Who We Are
The founding faculty are among the leading scholars in the field who have extensive expertise in community-engaged research. Significantly, we are not only scholars who study refugees; we are also refugee scholars who have long and deep ties, and linguistic and cultural access to refugee communities in California and beyond, particularly to African, Palestinian, Pacific Island, Somali and Southeast Asian refugee communities. Our large and diverse team makes us uniquely qualified to build the field of critical refugee studies, as well as draw on leaders in the field.
Yến Lê Espiritu, Ethnic Studies, UC San Diego
Originally from Việt Nam, Yến Lê Espiritu is Distinguished Professor and former Chair of the Department of Ethnic Studies at the University of California, San Diego. An award winning author, she has published widely on Asian American panethnicity, gender and migration, and U.S. colonialism and wars in Asia. Her most recent book is Body Counts: The Vietnam War and Militarized Refuge(es) (University of California Press, 2014). Her current research examines the (im)possibilities of solidarity among refugees from the global South, and about intertwined yet differing political histories and historical trauma. She is also the recipient of numerous teaching and mentor awards, and a Founding Member of the Critical Refugee Studies Collective.
Mohamed Abumaye, Department of Sociology, California State University, San Marcos
Mohamed Abumaye is Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at California State University, San Marcos. His work centers on the intersections between military and police violence. He investigates the San Diego police department’s unit of counter-terrorism and U.S. military drone attacks in Somalia as the transnational circuits of violence that shape Somali refugee flight. What distinguishes his project from other works on police is that he focuses on the militarized aspects of policing, and does so with an emphasis on the refugee. He centers the role of Somali youth activists in exposing the relationship between U.S. militarism in Somalia and hyper-policing in City Heights, San Diego. Mohamed’s work interrogates City Heights as a translocal space by interweaving the fields of Black Studies, Critical Refugee Studies, and Carceral Studies.
Victor Bascara, Asian American Studies, UC Los Angeles
Victor Bascara is an associate professor in the Asian American Studies Department at UCLA, where he is also department chair. He specializes in Asian American cultural politics and the critical study of colonial discourse. He is the author of Model Minority Imperialism (Minnesota), and his writings have been published in journals such as American Literary History, American Quarterly, GLQ, American Literature, The Journal of Asian American Studies, Amerasia Journal, and the Asian American Law Journal, and in collections such as Strange Affinities: The Gender and Sexual Politics of Comparative Racialization (Duke U P), Imagining Our Americas: Toward a Transnational Frame (Duke U P), Techno-Orientalism (Rutgers U P), The Imperial University (U Minnesota P) and East Main Street: Asian American Popular Culture (NYU). He co-edited (with Lisa Namakura) a special issue of Amerasia Journal on “Asian American Cultural Politics Across Platforms” (2014) and (with Keith Camacho and Elizabeth DeLoughrey) a special issue of Intersections: Gender and Sexuality in Asia and the Pacific on “Gender and Sexual Politics of Pacific Island Militarisation” (2015).
Lan Duong, Cinema and Media Studies, University of Southern California
Lan Duong is Associate Professor in the Bryan Singer Division of Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Southern California. She is the author of Treacherous Subjects: Gender, Culture, and Trans-Vietnamese Feminism (Temple University Press, 2012). Dr. Duong’s second book project, Transnational Vietnamese Cinemas and the Archives of Memory, examines Vietnamese cinema from its inception to the present day. Her research interests include feminist film theory, postcolonial literature, and Asian/American film and literature. Duong’s critical works can be found in Signs, MELUS, Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, Journal of Asian American Studies, Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, Amerasia, Asian Cinema, Discourse, Velvet Light Trap, and the anthologies, Transnational Feminism in Film and Media and Southeast Asian Cinema. She has coedited an award-winning anthology called Southeast Asian Women in the Diaspora: Troubling Borders in Literature and Art (University of Washington Press, 2013). Duong is also a Founding Member of the Critical Refugee Studies Collective.
