Carnegie Mellon University

Simi Kang

Simi Kang

Mellon Sawyer Postdoctoral Fellow


I am a Mellon Sawyer Postdoctoral Fellow participating in the 2019-2020 Sawyer Seminar "Bread and Water: Access, Belonging and Environmental Justice in the City."

My manuscript, tentatively titled Resilient Refugeeism: Restoration & Environmental Sacrifice at the Ocean’s Edge, focuses on the presents and futures of Southeast Louisiana’s Vietnamese/American coast-dependent communities at the intersections of restoration policy, federal immigration law and national race politics, and catastrophic climate change. This is particularly in light of the ways local and state decision-makers justify their sacrifice of community members by framing Vietnamese/Americans as model minority refugees, or coastal residents who are particularly “successful” at survival due to their supposed resilience. Rejecting the edict of ‘refugee resilience,’ I interrogate how Louisiana’s restoration policy rhetorically centers, yet materially erases, Vietnamese/American fisherfolk. I do this by forwarding what I call critical refugee visionary response, wherein Vietnamese/American fisherfolk take material steps to see themselves in the coast’s future, a place they have been systematically written out of by decision-makers. Located within critical refugee studies and environmental humanities scholarship, this project articulates how fisherfolk create community-level strategies that directly respond to resilience policy. I show, further, how these strategies allow Vietnamese/Americans to see their community and commercial fishing in a state-imagined future that sacrifices both in the name of capital accumulation.

I specialize in critical feminist praxis and pedagogy, feminist ethnography, Southeast Asian American studies, environmental humanities and political ecology, refugeeism and diaspora studies, comparative ethnic studies, coast-dependent ecologies, the politics of food, labor and gender, and the U.S. and Southeast Asia. My work has appeared in Hyphen Magazine, The Asian American Literary Review, Gastronomica, Gravy, Open Rivers: Rethinking Water, Place, & Community, Kartika Review, and Allegra Lab: Anthropology, Law, Art & World, and is forthcoming in a collection of essays edited by Ananya Dance Theatre.

I earned my PhD in Feminist Studies in 2019 from the University of Minnesota and holds a B.A. in Creative Writing and Cultural Anthropology from the University of St. Thomas.  

Department Member Since: 2019