I wear a lot of different hats. Professionally, I’m a cultural geographer with interests in religion, mobilities, and difference. I teach undergrad classes at the University of Toronto Scarborough and graduate classes at University of Toronto St. George where I’m also an Associated Graduate Faculty in the Graduate Department of Women & Gender Studies Institute and an affiliated faculty at the Centre for the Study of Korea. I received my PhD in geography in 2009 from UC Berkeley, where I had studied literature and women’s studies as an undergraduate in the early 90s. Before I got on the academic career path, I worked as an activist and information designer, helping build one statewide organization and one national organization: anti-racist Californians for Justice and feminist National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum. I also worked for a digital community networking initiative at The Getty for 3 years in the late 90s. Somehow over the years, I have become a Korean American professor in Canada, an identity I never imagined for myself when I left Korea as a twelve-year-old in 1984.
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 likeminded thinkers and kindred spirits in cultural anthropology, critical sociology, English and cultural studies, religious studies, history, and beyond. I’m preoccupied these days with affect and storytelling. I’ve always thought of myself as a story teller (and an aspiring comic book author), and I see a critical place for storytelling in my research, writing, and teaching. The online student publication I started with a handful of stories in Toronto in 2012 is one 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.
My PhD research had involved 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 actually produce missionaries, rather than new converts. I’m interested in how missionaries are cultivated as affective subjects through religious, humanitarian, and development projects throughout the world. There’s a certain saviour complex, for sure, but based on research and field work in China, Uganda, and Tanzania in addition to South Korea, U.S., and Canada, I can also say that personal experiences of devastating loss and poverty and sentimental narratives of gratitude and indebtedness play a huge role in animating overseas missions. All this is going into my first book, manuscript to be completed (fingers crossed) soon.
All my projects address some aspects of religion, faith, affect, and subjectivity. I have a lot of plans for the next few years—books and articles on religious mobilities, queer geopolitics, activist and protest cultures, faith in Seoul, affective orientations and storytelling, etc. I plan to make comic books and who knows, maybe even films.
You can reach me at judy.han AT utoronto.ca or through the contact form.