Critical Refugee Studies Interdisciplinary Bibliography (Part II)

Published on June 13, 2016

This post is part of a two-part interdisciplinary bibliography of critical refugee studies. Click here to read the first part of this post.

Nigel Hatton
Humanities World Cultures | UC Merced

Nigel Hatton is an assistant professor of literature and philosophy at the University of California, Merced. He has published articles on the writing of Søren Kierkegaard, Martin Luther King, Jr., James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Ivan Klima and others. Courses taught include Literature & Philosophy, Human Rights & Literature, Modernity, Cosmopolitanisms, Kierkegaard and the Human Condition, and African-American Lifeworlds, Global Thinking & Human Rights. He has been a visiting scholar at the Du Bois Institute, the International Criminal Court, the American Academy in Rome, and The George Brandes School. His current book project comparatively traces the narrative arc of justice in human rights discourses and literary texts.

United Nations High Commission for Refugees. “Refugee Stories.” Accessed on May 26, 2016.

Stories, telling them, hearing them, sharing them, are fundamental to human existence. Stories also play a central role in every aspect of human rights, humanitarianism, and pursuits of justice and peace. Curiously, those of us who study narrative or stories are left out of discussions in which stories are the central unit or metaphor of action when engaging in human rights practice, scholarship or teaching. Lawyers tell stories, anthropologists ask for stories, sociologists structure stories, scientists create stories, yet their contributions often take the concept of story for granted.  UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, has collected the unedited stories of refugees from around the world and placed them on a website designed to elicit sympathy from viewers/readers and compel them to support UNHCR’s valiant mission. These are stories told by brave human beings who have found themselves in difficult predicaments. But their stories, as presented here, are unlikely to have impact that resists the phobic West-centered late capitalist patriarchal racist sexist ableist frame of the world. Anyone who writes, tells, or studies stories for a living knows this and can posit ways out of the predicament.

Lila Sharif
Asian American Studies | U of I Urbana-Champaign 

Lila Sharif earned a dual Ph.D. in Sociology and Ethnic Studies from the University of California, San Diego in 2014. She is currently a UC President’s Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, where she is completing a book manuscript entitled “Consuming Indigeneity in the 21st Century” (tentative title). Using the olive as an optic, Dr. Sharif’s research analyzes the point of convergence between transnational settler-colonialism and neoliberal capitalism. She traces the olive from the moment it is picked by farmers in the West Bank, to their circulation and consumption in the United States by renowned brands like Dr. Bronner. She asks: How is Palestine made palatable to Western consumers and what is masked/revealed in this process? Dr. Sharif is the first  Palestinian American to earn a Ph.D. in Ethnic Studies. She will be joining the faculty of Asian American Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign in Fall 2016.

Shehadeh, Raja. Palestinian Walks: Forays into a Vanishing Landscape.  New York: Scribner, 2008.

Enloe, Cynthia. Bananas, Beaches and Bases: Making Feminist Sense of International Politics. 2nd ed. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2014.

El-Haddad, Laila, and Maggie Schmitt. The Gaza Kitchen: A Palestinian Culinary Journey. Charlottesville, VA: Just World Books: 2012.

What happens when indigenous and militarized spaces become consumed transnationally through fair trade, organic, and other alternative food movement circuits? What are the impacts of these evolving consumption practices on native producers and consumers, and how can this contribute to what we know about the processes of settler-colonialism? In my work, I use the olive as an optic to analyze the production, circulation, and consumption of Palestinian olive oils  from the West Bank that are marketed to Western consumers.

