This page provides a bit more about my academic self. Currently, I’m a core faculty member of the Asian American Studies Program at the University of Maryland, College Park.

Credit: Tiffany Eng

Credit: Tiffany Eng

I’m a bit of a nomad–I was born in Orange County, raised in San Jose, CA and Salt Lake City, graduated from an international school in Korea, received my BA in International Studies at Vassar College, my MA in a self-designed program from the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at New York University, and my PhD from the Cultural Studies Graduate Group, with a designated emphasis in Studies in Performance and Practice, from the University of California, Davis.

My book project, Demilitarized Energies: The Korean War, the Korean DMZ, and Korean Diasporic Culture, studies the global contexts, catastrophic traces, and ecological futurities of the Korean War by exploring contemporary Korean diasporic media productions of the Korean demilitarized zone. I first historicize the most armed border in the world within, what I call, the “de/militarization” of US empire. I define “de/militarization” as the process by which the geopolitical conditions that established the DMZ as neutral, neutralizing, and rehabilitative crafted the liberal script that camouflaged the US as a humanitarian refuge in Cold War Asia. The emergence of US liberal empire from the barbed-wire borderland of Korea, I contend, was further shaped by the use and threat to use nuclear weapons in the area, which continues to animate the material, affective, and ecological landscape of the DMZ and the fire-and-fury conflict between the US and North Korea. I then turn to several Korean diasporic artists who address the DMZ’s “nuclear unconscious” by harnessing a range of nonhuman energies—animal, plant, volcanic, ghost—that radiate across the DMZ. I argue that these diasporic media productions unveil, contest, and repurpose de/militarization. For example, one chapter investigates several installations by the Korean American artist Michael Joo, whose engagements with DMZ ecology have incorporated such in/animate substances as North Korean volcanic rock to mimic the migratory patterns of red-crowned cranes who find refuge in the DMZ. Another chapter close reads the South Korean musical My Love DMZ, which features two nonhuman residents of the DMZ—endangered animal species and the ghosts of Korean War soldiers—who join forces to halt the construction of a railroad that threatens their home. Finally, I analyze Jihae Hwang’s Quiet Time: DMZ Forbidden Garden, an award-winning botanical rendering of the DMZ as a repository for the Korean War’s militarized wreckage through which a demilitarized future sprouts. Thus, in using energy as an analytic to re-frame the Korean War as the nuclearized power plant of US Cold War empire, the Korean DMZ as the plant’s radioactive core, and DMZ-specific Korean diasporic media productions as the imaginative recycling of the core’s militarized emissions, Demilitarized Energies offers a significant re-thinking of studies of the US’s “forgotten war.”


I maintain an active research agenda advancing transnational cultural studies of the Korean War, US military empire and Asian American visual media. My peer-reviewed scholarly contributions include “Eternal Return of the Saline Body: Michael Joo’s Salt Transfer Cycle,” which was the lead essay in a special issue on Asian American Performance Art for MELUS: Multi-Ethnic Literature of the US. Additionally, my article, “The De/militarised Frontier: The Korean Demilitarised Zone, the American DMZ Border Guard, and US Liberal Empire,” whose research was made possible by an Association of Asian Studies/Korea Foundation grant, is currently undergoing minor revisions to be resubmitted to the peer-reviewed journal Critical Military Studies. My recent Performance Studies International conference paper on animality, alienage, and British empire in Joo’s 2009 self-titled installation Michael Joo has been accepted for development by PSi’s online journal Global Performance Studies for a special issue titled “Network: Arts, City, Culture.” Finally, an essay on the transnational cultural politics of the Korean DMZ will be included in a forthcoming anthology on militarism and Asian American critique edited by Cathy Schlund-Vials, titled Imperial Coordinates, under contract with Rutgers University Press. 

Wellesley College students from my Spring 2016 American Studies course, "Asian/Aliens and Techno- Orientalism." We're holding up copies of Marjorie Liu's graphic novel Monstress #1.

Wellesley College students from my Spring 2016 American Studies course, “Asian/Aliens and Techno-Orientalism.” We’re holding up copies of Marjorie Liu’s graphic novel Monstress #1.

My research on transnational histories and cultures of war, empire, and militarism shapes my award-winning teaching. I’ve held teaching appointments in the following academic units and institutions: UC Davis, Hunter College’s Asian American Studies Program, the Prison University Project’s college program at San Quentin State Prison, Miami University’s Asian/Asian American Studies, Wellesley College’s American Studies Program, and, most recently, Harvard University’s History & Literature program, where I was awarded a Certificate of Teaching Excellence from the Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning. I also advised a senior thesis that . I draw on my research, training, and involvement in the performing arts and media organizations to design theoretically-rigorous, community-engaged, student-centered courses in Asian, American, and Asian American Studies. From an advanced seminar on “techno-orientalism,” to an Asian globalization course that had students craft their own critical “Kpop” music videos, to a Korean War course in which students conducted oral histories with combatants and survivors, to introductory Asian American courses featuring Asian American cultural critics and producers via Google Hangout, my students improve their critical thinking in a collaborative, creative setting. In recognition of my innovative teaching of Asian American studies, I contributed an invited essay for a forthcoming peer-reviewed anthology, Teaching Asian America: Pedagogy, Politics, and Practice, under contract with University of Illinois Press.

From "Stories From the Forgotten War: Korean War Oral History Exhibit." Course project for "Forgotten/Remembered: The Korean War and Asian/American Culture," Prof. Terry K Park, American Studies Program, Wellesley College, Fall 2015. Photos by Rebecca Darling and Terry Park.

From “Stories From the Forgotten War: Korean War Oral History Exhibit.” Course project for “Forgotten/Remembered: The Korean War and Asian/American Culture,” Prof. Terry K Park, American Studies Program, Wellesley College, Fall 2015. Photos by Rebecca Darling and Terry Park.

Finally, my research, teaching, and advising is enriched by my background as an award-winning actor, off-Broadway performance artist, and involvement in a number of community and media organizations, including: