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Professor Lan Duong Participates in UCHRI Residential Research Group Fellowship


By Eli Brown, CHASS Dean’s Office Student Intern
April 7, 2015

UCR Media and Cultural Studies professor Lan Duong will lead a research group in the spring of 2016 through the University of California Humanities Research Institute (UCHRI) Group Fellowship. The UCHRI was established in 1987 by former UC President David P. Gardner under the UC Humanities Initiative as a multicampus research unit of the UC office of the President. The UCHRI focuses on interdisciplinary research, and “bridges gaps between disciplines across the humanities and human sciences and seeks to overcome the intellectual and institutional barriers that can separate the humanities from other fields,” according to their website.

Professor Duong will be researching the emergent field of critical refugee studies, and seeks to further the field and develop a deeper understanding of refugees. Duong, a Vietnamese refugee herself, feels that too often refugees are depicted as helpless victims with no agency, especially in films and literature, and wants to rewrite the refugee narrative to show what it really means to be a refugee today from a global standpoint. She also would like to “subvert questions of nationalism and the boundaries of nation states,” because being “stateless” is one of the reasons many say refugees have no power and are just statistical figures. Her colleague who will be helping her run this research group, UCSD Professor and chair of Ethnic Studies Yen Le Espiritu, will be approaching the topic with a sociological background, and hopes to show that refugees can be a point of critique for the nation state, and can illuminate the arbitrary and historically constructed boundaries of said nation states. This year is the 40th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam war, and Duong feels the acceptance of this research proposal shows that this narrative is still important and needs to be discussed and rethought, especially because of the rampant “American expectionalism” in America that causes the same types of wars and refugee mistreatment as it did 40 years ago.

During the initial proposal process, Duong proposed research for the refugee narrative via critical refugee studies, and emphasized that this opportunity will provide an “interdisciplinary space to come together to think about how humanities and social sciences can portray the figure of the refugee.” After the research phase, she wished to hold a conference, with money that she has applied for through the Center of Ideas and Society, that also will show artwork and films in order to “show that refugees have an imaginative life outside of being statistics or passive/victimized figures, and refugees have an imagination and should be seen as social actors.” With both the research group and the conference the main goal is to rethink, subvert, and recreate the common refugee narrative from a global and interdisciplinary viewpoint. The findings and proceedings of the research and conference will be published in order to disseminate results.


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