Photo Credit: Elizabeth Shim
Photo Credit: Elizabeth Shim

I am Korea Foundation Endowed Associate Professor of Sociology and the Professor of Law (by Courtesy) at the University of Michigan. I am a political sociologist and law and society scholar interested in questions of human mobility, inequality, power, and agency. I seek to develop a relational, processual, and agentic account of categorization and identification, particularly in contexts in which such practices have significant implications for inequality at local, national, and global levels. My research takes a transnational and global perspective, and systematically considers sending and transit contexts in studying international migration by adopting a multi-sited approach to research.

My work, generously supported by the Social Science Research Council, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the Academy of Korean Studies, has been published in journals in sociological theory, law and society, race/ethnicity/migration, and historical sociology (please see the publications page). My first monograph, entitled Contested Embrace: Transborder Membership Politics in Twentieth-Century Korea, was published at Stanford University Press in 2016 (paperback 2020; Chinese translation expected in 2023). The book, based on my award-winning dissertation (2013 Theda Skocpol Dissertation Award at the American Sociological Association), examines diaspora politics in twentieth-century Korea, focusing on colonial-era ethnic Korean migrants and their descendants in Japan and northeast China. Contested Embrace won three book prizes and one honorable mention from the American Sociological Association (ASA), the Social Science History Association (SSHA), and the Association for Asian Studies (AAS). I am currently working on my second book project about the asylum-seeking of undocumented migrants on religious grounds. 

Before joining the University of Michigan, I received my PhD degree from UCLA, was a postdoctoral fellow at Princeton and Stanford, and taught at George Mason University for a year. I was a member of the Institute for Advanced Study (School of Social Science) in Princeton during 2016–2017, and a fellow at Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berllin (Institute for Advanced Study in Berlin) during 2020–2021.

Featured Work

Most recent article: “Between Sacred Gift and Profane Exchange: Identity Craft and Relational Work in Asylum Claims-Making on Religious Grounds.” Theory and Society 51 (2): 303–33.

Contested Embrace: Transborder Membership Politics in Twentieth Century Korea (Stanford University Press, 2016; Paperback 2020; Chinese translation expected in 2023)

  • 2017 Thomas and Znaniecki Distinguished Book Award from the International Migration Section of American Sociological Association
  • 2017 Book Award on Asia/Transnational from the Asia/Asian American Section of American Sociological Association
  • 2017 Allan Sharlin Memorial Award from the Social Science History Association
  • 2018 James B. Palais Book Prize from the Association for Asian Studies (Honorable Mention)

“Migration-Facilitating Capital: A Bourdieusian Theory of International Migration.” Sociological Theory 36 (3): 262–88.

  • 2019 Theory Prize from the Theory Section of the American Sociological Association
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