Inspired by indigenous feminisms, food and consumption studies, and contemporary works on militarization, I introduce “Vanishment” as a poetic and epistemological concept that links neoliberal capitalism with settler colonialism through a transnational framework. I first came to the term Vanishment after reading Palestinian Walks, in which Palestinian author and human rights lawyer Raja Shehadeh treks through Palestine, watching the landscape before him shrink. Building on  his concept of a “vanishing landscape”t, my book project offers Vanishment to name the simultaneity of disappearing lands and the assumed integration of indigeneity into global markets. Cynthia Enloe’s chapter “Going Bananas! Where Are Women in the International Politics of Bananas?” in Bananas, Beaches and Bases has allowed me to link the gendered process of militarization as they relate to the production and consumption of the racialized commodity-the banana- linking its emergent popularity to the increasing stretch of U.S. empire. Expanding on this linkage between food, militarization and settler-colonialism, I also show that food sites are active sites of memory making for displaced Palestinians. This multi-sited, interdisciplinary work remaps Palestine through narratives around the Palestinian olive tree, fruit and harvest that trouble the assumed completion of Vanishment.

Khatharya Um
Ethnic Studies | UC Berkeley 

Khatharya Um is Associate Professor in the Department of Ethnic Studies/ Asian American and Asian Diaspora Studies Program, and Chair of Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. She is the author of From the Land of Shadows: War, Revolution and the Making of the Cambodian Diaspora (NYU, 2015) and co-editor of Southeast Asian Migration:  People on the Move In Search of Work, Refuge, and Belonging (Sussex, 2015).  She has also written widely on Southeast Asian politics and society and on critical issues facing Southeast Asian refugees in the diaspora, including on issues of education access, health, language politics, and equity and inclusion. Her research interests center on global refugees, diasporas, colonial and postcolonial imaginary, and the politics of memory and memorialization. Her current project interrogates the concept of liminality within the frame of critical refugee studies.

Panh, Rithy. The Elimination. New York: Other Press, 2013.

“I don’t like the overused word ‘trauma.’ Today, every individual has its trauma, whether large or small.  In my case, it manifests itself as unending desolation; as ineradicable images, gestures no longer possible, silences that pursue me…What wounds me has no name.”

My work interrogates the pathology of power and its impact on individuals and social systems.  It addresses and moves beyond the question of what produces mass violence to illuminate the struggle of individuals and communities to make meaning of and move through historical injuries. It engages with issues of accountability and transitional justice, the politics of memory, and the daily acts of resistance and repair through interdisciplinary, transgenerational  and trans-geopolitcal lenses, spanning Southeast Asia and  the Cambodian diaspora.

Ma Vang
Critical Race and Ethnic Studies | UC Merced

Ma Vang is an Assistant Professor at the University of California, Merced. She is the author of “The Refugee Soldier: A Critique of Recognition and Citizenship in the Hmong Veterans’ Naturalization Act of 1977” published in the special issue on Southeast Asian American Studies for positions: asia critique 20.3. She is a co-editor of Claiming Place: On the Agency of Hmong Women (University of Minnesota Press, 2016). This collection will be the first of its kind to provide a critical Hmong studies lens to intersections of race, gender, class, nation, displacement, and citizenship contributing to the burgeoning field of critical refugee studies. Her current research focuses on the historiography of the Cold War and Vietnam War with an emphasis on the United States’ “secret war” in Laos and on the Hmong public engagements with the representational absence of their involvement in this history.

Weld, Kirstin. Paper Cadavers: The Archives of Dictatorship in Guatemala. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2014.

“The Hmongstory 40 Project.” Accessed on May 26, 2016.

The first source is a book on the archive as a tool used by the state to impose violence, but which can be utilized by people to work toward social change and justice. This book informs my research on the “secret war” in Laos and how secrecy produces absence but also opens up possibilities for alternative stories of a conflict that was kept secret from the American public, and which produced the displacement of Hmong, Lao, and other refugees.The second source is a community-led project in California’s Central Valley to commemorate 40 years after the end of the Vietnam War/”secret war” by documenting and telling Hmong stories of life in Laos, during the war, migration, and life in the United States. The stories, photographs, and artifacts are presented in an exhibit that first opened in Fresno, will open in Merced in May 2016, and will conclude in Sacramento in fall 2016. This project and its exhibit exemplifies my research about how Hmong publicly engage with this part of their history and U.S. history that has been kept secret.