Joining the fields of transnational feminist studies with critical refugee studies, this talk introduces the concept feminist refugee epistemology (FRE) to re-conceptualize war-based displacement as not only about social disorder and interruption but also about social reproduction and innovation. FRE does more than critique Western media representation of refugees; it underlines the refugees’ rich and complicated lives, the ways in which they enact their hopes, beliefs, and politics, even when they live militarized lives. Given the ubiquity of visual representation of refugee suffering in Western media, it examines how refugee artists—specifically Vietnamese and Syrian artists—have articulated, contested, challenged and reconfigured ways of knowing. Fusing the critical with the creative, it conceptualizes refugee artwork as a critical site of knowledge production and encourages further and deeper inquiry into refugee cultural production as an essential element in refugee studies.
Yen Le Espiritu is Professor and former Chair of the Department of Ethnic Studies at the University of California, San Diego. An award winning author, she has published widely on Asian American panethnicity, gender and migration, and U.S. colonialism and wars in Asia. Her most recent book is Body Counts: The Vietnam War and Militarized Refuge(es) (University of California Press, 2014). She is also the recipient of numerous teaching and mentor awards, and a Founding Member of the Critical Refugee Studies Collective.
2017-2018 marks 20 years of Asian American Studies. Starting as a committee of senior professors from different departments, Asian American Studies is now a full-pledged department with an undergraduate major and minor as well as a graduate minor.