2018 Grant Awardees


Keith Feldman

Keith P. Feldman is an Associate Professor of Ethnic Studies at UC Berkeley. His research utilizes U.S. cultural studies frameworks to explore the interface between race, culture, knowledge, and the state. Feldman recently edited a forum on “Blackness and Relationality” in Comparative Literature, and co-edited a special issue of Social Text on “Race/Religion/War.” His first book, A Shadow over Palestine: The Imperial Life of Race in America (Minnesota 2015), was named Best Book in Humanities and Cultural Studies by the Association for Asian American Studies, and was a Finalist for the Romero Best First Book Prize in American Studies.


Refugee Lifeworlds and the Lure of Legibility

As part of a larger book project on the visual culture of the U.S. war on terror, “Refugee Lifeworlds and the Lure of Legibility” explores how cultural works about large-scale communal displacement refract warfare in Southwest Asia, its entanglement with the US carceral security state, and the structural violence of climate catastrophe. The first part of the project focuses on a cluster of new media arts projects that thematize refugee relations to land and water. How might these projects be read not only as desires to “humanize” the purportedly unimaginable conditions of Syrian refugeehood, but also as particular entanglements of bodies, technologies, ecologies, and power that implicate readers in their ambit? The second part of the project explores two literary works—Dave Eggers’ Zeitoun (2009) and Omar Akkad’s American War (2017)—that experiment in visualizing the history of refugeehood as part of the afterlife of American slavery. It asks, how are readers implicated in the historicization of refugee lifeworlds, and to what effect?

Sean Metzger

Sean Metzger is an Associate Professor in the UCLA School of Theater, Film, and, Television. He is the author of Chinese Looks: Fashion, Performance, Race (Indiana U Press, 2014). His co-edited volumes include: Embodying Asian/American Sexualities (Lexington, 2009); Futures of Chinese Cinema: Technologies and Temporalities in Chinese Screen Cultures (Intellect, 2009); and Awkward Stages: Plays about Growing Up Gay (Cambria, 2015). He has also co-edited special issues of Cultural Dynamics (2009) and Third Text (2014). Metzger is the current president of Performance Studies international.


Transient Performance

Transient Performance convenes a group of scholars who cross disciplines in order to think about a particular mode of critical refugee studies; this group will collectively create an edited volume. Transient performance draws on the precarity and potentiality inherent in the word transient in relation to agency, embodiment, migration, and subjection (that is, processes by which individuals and populations are subjected to larger forces as well as the ways in which they emerge as subjects). The contributors to the group explicate different manners by which human movement has produced transience, not only in terms of expulsion (or displacement) from dominant social and political orders but also in terms of unexpected connections facilitated through quests for asylum and fleeing (or finding) home. Transient performance also draws on José Muñoz’s legacy in performance studies. In his work and its elaboration of the writings of Ernst Bloch, Muñoz finds new horizons of possibility for minoritarian communities. Transient performance fleshes out the conditions of possibility that structure several such communities.

Beth Piatote and Leti Volpp

Beth Piatote is associate professor of Native American Studies and affiliated faculty in American Studies and Linguistics. Her research focuses on Native American literature, history, and federal Indian law; American citizenships; indigenous law; and Nez Perce language and literature. Leti Volpp is the Robert D. and Leslie Kay Raven Professor of Law and UC Berkeley and also the Director of the campus-wide Center for Race and Gender. Her research primarily focuses upon questions of immigration law and citizenship theory in relation to questions of culture and identity.


The Native, the Immigrant, the Refugee: Confluences and Divides

Who is a “native,” who is an “immigrant,” and who is a “refugee”? Immigrants, indigenous people and refugees are conventionally imagined as communities with little in common. This research project will tackle a new question: how do these communities intersect? And how do the fields invented to study each community intersect? We will examine lines of research that reveal moments of convergence and divergence: 1) legal status and the attendant social and material contexts; 2) cultural/political discourses and cultural forms and practices, particularly the “ground up” imaginaries and practices of natives, immigrants and refugees. Our key questions ask how the legal and cultural construction of these three groups are not isolated discourses but deeply entangled in the regulation of the other. Should the 1830s forced removal of Cherokees on the Trail of Tears be understood as a form of deportation or as a form of refugee migration? How are the refugee camp, the airport, and the reservation anomalous zones or spaces of exception? Who is the “native” and what kinds of forced migration function as precondition to that experience? We will explore both possibilities for social justice alliances and uncomfortable conversations about settler colonialism, open borders, and native sovereignty.

