Sociologists have long explored the formation and transformation of various social categories. They have shown how and why the meaning, boundary, and resonance of these categories change over time and across contexts. I examine struggles over categorization that unfold in the context of international migration through comparative historical and ethnographic methods. I focus on the ways in which categories of membership and belonging—especially to states, nations, families/kin, and religious communities—are created, mobilized, contested, and redefined through such struggles.

My work, generously supported by the Social Science Research Council, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, and the American Council of Learned Societies, has been published in Theory and Society, Law & Social Inquiry, Comparative Studies in Society and History, and European Journal of Sociology (please see the publications page). My first monograph, entitled Contested Embrace: Transborder Membership Politics in Twentieth-Century Korea, has recently come out at Stanford University Press. 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 four book prizes 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.


* Photo in the header: A placard hung in Ikaino (the Korean neighborhood in Osaka) in 1971 (Photo Credit: Jihyon Cho)