Professor Yến Lê Espiritu

UC San Diego and Critical Refugee Studies Collective

‘Refugee teaching: the radical act of storytelling’

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

critical refugee studies collective

This talk explores how we can use stories written about, with, and by refugees to resist and struggle toward a future defined by social justice. For displaced subjects, storytelling is a way to preserve and share memories, to give expression to things difficult to narrate otherwise. Focusing on refugee teaching via stories thus shifts the reference point in refugee studies from that of the state, humanitarian organizations, and policy makers to that of the refugees. Refugee teaching produces counter narratives to the prevailing discourse that depict refugees as an undifferentiated mass, divested of their humanity, and conjures new forms of knowledge about refugee lifeworld that would otherwise not be produced or shared. Originally from Việt Nam, Yến Lê Espiritu is Distinguished Professor of Ethnic Studies. An award-winning author, she has published extensively on Asian American panethnicity, gender and migration, and U.S. colonialism and wars in Asia. Her most recent book, Body Counts: The Vietnam War and Militarized Refuge(es) (University of California Press, 2014), is widely credited for charting the interdisciplinary field of Critical Refugee Studies. She is also a Founding Member of the Critical Refugee Studies Collective.