I’m a cultural geographer with interests in religion, mobilities, and difference. I have recently accepted a new Korean studies faculty position as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Gender Studies at UCLA. Previously, I was an Assistant Professor in Geography at the University of Toronto, Canada.
I’m from a lot of places — mostly Seoul, northern and southern California, and both the west coast and eastern(ish) Canada. I was born and raised in Seoul, Korea and immigrated as a 12-year-old to Southern California where I grew up hating the heat, the smog, and big hair. I escaped to UC Berkeley in the early 90s and majored in English and women’s studies, moved back down to LA and became reacquainted with Los Angeles while working for a digital community networking initiative at The Getty, and then returned to Berkeley years later to earn a PhD in geography. Between undergrad and grad school, and before and beyond that, I have worked as an activist, artist, and information designer. I am proud to have helped launch and build Californians for Justice (CFJ), an awesome statewide anti-racist organization that taught me so much about base building and grassroots organizing, and the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF), a national feminist organization that opened my eyes to a world of committed Asian American activists and advocates throughout the US. I remain committed to anti-racist and pro-immigrant, anti-fascist and progressive queer and trans activism in Korea and the Korean diaspora.
My teaching and research interests lie at the nexus of political economy and cultural politics, and most of my work deals with Korea and the Korean diaspora in some way. I rely on interdisciplinary frameworks of cultural geography, postcolonial cultural studies, and critical race, sexuality and gender studies. My primary disciplinary homes are in geography, critical Korean studies, and transnational feminist studies, but I play (and work) and collaborate with all kinds of like-minded thinkers and kindred spirits in cultural anthropology, critical sociology, English and cultural studies, religious studies, film and media studies, history, and beyond.
I like stories. A lot. I’ve always thought of myself as a kind of a storyteller (and an aspiring comic book author), and I see a critical place for storytelling in research, writing, and teaching. The online student publication I started with a handful of stories in Toronto in 2012 is a project that combines storytelling and a sense of place, and one way that I encourage students to tell more critical and reflexive stories about themselves and about the world they inhabit. See On the Move: an undergraduate journal of creative geographies. I am now working with a group of amazing UCLA students to publish volume 5 of the journal.
My first book project was a critical study of South Korean and Korean American evangelical Christian missionaries engaged in what I call “purpose-driven travel.” These overseas religious missions are not just about proselytizing and persuading others. For many people involved, missions are also an affordable and accessible way to travel and see the world, and in the process, they become more invested in their religious subjectivity—as caring, self-sacrificing, and purposive Christians and traveling subjects. Missions produce missionaries, rather than new converts. My newer projects concern urban religious aspirations, queer left politics, activism and protest cultures in Korea.
You can reach me at judyhan AT ucla.edu or through the contact form. Email is better.