Graduate Students

Violet Barton

Violet Barton is a PhD Student in the Interdisciplinary Humanities program, a Eugene Cota-Robles and a Public Humanities Fellow for the Center for the Humanities at the University of California, Merced. As a Critical Race and Ethnic Studies scholar under Dr. Ma Vang, her research interests are in the field of Critical Refugee Studies at the intersection of indigeneity. Her areas of research interests include forced migration, statelessness, militarization, empire and war, indigenous feminisms, countermapping and decoloniality in Central America/El Salvador and the Middle East/Syria/Kurdistan. As Salvadoran, she was forced to migrate to the United States during the 1980s war.


Te Miki Tay Tupal, Poetic Embodiments of Nahuat Survivance

Te Miki Tay Tupal in a colonial transliteration of the orality of Nahuat means “what is ours will never die.” This project centers Nahuat voices in their forced displacement and dispossession from ancestral lands and water at home in Cuzcatlan (El Salvador) and abroad. Utilizing interdisciplinary indigenous scholarship within a Critical Refugee Studies framework, it seeks to challenge the colonial, state, and imperialist erasures of Nahuat peoples as refugees of war and empire, through hegemonic narratives of ‘economic migration’ that exist in Western historiography and sociological scholarship, that ‘make’ and ‘unmake’ refugee and stateless-like conditions for indigenous communities. By connecting the past with the present and problematizing epistemic divisions between ‘indigenous’ and ‘refugee’ in Central America, this work confronts spatial ideologies of empire that transform indigenous ways of knowing the land and water, through state notions of mapping that result in their erasure. This is important to Critical Refugee, Latin American, and Indigenous Studies because there are epistemic gaps in connecting these fields and scholarship of Central American refugees and stateless communities – specifically about Nahuat, as a unique paradigm, whose colonial and imperial histories and lived experiences of violence and war are continually erased and forgotten.

Jennifer Carcamo

Jennifer Cárcamo is a first-year PhD graduate student, organizer, and independent filmmaker. Born of refugee parents from El Salvador who migrated to the U.S. during the 1980’s civil war, Cárcamo has a deep connection and history with the Central American community. In 2013, Cárcamo directed and released her first documentary called Children of the Diaspora, a film about Salvadoran youth in the U.S. struggling to uncover their history as children of Salvadoran migrants. Currently, Cárcamo is studying Central American history at UCLA, and producing her second documentary called The Eternally Undocumented, a film about Central American refugees in the U.S. 


The Eternally Undocumented: Central American Refugees in the U.S.

The Eternally Undocumented: Central American Refugees in the United States to the most recent migration wave post-2014. This project began taking shape shortly after July 2014 when mainstream U.S. media became flooded with images of what they termed “unaccompanied Central American children.” Most of them were fleeing from the violent consequences of the U.S. funded Drug War in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. However, rather than providing relief to these refugees, the U.S. government expanded the previously debunked practice of family detention. By 2015, more than 3,000 Central American refugees had been illegally detained. Through interviews with these newly arrived migrants, this film and oral history project 1980s is an oral history and documentary film project that seeks to capture the historic struggle of Central American refugees from the first massive migration wave in the captures the stories of refugees who have been detained and explores the root causes of forced migration.

Maya Lê Espiritu, Yessica Garcia, Kristy Drake, Luz Chung

Maya Lê Espiritu: M.Ed. Multiple Subject credential student. She is the creator of MaiStoryBook, a blog and YouTube Channel that provides reading resources and interactive read aloud videos.

Yessica Garcia: A doctoral candidate in Ethnic Studies and filmmaker who is experienced in making documentaries and YouTube Vlogs.

Kristy Drake: An educator in San Diego Unified School District who has worked with English Learners, specifically refugee students with interrupted formal education.

Luz Chung: A faculty member in UC San Diego’s Department of Education Studies, Chung has extensive experience as a bilingual classroom teacher.


