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The deadline for this opportunity has passed.

Our summer institute, co-sponsored by the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, immerses early-career scholars in the study of racism, dispossession, and migration in a collaborative space. Each year, the institute addresses a new topic under the leadership of a faculty researcher.

History and Memory: Migration, Militarism, and U.S. Empire

In person, July 17–28, 2023

This year's institute will examine the relationships between migration and U.S. empire, militarism, and violence. We will host 12 participants.

  • Faculty leader: Christine Bacareza Balance, associate professor of performing and media arts and Asian American studies in the College of Arts and Sciences (A&S)
  • Faculty leader: Derek Chang, associate professor of history and Asian American studies in A&S
  • Stipend: $2,000 per participant

There are some limitations to stipend payments to foreign nationals and undocumented individuals; please contact us regarding your ability to receive a stipend.  

The program is fully funded, and we will provide housing and dining on campus, materials, and any program excursion costs. Travel to and from Ithaca is not included. If paying for your travel in advance of receiving the stipend at the conclusion of the program presents a financial hardship, please contact us.


Exploring scholarship, archives, and diverse modes of storytelling, our discussions and activities will be guided by four overarching goals:

  1. Consider how a focus on U.S. empire, with special attention to militarism and violence, challenges traditional narratives and analyses of U.S. (im)migration and American exceptionalism
  2. Develop analyses and frameworks that take into account comparative and entangled experiences of migration and dispossession
  3. Explore methodologies for creating new knowledge about migration, empire, and militarism and their ongoing consequences
  4. Examine efforts across forms, fields, and disciplines to tell more nuanced stories of migration that account for the larger forces structuring migration while also taking into account individual agency and intimate, everyday forms of resistance

Participants will examine and compare historical and contemporary analyses of migration to the United States, paying particular attention to scholars, artists, documentarians, and activists who challenge efforts to normalize American exceptionalist narratives of immigration.

Activities will include discussions and lectures, skills building workshops, visits to the Cornell Library archives and community organizations, film screenings, daily writing reflections, and panel discussions with artists and scholars.


"Reckoning with empire necessitates thinking against the nation, beyond the national myths of America."

-Moon Ho-Jung, historian

With her brother on her back, a war-weary Korean girl trudges by a stalled M-26 tank in Haengju, Korea, in 1951.
With her brother on her back, a war-weary Korean girl trudges by a stalled M-26 tank in Haengju, Korea, in 1951.

Challenging traditional frameworks and narratives of American immigration, this summer institute provides us an opportunity to examine migration through various analyses and histories of U.S. empire, militarism, and their violences.

Building on insights from Asian American studies, Pacific Islander studies, critical refugee studies, critical refugee studies, and other studies of U.S. empire and militarism, we will consider how historic and ongoing forms of settler-colonial, imperial, and militarized violence have shaped different migrations to the U.S., specifically, and to other countries, more broadly, and how the lives and epistemologies of migrants themselves illuminate the contours of U.S. empire, having and continuing to imagine different politics and futures.

Taking a cue from critical refugee studies scholars, such as Yen Le Espiritu, we take seriously how centering migrant and refugee lives is a mode of critique—"establish(ing) and mak(ing) intelligible a wider set of problems," "radically call(ing) into question the established principles of the nation-state and the idealized goal of inclusion and recognition within it"—as well as a world-making project forged in the face of institutional invisibility, silences, forgetting, and erasure. 

Rather than casting peoples who arrive in the United States as immigrants seeking to become American citizens, we will instead examine the racializing (and often radicalizing) operations of U.S. empire in displacing and dispossessing peoples globally. If, as Crystal Baik so potently reminds us, "war functions as a normative element rather than disruptive force of neoliberal life," then how might we understand differently the relationships between migration and settler colonialism or migration and Indigenous dispossession (per the work of Dean Saranillo, Craig Santos Perez, and others)?

How might we better apprehend histories of migratory labor and familial formations—the ubiquity of Filipino nurses and domestic workers, of Korean and Vietnamese adoptees, of various war brides—as U.S. imperial aftermaths? How might we better critique American exceptionalism and search for radical, alternative pasts in our crafting of political collaborations and futures? How might we attend to the politics and poetics of what writer/critic Viet Nguyen terms America’s "memory industry" on/around the U.S.-Vietnam War or approach Cambodian-American music, memorials, creative writing, in the words of Cathy Schlund-Vials, as "memory work" in the face of governmental, cultural, and other systemic ways of forgetting the U.S. war in Cambodia? 

In thinking about Japanese American concentration camps during World War II as a type of forced domestic migration within the borders and under the laws of America’s state of exception, how might we, like scholars Joshua Chambers-Letson and Elena Tajima Creef as well as filmmaker Rea Tajiri, theorize photographic and filmic images of internees in "everyday acts of self-presentation" for their simultaneously documentary, political and aesthetic functions, "as events that animate the space between the spectator and the image, making it possible for something to happen"? These forms of counter-history or memory according to Marianne Hirsch, remind us that the affective and intimate, "the minute details of daily life," are also concerns of history. They also allow us an opportunity to form attachments and affiliations beyond the familial, across lines of difference and periods of historical time.

By privileging and centering migrant and refugee experiences and knowledge, we look, listen, move, and feel our way toward new forms, styles, and understandings of archives, documentation, and historical writing and (re)presentation. This summer institute pays careful attention to diverse modes of storytelling including but not limited to: documentary film and photography, museum exhibits and other public history projects, theater/performance, oral histories, creative writing, and podcasts. We will think about the relationship between history, memory, and storytelling by also examining the role of archival research in narrative-based projects as well as literary threads and traditions within history/historical writing.


Applicants should be advanced graduate students (all but dissertation), postdoctoral fellows, or early-career scholars. We welcome applicants from fields including but not limited to Asian American studies, Asian studies, American studies, critical ethnic studies, film/media studies, history, literary studies, performance studies, anthropology, Pacific Islander studies, and critical refugee studies.

We encourage scholars who are not affiliated with Cornell to apply.