, supports campus-community and K-12 collaborations, and develops strategies for translating academic research into creative publication forms accessible to impacted communities.

Visit Community and Labor Project website.

Amrah Salomon J. is the director of the UCSD CLP and a PhD candidate in Ethnic Studies. Her work has been published in both academic and literary publications in the U.S. and Latin America.


Navigating Survival: Border Region Mapping Resources for Deportees, Refugees, and Undocumented Migrants

The CLP will collaborate with local K-12 youth in a transportation mapping project to provide support to migrant, transfronterizo / transborder, refugee youth, and their families in navigating and building community in the San Diego-Tijuana border region. The CLP will facilitate an after-school advocacy training and participatory action research program connecting youth to resources and the scholarly community at UCSD. Project outcomes include a spatial analysis of transportation safety and access for migrants, transborder, and refugee youth in Southeast San Diego county, a localized directory of resources for youth and families impacted by deportation, and a curriculum for facilitating youth-led community organizing and migrant community empowerment.

Thear Chum – United Cambodian American Network

United Cambodian American Network is a grassroots organization that was formed in 2016 with the goal of increasing awareness of Cambodian culture in the city of Stockton and surrounding communities. Cambodian people have become an integral part of the Stockton community, but we recognize that what is missing from our community is the history of what we endured to build new lives here. We aim to revitalize Cambodian-American history and culture through our work.


The Cambodian Experience: Our Journey to America

“The Cambodian Experience: Our Journey to America,” is an exhibit that will support, stimulate and strengthen education in the area of local and world history with an emphasis on the refugee journey to America. It will include galleries that tell the journey of many Cambodian-Americans living in Stockton and throughout the country. These galleries will showcase the cultural music, dance, and theater forms of the Cambodian people. Part of the exhibit will be dedicated to those lost in the Cambodian Genocide. We hope the exhibit will allow community members to experience the culture and art forms more comprehensively and to learn more about the Cambodian-American people.


Charya Burt

Charya Burt is an acclaimed dancer, choreographer, vocalist and Classical Cambodian Dance instructor. She was trained by the foremost surviving dance masters of Cambodia and joined the dance faculty at the Royal University of Fine Arts. A recipient of the Isadora Duncan Award, Charya has performed throughout the United States, including the Getty Museum and the Kennedy Center. Presenters of her original works include Jacob’s Pillow, World Arts West, CounterPULSE and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.


Children of the Refugees

Children of the Refugees will explore how Cambodian refugees view time and space and the impacts this has had on their children. The studies’ subjects will be six young aspiring Cambodian dancers, most former students of Charya Burt. Through documentation of their family histories, the study will aim to gain insight into how the subjects’ identities have been shaped by their families’ refugee experience. Charya will then begin to develop choreography to tell their collective stories.

Diana Cervera

Diana Cervera is an interdisciplinary artist fusing theatre, spoken word, music and film as her mediums of expression. Her work explores notions of identity, migration and representation and is rooted in disrupting dominant narratives regarding POC communities. Her belief in the power of art to transcend the conscious reality and inspire change fuels her passion for creating representations that give voice, power and visibility to communities of color.


MUJER MARIPOSA: Voices of Womxn on the Periphery

Mujer Mariposa: Voices of Womxn on the Periphery is a 45-minute documentary film which juxtaposes the stories of migrant and refugee womxn across various cultures in the context of the United States. The film’s narrative unfolds through a series of storylines in which 5 mothers and daughters navigate the complexities of creating home in a new country and across generations. Mujer Mariposa positions the unseen labor of migrant and refugee mothers in building and (re)creating home as an act of resistance and revolutionary work.

Eric Galmard

After studying literature and film, Eric Galmard worked in several Asian countries (the Philippines, Cambodia and Japan) and in the Pacific region (Fiji Islands), both in university and in the French cultural network. Since 2009 he has taught in the Faculty of Arts at Strasbourg University, notably lecturing in documentary cinema and Asian cinema. He recently made A Tomb for Khun Srun, a feature-length documentary film dedicated to the memory of a Cambodian writer.


Undesirable Contingencies

This film project is a portrait of a long-established Cambodian sibling in Long Beach, California, where the largest Cambodian community is concentrated in the United States. The elder, Polin Soth, a provocative writer famous in Cambodia before 1975, whose inspiration comes from both Nietzsche and Buddhist thought, proposes, in his narratives written in exile, a self-ironic vision of the condition of a Khmer refugee in California while one of his brothers, Paline, who was among the first Cambodians in Long Beach, has become one of the leaders of this Khmer community.

See Xiong

See Xiong is a first generation graduate student attending California State University, Fresno, studying Student Affairs and College Counseling. She is a California State University Sally Casanova Pre-doctoral Scholar. Her interests are student affairs, education, writing, and finding ways to dismantle white supremacy through education and storytelling.


MAI Zine

This zine project is called MAI. The purpose of MAI is to use the concept of the zine (a community based small magazine-styled publication) to share community stories by Southeast Asian Americans about their experiences in Southeast Asian America. MAI was born from the lack of community owned spaces for Southeast Asian refugee communities in Fresno, California. Refugees of the wars in Southeast Asia have had our history written primarily by White historians; therefore, limiting the truth of our experiences and dismisses the consequences of European and American colonization of Indochina. Too often refugee communities are subjects of not their own storytelling but of other’s. MAI is by the community for the community.