Teaching English to Refugee Students through YouTube Read Aloud Videos

This project brings together graduate students from the Education Studies and Ethnic Studies departments at UCSD, and two bilingual educators to produce engaging and interactive read-aloud videos to assist refugee students in their process of learning English. Our team will create a series of 8 visually engaging interactive, educational read- aloud videos to scaffold English Language Development for refugee students. Two additional videos will be created—one for teachers and one for parents—that will explain how to access and use these videos in the classroom and at home. Because these videos approximate individualized instructions for English-learning students, they will give teachers an alternative tool to engage refugee students in core curriculum, even when current curriculum may be beyond the student’s language skills. The videos, which combine audio, visuals, written on-screen text, and questions and commentaries throughout, will provide students with multiple modalities to interact with and use English, including hearing it, seeing it, reading it, repeating it, and to respond and verbally practice it. The videos will be uploaded onto YouTube, and the link, along with a set of accompanying books featured in the videos, will be disseminated to elementary, middle and high schools in San Diego.

Shyam K. Sriram

Shyam K. Sriram is a doctoral candidate in Political Science at the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB). His primary field of specialization is American Politics with a focus on immigration, refugee resettlement, Asian American politics, voting, and elections. He is an alumnus of Purdue University (B.A. 2002), Georgia State University (M.A. 2006), and UCSB (M.A. 2017). His interest in refugee resettlement stems from his experiences as an AmeriCorps volunteer in Atlanta with refugee youth (2004 to 2004) and a professor at Georgia Perimeter College (2008 to 2014) in Clarkston, Ga., the site of all initial refugee resettlement in the state. 


 “Where There is Breath, There is Hope”: Exploring the Political Lives of Bhutanese Refugees in America

While all refugees embody a distinct spirit of toughness – driven primarily by the political persecution which separates them from others seeking the emollience of American life – it would be hard not to see the current wave of Bhutanese refugees as being extra “tough.” The U.S. government labels them Bhutanese, but their customs, language, and Hindu faith are all rooted in Nepal. They were a people without a country, who now find themselves in a country that is facing an ideological divide over the nature, and future, of immigration. The focus of this project is to explore the political lives of Bhutanese refugees through an ambitious, in-depth, comparative study of refugees in two American states (California and Georgia). While the primary independent variable in my dissertation is the sub-national state – to understand for the first time the role that state refugee resettlement policy plays in the short- and long-term “success” of refugees – this project in Critical Refugee Studies is completely focused on learning about the political histories of Bhutanese refugees with a view to understanding, for the first time, the process by which a single refugee cohort learns about, and participates in, American politics. I am keenly interested in the initial period of resettlement for Bhutanese refugees and how first experiences, interacting with caseworkers and government officials, sets the stage for future political development and interests. 

Luis Tenorio

Luis Tenorio earned a B.A. in Sociology and Government & Politics from St. John’s University in 2016 as a Ronald E. McNair Scholar. He is currently a doctoral student of Sociology at the University of California, Berkeley as both a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellow and Chancellor’s Fellow. His research interests include: migration, comparative social policy, youth, and political sociology. Luis currently serves as Director of the Queer and Trans Advocacy Project at UC Berkeley. Before graduate school, he served as a Youth Representative to the United Nations and interned for the White House Office of Cabinet Affairs.


Borders Beyond La Frontera: Child Migrants and the Negotiations of Agency and Best Interest

Using participant observation of independent child migrants from the Northern Triangle of Central America, Luis’s research analyzes how these children negotiate: the dynamics and contested assumptions of childhood, agency and dependence, and homemaking and belonging throughout their legal processing and in the initial phases of resettlement. In doing so, he centers the experiences of these children, working towards the theoretical and conceptual development of children as active social actors with relative autonomy. Deepening the academic contributions of his work, Luis also analyzes how experiences and outcomes vary across gender and country of origin of this child population, challenging dominant portrayals, categorizations, and understandings of Central American independent child migrants. As an expansion of prior fieldwork conducted in 2014-2015, there is also a longitudinal element to the research, examining shifts in strategies and responses—by both state and non-state actors—in an ever-complex landscape and politics of im/migration in the United States, nestled in a particular geopolitical history of U.S.-Latin America relations.

Leslie Quintanilla

Leslie Quintanilla organizes around the goal of autonomy beyond borders and seeks decolonial possibilities with a network of activist organizations at the San Diego-Tijuana border. As a Salvadoran activist and daughter of refugees, she loves to teach and organize towards building a world without structures of oppression. She is also a PhD candidate in the Department of Ethnic Studies at UC San Diego.


