Activist Asian American Histories

Endorsed by the OAH-Japanese Association for American Studies Japan Historians' Collaborative Committee, IEHS, and WHA

Saturday, April 1, 2023, 1:30 PM - 3:00 PM

Type: Roundtable Discussion

Tags: Asian American; Crime and Violence; Public History and Memory


This panel brings together four historians who work at the intersections of scholarship and activism. At a time when anti-Asian hate and violence is surging in the US, their work reminds us of the activist and community-based roots of Asian American studies and the importance of this work today.

Session Participants

Chair: Erika Lee, University of Minnesota
Erika Lee is a Regents Professor of History and Asian American Studies and Director of the Immigration History Research Center at the University of Minnesota, and President-Elect of the Organization of American Historians. She is the author of four award-winning books including America for Americans: A History of Xenophobia in America and The Making of Asian America.

Panelist: Melissa May Borja, University of Michigan
Melissa Borja is Assistant Professor of American Culture at the University of Michigan, where she is a core faculty member in Asian/Pacific Islander American Studies. She researches migration, religion, race, and politics and is the author of Follow the New Way: Hmong Refugee Resettlement and Practice of American Religious Pluralism (forthcoming, Harvard University Press). An avid public scholar, Dr. Borja serves as an advisor to the Religion and Forced Migration Initiative and the Bridging Divides Initiative, both at Princeton University. She also addresses anti-Asian racism during the Covid-19 pandemic as the lead investigator of the Virulent Hate Project and an affiliated researcher with Stop AAPI Hate. In 2020-2021, Dr. Borja was a Faculty Fellow at the Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History at Harvard University. She earned a Ph.D. in History from Columbia University, an M.A. from the University of Chicago, and an A.B. from Harvard University.

Panelist: Jason Oliver Chang, University of Connecticut
Jason Oliver Chang is Associate Professor of History and Asian American Studies at the University of Connecticut where he also serves as the Director of the Asian and Asian American Studies Institute. He is author of Chino: Anti-Chinese Racism in Mexico, 1880-1940 and winner of the 2017 Koontz Prize from Pacific Historical Review. As a public servant he sits on the Board of Education for West Hartford Public Schools, the Governor’s Hate Crimes Advisory Council and the State Historical Records and Archives Board. He is the co-founder of Make Us Visible CT a grassroots organization that advocates for and creates Asian American and Pacific Islander studies curriculum in public schools.

Panelist: Richard Kim, UC Davis
Richard S. Kim is Professor in the Department of Asian American Studies at UC Davis. He received his Ph.D. in U.S. History from the Department of History at the University of Michigan. He also obtained a M.A. in Asian American Studies from UCLA. His research and teaching interests include Asian American history, 20th century U.S. history, immigration, transnationalism and diaspora, race and ethnicity, and social and political movements. He is the author of numerous publications including The Quest for Statehood: Korean Immigrant Nationalism and U.S. Sovereignty, 1905-1945 (Oxford University Press, 2011), which examines the consequences and implications of diasporic political activity in a U.S. setting. Most recently, he co-produced and edited Freedom Without Justice: The Prison Memoirs of Chol Soo Lee (University of Hawai'i Press, 2017), which chronicles the experiences of Chol Soo Lee, a young Korean immigrant, who was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment and later to Death Row for a murder he did not commit in the early 1970s. Building upon Lee’s memoir, Kim is currently working on a book project that focuses on the extraordinary, yet largely forgotten, grassroots pan-Asian social movement that helped secure Lee’s historic release from Death Row in 1983.

Panelist: Kong Pheng Pha, University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire
Kong Pheng Pha is assistant professor of critical Hmong studies and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, where he teaches courses on Hmong in the U.S., Asian American studies, and LGBTQ studies. His current manuscript examines the racial, gender, sexual, and queer dimensions of Hmong social and political life in the U.S.