Akhila Yechuri

Akhila Yechuri is a third-year undergraduate at UC Merced from Pleasanton, CA. She is majoring in Public Health. Akhila is extremely passionate about serving her community, and has actively pursued roles that allow her to further her passion for service. Akhila is an active member of student government and is also a mentor for high school girls. In her spare time, she enjoys reading fiction, singing, and spending time outdoors.


Refugee Coalition at UC Merced

The Refugee Coalition at UC Merced is a new organization that seeks to enhance discourse about refugees among students, faculty, and staff at the university. This group started due to the lack of dialogue about this relevant topic on our campus, and was born out of conversations between students. The Refugee Coalition will use the Critical Refugee Studies Collective Grant to support social, educational, and advocacy activities. This includes advocating for refugee support networks at UC Merced, as well as conducting education and outreach activities with community partners who are directly serving the needs of immigrant and refugee individuals.

Maha Zubaidi

My name is Maha Zubaidi, and I am a Muslim, Palestinian-American student starting my fourth year as an undergraduate at the University of California, San Diego. I am majoring in Physiology and Neuroscience, and my goals include studying medicine and conducting medical and public health research. I aim to contribute to efforts dedicated to bringing light to inequities in health care and to help tackle those issues both inside and outside the United States.


Investigation of Health-related issues Experienced by Syrian Refugees in El Cajon

This research project aims to provide preliminary data on health challenges faced by Syrian Refugees in El Cajon. The project will consist of two components; a photography component and an interview component. Syrian youth of ages 10-16 will be asked to participate in a photography project that will ask them to answer prompts with their assigned cameras. Adults from the same community will be asked more direct questions in an interview-style setting regarding their healthcare experiences. This research should provide opportunities for both Syrian youth and adults to express their concerns and dissatisfactions in hopes that any problems will be addressed.

Phong Khai Hong

Phong studies Entomology at the University of California, Riverside. Phong is interested in finding the intersectionality between science, health and forced migration. His interest in refugee work stems from conducting ethnographic work in Vietnam and learning from Middle Eastern refugees in Germany. Phong hopes to combine his professional experience as a researcher and personal experience as a Vietnamese immigrant to develop a project that can empower Afghan and Syrian refugees in Riverside.


Designing a Community-Based Model for Serving [Muslim] Refugee Community

As I develop my community project, I want to critically challenge and formulate a community-based model building upon the work of post-colonial, Islamic activist studies. The proposed model will utilize the voices of refugee communities to help me understand my role as an organizer and a public servant in addressing needs of refugees. Through this process of documentation, I will keep myself grounded as I develop the refugee empowerment project. By the end of the academic year, I anticipate to have a framework written in a community-friendly language that is accessible to community members. 

Ryan Boun and Francis Yang

Ryan Boun is currently an undergraduate at UC Berkeley studying Political Science and South and Southeast Asian studies. His parents are survivors of the Khmer Rouge regime and were resettled in the United States in 1980 from refugee camps in Thailand.

Francis Yang studies Philosophy at UC Berkeley. He is second generation Korean-American.


Foodways in Displacement: Khmer Refugees, 1973-Present

This project will explore the different relationships that the Cambodian diaspora has with food through multimedia. Because food is central to cultural practice and coherence, we will try to find connective threads within the Cambodian-American community toward certain foods and food practices before and after resettlement in the United States. Are there some traditional foods that are avoided or have otherwise become charged objects due to trauma prior to resettlement? How are foods associated with trauma? Consequently, how have their foods changed since resettlement? The subjects for this project will be Cambodian-Americans of multiple generations throughout California.

TerrillJames Williams

Welina mai k ā kou, ‘o TerrillJames K ā neali’i Williams ko’u inoa. I am hapa, or mixed-race Kanaka Maoli (indigenous Hawaiian), and the child of my mother, Staceydee Pohaikealoha, whose mother’s lineage is traced back to the island of Kaua’i. Within my family, I am part of the first-generation to be born and raised on Moku Honu (Turtle Island) as opposed to older generations who are kama’aina (native by birth) to the Hawaiian islands, thus foundational to my understanding of being a Hawaiian national.


Ho’i i ā Papah ā naumoku (Return to Papah ā naumoku)

My project seeks to center diasporic Kanaka Maoli subjectivity in the United States by taking into consideration the structures that make possible the inability of Kanaka Maoli to fit into indigenous/refugee paradigm given our forced US citizenship via the US military occupation of the Kingdom of Hawai’i and to think through indigenous refugeedom. Such work will pay close attention to the ways in which the military-industrial complex and the prison-industrial complex produce the active displacement, migration, and slave trade of Kanaka Maoli from the Hawaiian islands to Moku Honu (Turtle Island) through processes of land dispossession, militarism, tourism, and Kanaka Maoli chattel slavery. Through this work, I hope to envision and imagine a future of Kanaka Maoli liberation wherein diasporic Kanaka Maoli will one day “Ho’i i ā Papah ā naumoku”, or return to our ancestral Mother(land) that is free from United States military occupation.