I’m a cultural geographer with interests in religion, mobilities, and difference. I work as a prof in Gender Studies at UCLA. Previously, I was a geography prof at the University of Toronto. (Yes, in Canada.)
I’m from a lot of places — mostly Seoul, northern and southern California, and both the west coast and eastern(ish) Canada. To be a little more precise: I was born and raised in a working class neighborhood in Seoul, South Korea and immigrated as a 12-year-old to Southern California where I grew up feeling oppressed by the unrelenting sun, the smog, and big hair. I escaped the hypernormative suburbs to attend college at UC Berkeley in the early 90s and majored in English and women’s studies. Then I returned to LA and worked for a digital community networking initiative at The Getty.
Between undergrad and grad school, and before and beyond that, I worked as an activist, artist, all-around geek, and information designer. I taught website building and Internet 101 classes when these things were very new, designed FileMaker Pro databases, upgraded RAM and set up network printers, and even crawled under desks to connect network cables to routers and hubs. I also designed postcards and newsletters, websites and booklets, all as part of my work as a tech/design consultant for nonprofits. It wasn’t all just tech, though. During this time, I am proud to have been part of launching and building 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 feminist activism in the US as well as in Korea and the Korean diaspora.
But as much as I enjoyed being a full-time freelance geek, I missed school. I missed reading and writing, learning and questioning. So after several years, I eventually returned to Berkeley to earn a PhD in geography. And after that, I held a Korea Foundation and SSHRC postdoctoral fellowships in Asian Studies and Geography at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, and took a faculty position in Geography at the University of Toronto. My teaching and research interests generally lie at the nexus of cultural politics of mobility, religion, and difference, and most of my work deals with Korea and the Korean diaspora in some way. I suppose my primary disciplinary homes are in geography, critical Korean studies, and transnational feminist studies, but I 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, art and architecture, and beyond. I rely on interdisciplinary and overlapping frameworks of cultural geography, postcolonial cultural studies, and critical race, sexuality and gender studies.
I like stories. A lot. I’ve always thought of my scholarly role 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 called On the Move: an undergraduate journal of creative geographies, showcasing stories about a sense of place. In Spring 2021 when all classes were on Zoom, I opened up my feminist politics in Korea and the Korean diaspora class (UCLA Gender Studies) to the public, which involved a series of 17 guests. I have since won a grant to transform that experience into a podcast, so TBD.
You can reach me at judyhan AT ucla.edu.