The Climate Change of/in Art: Transnational Borderland/Seascape Artivism and Joint-Struggle with Water

My research examines the borderland and seascape as transnational spaces, the Mediterranean Sea and U.S.-Mexico border in particular, the impact of climate change on environmental/decolonial struggles of communities of color, and the ways in which artivism (art and activism) create spaces of resistance against (settler) colonial borders. I define borderland and seascape artivism as practices that create autonomous life and love beyond the nation-state and its borders through activist cultural production. In this project, I intend to examine seascape artivism in the Mediterranean Sea region. By centering the Mediterranean “sea”/water as a significant marker of difference, I contextualize migrant crossings/life/death in the Mediterranean in a related but significantly different way than that of the U.S.-Mexico borderland context. My project asks: What are the connections between art, climate change, activist organizing/movement-building and water? I look at the Mediterranean Sea as a critical intervention in representation, borderland identity, and environmental analyses within Critical Refugee Studies.

Chia Xiong, Kau Vue, Houa Vang, Chia Thao

We are a collective of graduate students in Political Science, Public Health, and Sociology at UCM. Our research interests intersect in the areas of health, belonging, and Hmong refugees/Americans. In spring 2017, we received the 2017-2018 Interdisciplinary Small Grant from UCM’s graduate division to focus on Hmong Studies research. Our proposed project for the Critical Refugee Studies Grant is part of our collective work to establish a research project on Hmong refugees in the Central Valley.


The Remaking of Community: Effects of Neighborhood Location on Hmong Refugees' Social Well-Being

Understanding refugees’ making and remaking of physical and social life continues to be important, especially in today’s unstable and contentious political climate. We examine Hmong refugees’ physical location (neighborhood), and how this impacts their social well-being in California’s Central Valley through surveying households and interviewing individuals. Our study bridges these bodies of knowledge by extending beyond social location to consider physical locations (neighborhood) and extending beyond physical health by considering social well-being. Namely, studying how physical locations have an impact on social well-being is concerned with refugee connections to land and its relationships with health and belonging.

Community Organizers and Organizations

United Women of East Africa (UWEAST)

In response to the lack of refugee teaching resources in the local schools, the United Women of East Africa Support Team (UWEAST) and the Southern Sudanese Community Center in City Heights created after school tutoring programs to provide a safe place for their students to come and get help with their homework. Although the after-school tutoring program receives strong support from the communities, it faces two obstacles. The first obstacle is the lack of reliable transportation to transport students from the different schools to the community centers. The second obstacle is the lack of an organized curriculum for the students to gain fluency in English, which is foundational to their ability to succeed in their mainstream classes.


Refugee Student Resource Program (RSRP)

 In September 2017, the Refugee Students Resource Program (RSRP) formed to address these refugee teaching concerns in City Heights, San Diego. The RSRP is a unique partnership between the United Women of East Africa Support Team (UWEAST), the Southern Sudanese Community Center, UCSD’s Student Promoted Access Center for Education and Service (SPACES), UCSD graduate and undergraduate students, refugee parents, and San Diego teachers. The RSRP’s mission is to provide a curriculum-based instruction in oral and written English for students who are new to English and new to schools in the United States. For three days a week, refugee youth will be invited to the United Women of East Africa Support Team’s center and the Southern Sudanese Community Center for thematic English instruction designed and taught by San Diego bilingual teachers who had previously worked in the New Arrival Center in City Heights. The RSRP targets refugee youth in grades 8-12 as well as those who have recently aged out of the high school system, the two most underserved in these communities. This project rethinks the San Diego educational landscape through a vision of community-driven educational support services that are designed and implemented by local teachers and refugee parents to strengthen San Diego refugee communities.

Las Fotos Project, Floridalma Boj Lopez

Floridalma Boj Lopez is Maya K’iche’ and traces her family’s migration from Quetzaltenango (Xela), to Guatemala City and South Central Los Angeles.  She received her doctorate in American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California. Her research examines cultural production among the Maya diaspora with a particular emphasis on intergenerational imaginaries, gender and the production of indigenous migrant community in Los Angeles, CA. She is partnering with Las Fotos Project to increase the visibility of Guatemalan Mayan women both behind and in front of the camera lens.


