Migration and Memory: Embodied Histories

Saturday, April 16, 2022, 3–5pm

About the seminar

This is an online seminar that will take place on Zoom.

Date: Saturday, April 16, 2022
Time: 3-5 pm EST (2 hours)
Capacity: 20 participants
Cost: Free
Register here.

The past emotions all over again. To confess to relive the same folly. To name it now so as not to repeat history in oblivion.

—Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Dictee

“Migration and Memory” addresses the function of cultural and geopolitical histories, memory, and kinship within Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s work. Cha names and destabilizes notions of motherhood, familial debt and lineage, and the ruptures of migration as she traces her mother’s move through Manchuria, Korea, and the United States. Through disparate fields such as historiography, poetry, and activism, this seminar analyzes varied histories of migration, (neo)colonialism, sex work, and resistance in East and Southeast Asia. We will examine the role of memory in Dictee; the relationships between histories of colonialism and imperialism in communities of color; and the politics of gender, migration and racialization in the West, and its representation in hybrid literature. 

This seminar is led by Jennifer Kwon Dobbs, Brandon Shimoda, and Yves Tong Nguyen, and includes opening reflections by guests, followed by a group discussion and writing exercise. Suggested readings will be shared in advance.

About the speakers

Born in Wonju, Republic of Korea, Jennifer Kwon Dobbs is the author of Interrogation Room (White Pine Press, 2018); Paper Pavilion (White Pine, 2007), winner of the White Pine Press Poetry Prize; and the chapbooks Notes from a Missing Person (Essay Press, 2015) and Necro Citizens (German/English edition, hochroth Verlag, 2019). Interrogation Room received mention in The New York Times, was praised by World Literature Today for “a vigorous restlessness,” and won the Association of Asian American Studies Award in Creative Writing: Poetry. She also co-translates Sami poetry with poet-scholar Johanna Domokos, and their translation of Niillas Holmberg’s Juolgevuođđu is forthcoming as Underfoot in spring 2022 from White Pine Press. Kwon Dobbs has received grants and awards for her writing, most recently a Jerome Hill Artist Fellowship and a Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative Grant, and published work in Crazyhorse, jubilat, The Massachusetts Review, Poetry International, Pleiades, and elsewhere. She is professor of English and Race and Ethnic Studies at St. Olaf College and poetry editor at AGNI.

Brandon Shimoda is a yonsei poet/writer, and the author of several books, most recently The Grave on the Wall (City Lights), which received the PEN Open Book Award. He has two books forthcoming: Hydra Medusa (Nightboat Books) and an untitled book on the afterlife of Japanese American incarceration (City Lights). He curates the Hiroshima Library, an itinerant reading room/collection of books on the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which spent a year at the Japanese American National Museum in LA, and is currently in Denver, CO. His front door faces a mountain.

Yves Tong Nguyen (they/she/he) is a Vietnamese queer disabled abolitionist organizer and cultural worker with Red Canary Song, a grassroots collective organizing migrant sex workers and massage parlor workers. They also organize with Survived and Punished NY and Free Them All 4 Public Health. They are personally concerned with supporting survivors of all forms of violence through organizing and informal community support. Red Canary Song, a grassroots collective of Asian and migrant sex workers centering basebuilding with migrant workers through a labor rights framework and mutual aid. We believe that full decriminalization is necessary for labor organizing and anti-trafficking. Survived & Punished NY Chapter is dedicated to supporting criminalized survivors of gender-based and domestic violence and ending the criminalization of survivors through PIC abolition.

Graphic design by Claire Zhang
Theresa Hak Kyung Cha: Untitled, from Exilee, c.1980; Photo courtesy of UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive


The Quick and the Dead is supported, in part, by Humanities New York with support from the National Endowment from the Humanities, and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this program do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities. 

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