Ma Vang

I am a UC President’s Postdoctoral Fellow in Comparative Literature and the Southeast Asian Studies Program (SEATRiP) at the University of California, Riverside where I am working on my book manuscript and co-editing a book on Hmong women, gender, and power. I completed my dissertation, Displaced Histories: Refugee Critique and the Politics of Hmong American Remembering, in Ethnic Studies at the University of California, San Diego in June 2012.

My research focuses on the Hmong diaspora in the context of critical refugee studies, gender and history, US Cold War historiography, and community politics, with an emphasis on Hmong public engagements with the representational absence of their history. I recently published an essay, “The Refugee Soldier: A Critique of Citizenship and Recognition in the Hmong Veterans’ Naturalization Act of 1997,” in positions: asia critique in its special issue on Southeast Asian American Studies. This essay won the Association for Asian American Studies Best Graduate Student Paper in 2012. I received research funding from the Ford Foundation, Oceanids at UC San Diego, UC Irvine Southeast Asian Archive, California Cultures, and Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS).

What role did your undergraduate ES education at UO play? How did ES help you on your career path?

I began my undergraduate education at UO as a Biology major. Although I liked my science courses, it was not until I took Ethnic Studies classes that I could relate to the course materials because they helped me to understand the world beyond the classroom. The ES courses gave me the critical tools and language for which to articulate my experiences as a student of color and a first generation Hmong/Asian American college student. I was fortunate to have taken classes with Matt Garcia, Lynn Fujiwara, Fiona Ngo, Narissa Balce, Mia Tuan, Cynthia Tolentino, and Jana Brown, all of whom pushed me to formulate deeper analyses of race, class, gender, and sexuality as sites of domination but also as places for building collectivities and possibilities. The mentorship I received was invaluable to my personal and professional development, and I learned to seek out similar mentors who would support my holistic growth. My passion for teaching emerged from my first ES classes at the UO. My experiences as a student developed into a goal to be a professor to invest in students who can make individual and collective change. Like other ES students, I was active in the student organizations, including APASU, the MCC, and the Women’s Center. My education in the classroom combined with these campus community activities shaped my commitment to social justice and my goals to pursue research and teaching in a graduate program. In addition, I had the opportunity to write a senior thesis through the ES capstone course in conjunction with the Clark Honors College, which further prepared me to think about expanding this work in graduate school.

What advice do you have for current ES students?

For current ES students, my advice is to keep your future open to the ways that you can contribute to working toward social justice. Your degree is what you make of it so use your education as a tool to create, as one of my professors puts it, a more equal access to an imagination of the future.