Weaving Indigenous Geographies of Refusal

Weaving Indigenous Geographies of Refusal seeks to expand the work of Las Fotos Project to consider how the landscape of Los Angeles and Indigenous geographies that are present in Maya women’s clothing intersect to complicate our ideas of border-crossing, refugee experiences, and belonging in a settler colonial context. Through one-on-one mentoring, photography trainings, and assigned field projects, Las Fotos Project and Dr. Boj Lopez will train young Guatemalan women to conduct short oral histories and photo-shoots with Maya women. These practices will draw out parallels and disjunctures between Maya migrations and the ongoing settler colonial project of dispossession in the United States. One of the strategies that we seek to highlight is the Indigenous practice of Maya clothing. The colors, symbols, and composition of Maya clothing are interconnected with Maya spirituality and geography, and in the diaspora they continue to connect Maya people to their ancestral places of origin. These connections root Maya migrants back to their homelands even while they are in Los Angeles, and represent an embodied and visual strategy for refusing to enact settler acts of claiming Los Angeles as “natives.”

Palestinian Youth Movement (PYM)

The Palestinian Youth Movement is an independent, transnational grassroots movement of young Palestinians in the homeland and in exile worldwide as a result of the ongoing Zionist colonization and occupation of Palestine. The PYM seeks to revive a pluralistic commitment to the liberation of Palestine that transcends political camp or ideology and unites all Palestinian youth in pursuance of a better future for Palestinians, characterized by freedom and justice on a social and political level for all generations.   


Nakba 70 Conference

May 15, 2018, will mark 70 years since the nakba (catastrophe), which Palestinians often frame as the historical starting point of forced refugeehood, occupation and exile. PYM-USA will host a 3-day conference commemorating 70 years of nakba by addressing the significance of the present historical moment in relation to the Palestinian plight. Crucial to all of this is the condition presently faced by Palestinians as either subjects of direct colonial/military rule and siege or displaced exiles and refugees; with 2018 marking the updated estimate for when Gaza is projected to be unlivable, and a global refugee population facing crushing levels of deprivation and despair (and, as in the case of Palestinian refugees in Syria, multiple levels of displacement), it is urgent to rekindle a collective vision of Palestinian liberation. The ultimate end-goal of this conference will be to formalize ties between our collective of transnational, politically-active Palestinian youth and the wider Palestine solidarity community within the US through a gathering themed around the revitalization of the Palestinian struggle at an important historical juncture.

Yalla San Diego, Inc. & Blindspot Collective

Yalla San Diego is on a mission to remove the social and economic barriers that confront refugee and immigrant youth. We strengthen the social cohesion of refugees in the U.S. using the promise of education and the passion of soccer to inspire them to achieve a college education.

Founded in 2016, Blindspot Collective is a creative venture serving artistic and social needs in San Diego County. Blindspot develops, produces, and promotes new work by diverse, emerging artists that engage young or new audiences, and implements dynamic education programs exploring human experience, social justice, and creative expression in collaboration with undervalued communities.


The K’oolili Project

The K’oolili Project presents the opportunity for refugees in San Diego to tell their stories of the journey from war to resettlement. This illuminates an increasingly important part of American history, and will provide an opportunity for healing and understanding in the community. Beyond that, it is a way for Yalla students to continue experiencing art as a means of expression and creativity, enriching their educations. Working with Blindspot Collective, we will develop a creative, community-centered process to support the communities Yalla serves and provide a platform for refugees to express their unique narratives. Blindspot facilitators are applied theater experts, trained and committed to compassionate, group-centered methods that create safe spaces for comfortable community engagement. The program will include community building sessions, storytelling workshops, individual interviews, and focus groups with self-selected participants, as well as the potential for exchange with other communities. Yalla and Blindspot have worked in the past to create a similar project in June 2017, which saw refugee girls within Yalla’s Academy program partake in a story-telling workshop which culminated in a performance illustrating their experience and that of their families when they fled war and came to San Diego.

