Emily Hue is an Assistant Professor of Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Riverside, where she previously served as a UC Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow. Prior to completing her doctorate, Emily received a University of Connecticut Predoctoral Fellowship from the Asian/Asian American Studies Institute, with affiliations in Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies (WGSS), and Africana Studies. She received her Ph.D. in American Studies from the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis at New York University.
Emily is currently working on a book manuscript, tentatively titled, “Economies of Vulnerability: Humanitarian Imperialism and Performance in the Burmese Diaspora.” It is an interdisciplinary project which uses visual and performance analysis, ethnographic interviews and archival research to explore how diasporic artists and activists from Burma and other postcolonial nations use bodily abstraction and in some cases, self-injury, to express their vulnerability to challenges of military rule as well as resettlement.
Emily has previously worked in the academic publishing industry. She has also participated as an interviewer and organizer in a community podcast series entitled American Alien. This podcast series connects the lives and practices of Burmese diasporic artists, academics and activists and other cultural producers of color and is hosted by the Flux Factory, a local artist collective space based in Queens, NY.
I am currently revising my dissertation, Economies of Vulnerability: Humanitarian Imperialism and Performance in the Burmese Diaspora into a book manuscript. In this project, I combine ethnographic methods with visual and performance analysis to examine current trends of self-injury and bodily objectification taken up by refugee and asylum-seeking cultural producers working within the confines of the international arts market and humanitarian industry. The project draws from ethnographic research involving Burmese communities and their allies at non-governmental organizations in New York City, including protests in front of U.S. embassies, performance art in meditation centers, and dialogues on funding amongst arts non-profit organizations. For example, I examine the work of installation and performance artists who have created niche performance art in New York that critiques military rule and the humanitarian industry through acts of self-negation such as bondage, gagging, and blindfolding on stage. These performance tactics sometimes contest, are complicit in and even hyperbolize asylum seekers’ and refugees’ historical racialization and gendering as victimized orphans, widows and passive receptors of aid. I argue that artists’ extreme forms of self-disciplining on stage have multiplied the uses of “vulnerability,” as contemporary refugees and asylum seekers navigate their their nations of resettlement.
My second book project examines the phenomena of “live but not quite dead” entities as they appear in economies of humanitarian benevolence, acting as both waste and gift. I ask what the transnational circulation of human and human-like parts reveal about the economic, political and social inequities that cohere in modes of care in the 21st century. This research takes up tales of donation and theft of ghostly commodities such as human hair, reproductive matter, and organs in processes of medical cadaver use, organ transplantation, surrogacy, reconstructive surgery, disaster relief medicine, international art, and hair trade. I examine how these commodities are managed in industries of urgent humanitarian relief as well as in circles of social justice dedicated to advancing quality of life. My analysis unmoors accepted notions of agency and the assumed relationality between self and other. Drawing from debates in transnational feminist inquiry, queer studies, medical humanitarianism, and new materialism, this work also considers how these processes shore up unlikely intimacies, in/animacies and kinship between the U.S. and Asia.
You can hear more about these projects in an interview conducted by Cathy Hannabach for the Imagine Otherwise podcast series, produced by Ideas on Fire. The podcast is also available on Google Play, iTunes, Stitcher, and other podcast outlets. You can find more about the podcast series by checking out @ideasonfirephd on Twitter, @ideasonfirephd on Instagram, and Ideas on Fire PhD on Facebook.
Over the last three years, I have served as secretariat and subsequently president of the Southeast Asian American caucus within the Association for Asian American Studies. In this role, I have facilitated yearly caucus meetings for our constituents, organized roundtable discussions intended to foster mentorship for junior scholars with respect to teaching, research methods, and interdisciplinary training. Along with my colleague, Pahole Sookkasikon, I developed the Southeast Asian American AAAS website for community updates.
I have participated as an editor, interviewer and coordinator in a community podcast series entitled American Alien. This podcast series connected the practices of Burmese diasporic artists, academics and activists and other cultural producers of color and is hosted by the Flux Factory, an artist collective space based in Queens, NY. The series featured a range of topics, including but not limited to, the challenges of re-settlement, current themes in art from postcolonial nations, and comparative legacies of media censorship. You can listen to the podcast series on the American Alien page hosted by the Flux Factory.