Nigel Hatton, Literature, UC Merced
Nigel Hatton is an Assistant professor of Literature and affiliate faculty in Philosophy at UC, Merced. His published work includes essays on the relationship of human rights and literature, and the literary and political ideas of writers and thinkers such as James Baldwin, Martin Luther King, Jr., Søren Kierkegaard, Jose Marti, and Ivan Klima. His current book project examines Kierkegaard’s inter-textuality and philosophical relationship with and to 19th and 20th century African-American literature and culture. He is currently co-editing a special issue of LWU (Literatur in Wisseenschaft und Unterricht) that features scholarly articles on texts that address themes of migration or displacement of people due to war, persecution, natural catastrophe or economic collapse.
In 2015, he received a grant from the UC Consortium in Black Studies in California to complete a project titled, “African American Women and Ending Cultures of Homicide.” This project brings together over 20 years of reporting, interviews, and research and collaboration with activists, photographers, journalists and artists working in urban spaces within the United States to amplify the voices and agency of women who have lost children to homicide and had the loss of their children relegated to spectacle and silence rather than substantive action and social change. Throughout graduate school and during his faculty appointments, he has simultaneously taught courses in journalism, literature and writing in California State prisons. A proponent of education as a means to dismantle prisons one mind at a time, he is the prisoner advocate on the UC Merced Institutional Review Board committee (IRB).
Lila Sharif, Asian American Studies, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Lila Adib Sharif is assistant professor of Asian American Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign. Sharif earned a dual Ph.D. in Sociology and Ethnic Studies in 2014. Her work is located at the intersection of indigenous studies and critical feminist refugee studies, and culture. Sharif is currently writing a book, Olive, which traces the Palestinian olive from the moment it is harvested by West Bank farmers—one of the most invisible indigenous communities in the world—to its global circulation. As a feminist project, Sharif critiques processes of settler colonialism, militarized violence, and displacement by highlighting intimate acts of life-making by native women. Sharif is the daughter of displaced immigrants, and is the first Palestinian American to earn a Ph.D. in Ethnic Studies to date. Her work is inspired by her own family’s history and the history of all displaced Palestinians and their resilience.
Khatharya Um, Asian American and Asian Diaspora Studies, UC Berkeley
Professor Khatharya Um is Associate Professor of Ethnic Studies, and Program Coordinator of Asian American and Asian Diaspora Studies. She is also affiliated faculty of Global Studies, the Center for Southeast Asian Studies, the Center for Race and Gender, and the Berkeley Human Rights Center, and serves on the UC system-wide Faculty Advisory Board on Southeast Asia. She was a Chancellor Public Scholar.
Professor Um’s research and teaching center on Southeast Asian politics and societies, Southeast Asian diaspora, refugee communities, educational access, genocide, and the politics of memory. Her publications include recent books From the Land of Shadows: War, Revolution and the Making of the Cambodian Diaspora (NYU Press, 2015) and Southeast Asian Migration: People on the Move in Search of Work, Refuge and Belonging (Sussex Academic Press, 2015).
Professor Um is also actively involved in community advocacy, principally on issues of refugees and educational equity. She has served on numerous boards of directors, including as Board Chair of the leading Washington DC- based Southeast Asian Resource Action Center, and as President of the National Association for the Education and Advancement of Cambodian, Laotian and Vietnamese Americans. She has received numerous awards, congressional recognitions, for her community leadership and service.
Ma Vang, Critical Race and Ethnic Studies, UC Merced
Ma Vang is an Assistant Professor and Chair of Critical Race and Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Merced. Her interdisciplinary research advances a refugee critique of secrets, national history, and knowledge production. She specializes in critical Hmong Studies to demonstrate how Hmong have been racialized through their history of involvement in the U.S. “secret war” in Laos. She is the co-editor of Claiming Place: On the Agency of Hmong Women (University of Minnesota Press, 2016), and her writings have been published in positions: asia critique and MELUS. She has received several awards including the Ford Dissertation Fellowship, the UC President’s Postdoctoral Fellowship, and the UC Multicampus Research grant to establish the Critical Refugee Studies consortium.
Olivia Quintanilla, Ethnic Studies, University of California, San Diego
Olivia Quintanilla is a 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 is interested in coral reef science and activism, climate justice, and the figure of the climate refugee. 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.
We have been generously supported by the University of California Office of the President Multicampus Research Programs and Initiatives.