Legacies of War

Legacies of War’s mission is to raise awareness about the history of the Vietnam War-era bombing in Laos and advocate for the clearance of unexploded bombs (UXO), to provide space for healing the wounds of war, and to create greater hope for a future of peace. From Washington, D.C. Legacies of War engages and establishes relationships with governments, civil society and individuals, especially from the Laotian diaspora, to raise awareness and increase financial support for clearance of UXO in Laos. www.legaciesofwar.org 


Advanced Multimedia Education on the Secret War in Laos

Legacies of War will update and expand its Multimedia Interactive Center (MIC), a digital education tool about the secret U.S. bombings in Laos and its aftermath. Through a multimedia array of mapping, narration, and animation, the project will untangle how UXO has scarred the physical landscape of Laos and share the vibrant stories of escape, trauma, and transformation of the Laotian diaspora. The MIC will incorporate videos, oral history accounts, and a diaspora map to convey the the historical and present-day ramifications of the secret bombings. The final product will be presented in the Legacies of War National Traveling Exhibition and featured on the Legacies of War website.  

Kim Nguyen Tran and VietUnity Los Angeles

 Kim Nguyen Tran teaches in the Asian American Studies and Asian Languages and Cultures Departments at UCLA and the Music Department at Glendale Community College. She earned a Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology from UCLA in 2017. Her research examines how the performing arts shape cultural memory and give meaning to history. VietUnity­ Los Angeles is a collective of Viet­ identified organizers and activists committed to the struggle for global peace, justice, and self-­determination. VietUnity Los Angeles does work through coalition building, education, art and culture, and collective action. 


A Collective Intervention: Creating Space for Memory Work at the Wall for Refugees

A Collective Intervention is a public project that will take place at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. (the Wall). The larger project envisions a coordinated, mass dedication of objects at the Wall by Vietnamese and Southeast Asian refugee community members from across the US, on one of the upcoming major April 30 anniversaries. This year, in April of 2018, VietUnity Los Angeles will conduct a smaller-scale pilot version of the project, with a collective dedication of objects collected by our local VietUnity LA community members. All items placed at the Wall will be catalogued and stored in a national archive associated with the Wall. Working with the collection's archivist in 2015, we found only 6 items that had been left by Vietnamese or Vietnamese Americans, out of hundreds of thousands. The project will also create a website to document the objects, which will act as a scalable template which other refugee communities around the country can use to organize and document their own dedications. This project carves out space for a public and nationally recognized archive of memories that will be collectively curated by diverse voices in the refugee community, rather than one determined by the policies of any single institution.

Art Produce/Stone Paper Scissors

Lynn Susholtz is an artist, community activist, educator and founder of Art Produce, community cultural center and Stone Paper Scissors, public art studio. Her art practice has a participatory, social engagement component and ranges in scale from small drawings that explore the cultural context and social histories of everyday objects to large-scale interactive environments. An advocate for increased access to arts and culture, Lynn works to develop educational, social and environmental resources for youth and families. She has been a California Arts Council, Artist in Residence and is an arts education consultant for UCSD’s Education Studies Department.


Mapping Cultural Symbols: Land/Water/Place

In collaboration with the Karen Organization and other local refugee organizations we will provide a series of multicultural and intergenerational art workshops aimed at facilitating cultural preservation and transmission of refugee communities through the artistic, metaphoric and cultural explorations of land/water/place. The project will explore cultural symbologies and concepts of home, migration and place, to develop and contextualize new collaborative expressions of mapping, navigation and cultural symbols. Art workshops will be offered at two local refugee organizations and will bring refugee families from different parts of the world to Art Produce to work together. This project supports cultural preservation while integrating new collaborative aesthetic expressions into the larger cultural communities of San Diego. The project will culminate in a public exhibition and community celebration in the Art Produce Gallery and travel to other cultural venues and art galleries.


Dohee Lee Puri Arts

Oakland-based organization, Dohee Lee Puri Arts has been developing community rituals with immigrant and refugee groups since 2014. In traditional Korean shamanism, rituals were created with and for the people with the specific purpose of harmonizing with nature, land, water, and spirit, connecting humans to the universal, and building personal, collective and universal healing. Dohee Lee applies this ancient approach to the context of our modern urban environment, collaborating with community groups to use multidisciplinary art and performance to tell their personal and collective migration journey stories.



Dohee Lee Puri Arts will collaborate with Asian Refugees United, Building Home Together, and Bay Area Bhutanese Youth to develop a community performance ritual and refugee inter-community discussion for World Refugee Day, held at Peralta Hacienda Historical Park, in Oakland, California. The project, MU/巫 (Korean for “shaman”), includes a three-month residency working with Fruitvale-neighborhood refugee community groups, culminating in a multidisciplinary community ritual. The proposed project is linked to a community engagement strategy to lift up and support the leadership, visibility and voices of diverse immigrant and refugee communities in shaping a welcoming community culture, fostering shared spaces for community building. This project will pilot a model for engaging other immigrant and refugee groups through Building Home Together, a network comprised of organizations, community leaders, advocates and systems with shared concerns about the state of immigrant and refugee community wellbeing. Our project will host 12 workshop sessions to develop a public performance/ritual. Workshops combine music, storytelling, spoken word and movement exploration with drawing and writing. Our project will culminate in a community ritual sharing during World Refugee Day.

