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Yến Lê Espiritu

Distinguished Professor



Originally from Việt Nam, Yến Lê Espiritu is Distinguished Professor of Ethnic Studies. An award-winning author, she has published extensively on Asian American panethnicity, gender and migration, and U.S. colonialism and wars in Asia. Her most recent book, Body Counts: The Vietnam War and Militarized Refuge(es) (UC Press, 2014) charts an interdisciplinary field of critical refugee studies, which reconceptualizes “the refugee” not as an object of rescue but as a site of social and political critiques. Espiritu has served several terms as Chair of the Ethnic Studies Department, and also as its Director of Undergraduate Studies and Director of Graduate Studies. She has also served as the President of the Association of Asian American Studies and Vice President of the Pacific Sociological Association. She is a Founding Member of the Critical Refugee Studies Collective whose aim is to integrate scholarly, policy, artistic, legal, diplomatic and international relations interests with refugees’ everyday experiences. Espiritu is the recipient of several UCSD teaching awards: the Eleanor Roosevelt College’s Outstanding Faculty Award; the Academic Senate Distinguished Teaching Award; and the Chancellor's Associates Faculty Excellence Awards for Excellence in Graduate Teaching; and the inaugural recipient of the Association for Asian American Studies Mentorship Award.

Research Interests

Critical refugee studies; critical immigration studies; Asian American studies; gender and migration; U.S. militarism


Ph.D., Sociology - University of California, Los Angeles, 1990
M.A., Sociology - University of California, Los Angeles, 1987
B.A., Communication - University of California, San Diego, 1985

Selected Publications

  • Body Counts: The Vietnam War and Militarized Refuge(es). 2014. University of California Press. *
  • (with Lan Duong). “Feminist Refugee Epistemology: Reading Displacement in Vietnamese and Syrian Refugee Art.” Signs 14(3): 587-615, 2018. Winner of the 2018 Florence Howe Award, Women’s Caucus for the Modern Languages, Modern Language Association. 
  • (with Lisa Lowe and Lisa Yoneyama). “Transpacific Entanglements.” In Flashpoints for Asian American Studies, edited by Cathy Schlund-Vials. Fordham University Press, 2017.
  • “Critical Refugee Studies and Native Pacific Studies: A Transpacific Critique.” American Quarterly 69 (3): 483-490, 2017.
  • Home Bound: Filipino American Lives across Cultures, Communities, and Countries. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2003. Recipient of the 2005 Association for Asian American Studies Book Award in Social Sciences; and the Thomas and Znaniecki Book Award for the International Migration Section of the American Sociological Association.
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