Duc Nguyen

 An Emmy Award winner, Duc Nguyen’s documentaries cover the subjects of home, immigration, war, conflict history and reconciliation. His work includes “Bolinao 52”, a documentary about an ill-fated journey of a Vietnamese refugee boat that won 2 Northern California Regional Emmy Awards. “Stateless,” a documentary about a group of Vietnamese who were stuck in the Philippines for 16 years, won an Audience Choice Award as well as a Spotlight Award in 2013 at the Vietnamese International Film Festival.  In 2017, his third installment for the Vietnamese boat-people trilogy, Nothing Left to Lose tells the story of approximately 100 Vietnamese refugees who have each lived in hiding for 25 years hoping to one day being recognized as a person.


Nothing Left to Lose: Vietnamese Refugees’ Post-War Journey Outreach Campaign

Nothing Left to Lose: Vietnamese Refugees’ Post-War Journey Outreach Campaign is a program that aims to encourage the audience in self-exploration about the Vietnamese Refugee Experience through video screenings and discussion events on college and university campuses.  The campaign focuses on the post-war movement experience of Vietnamese refugees while they were seeking new asylums.  Centralized between the point of departure from their homeland and the resettlement process, the campaign examines the impact and affects this transitional period had on refugees through personal storytelling.  The outreach event will feature personal stories from refugees, describing the enduring stays in refugee camps to the grueling screening process to repatriation, and living in legal limbo. This campaign’s goal is to increase the interest from the students and academics to explore personal stories by Vietnamese refugees of the asylum-seeking period in a post-war context. By engaging participants in this type of discussion, it will create communication channels and dialogues in private conversations about personal refugee experiences. The objective is to provide participants with opportunities to understand and engage in their own discovery of an unspoken legacy of the Vietnam War; the Vietnamese Refugee Diaspora Experience.

Pachia Lucy Vang

Pachia Lucy Vang is an artist who uses the exhibition as a medium to empower people to engage with traditional knowledge. Her exhibits on Hmong textiles have displayed for community-based projects like HmongStory 40 along with educational centers abroad in Laos. She received her bachelor’s degree in Anthropology from UC Berkeley and has a background in refugee resettlement, ethnographic research, and community organizing.


Paj Ntaub: Embedded Memories of Displacement

Paj Ntaub is flower cloth, the textile traditions of the Hmong people. “Paj Ntaub: Embedded Memories of Displacement” is a virtual exhibit that explores Hmong identity and place through the collective memories of displacement they have woven into their textiles. The loss of ancestral land and water has shaped Hmong beliefs and practices long before their status as refugees of the Secret War. Focusing on Hmong-centered knowledge, this exhibit will document stories and photos of paj ntaub to produce new ways of understanding the Hmong refugee that can be accessed by their global diaspora.


Rahel Demissie

Rahel is a senior studying Interdisciplinary Field Studies with a concentration in International Health & Development at UC Berkeley. She is a first generation Ethiopian-American whose family fled political persecution in Ethiopia when she was an infant and settled in northern California. Her experience as an immigrant has greatly shaped her desire to work with those who have been historically marginalized by society. She has worked for organizations that serve communities in the Bay Area and Ethiopia.  



This project will be a series of workshops where it seeks to  bring Ethiopian women from the greater Bay Area to document their stories. It will be an opportunity for women to share their journeys of survival and strength with one another, as well as a creating an archive for the community. It will be a safe space that will provide journals for mothers and daughter, aunts, grandmothers, any women apart of diaspora can come and write their stories. The story of refugee women, is often only told in statistics, and not with their own words and voices. The project seeks to share the stories of African women refugees with the greater community. The workshop series will culminate in the creation of profiles sharing the stories of willing mothers and daughters.  The title of Enat means mother in Amharic, and is in reference to women sharing their stories as well as in reference to the motherland of Ethiopia.