Junior Scholar Symposium on Race & Ethnicity in Global Perspectives 

hosted by the Boston University Department of Sociology

April 13, 2023

Noon – 5 PM


Panel 1: ​​Racialization and Anti-Blackness

Discussant: Freeden Blume Oeur, Associate Professor of Sociology and Education, Tufts University

Counting “Colonial-Race”: Africa’s Censuses from 1881 to 2020

Yao Lu, Department of Sociology, University of California, Davis

This paper addresses the research question: What modes of racial classifications emerged in Africa’s censuses from 1881 to 2020? Existing sociological works tend to focus on racialization in the West. Yet the transatlantic slave trade and subsequent colonization of Africa went hand in hand with racialization on the continent with contemporary legacies. To shed light on racialization in continental Africa, my point of entry is the census—classification projects taken by every colonial and post-independent state in Africa. The appearance and disappearance of “race” as a census category refracts historical racialization processes. I use the umbrella label “colonial-racial” to refer to the enumeration of “race” and other categories that have historically worked in tandem with racialization in Africa, including “ethnicity” and “nationality”. I code and analyze 519 censuses in 56 African countries and territories from 1881 to 2020. My findings show that enumeration of the “race” category in Africa’s censuses are generally declining in the 20th century. Moreover, former British colonies constitute the majority of the enumeration of “race” in censuses, while only a few former French colonies enumerated “race”. Along with the decline in counting “race” is the rise in the counting of “ethnicity” and “nationality” in both former British colonies and former French colonies. This trend also varies by country. My analysis offers empirical insight in the trends and varieties of racialization in Africa and is a stepping stone to understand racialization as global historical processes.

Blood and Color: Du Boisian Articulations of Race, 1897-1910

Aaron Yates, Department of Sociology, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

This paper examines Du Bois’s theorization of ‘race’ at the turn of the twentieth century. It considers the relationship between the intellectual currents of social Darwinism and eugenics popular among Western scientific communities and the development of his own ideas. While scholars in elite American universities were constructing modernity as driven by scientific, moral, and cultural progress, Du Bois was centering colonialism, the transatlantic slave trade, and revolutionary conflicts as modernity’s founding dilemmas. Despite his critical stance against theories of Black racial inferiority, his position reveals more overlap with biological notions of race than implied by the strict social constructionism often attributed to him at present. This paper examines the early sociological work of Du Bois with attention to his theoretical representations of ‘race’ and its imbrication with questions of racialized and gendered subjecthood, progress, and social differences. It explores the conceptual tensions arising from points of difference and points of convergence between prevailing theories of race and civilization and those mobilized by Du Bois in the name of racial uplift.

#ButWeAren’tRacist: Examining Dominicans’ (Anti)Blackness in a Time of Global Racial Reckoning

Pamela Zabala, Department of Sociology, Duke University

In the midst of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) 2020 moment, Dominicans used the Twitter hashtag #PeroNoSomosRacistas (#ButWeAren’tRacist) to draw attention to and push back against Anti-Black racism within the Dominican community. At the same time, Dominicans in Santo Domingo and New York City violently engaged the BLM demonstrations, pushing back against their presence in Dominican spaces. In order to understand these contradicting reactions, I use the BLM 2020 moment as a launching point for examining how diasporic Dominicans conceptualize their racial identities, and for exploring the role that U.S.-based understandings of race, racism, and Blackness play in shaping these transnational discourses. I draw on Twitter data and on 75 in-depth interviews with Dominicans and Dominican-Americans to highlight Dominican responses to Black Lives Matter and situate these responses within a deeper discussion of how Dominicans define, understand, and live out their Blackness. I find that BLM 2020, as a moment and a discourse, posed a challenge to both anti-Black Dominican racial ideologies and to U.S. racial constructions that frame Latinidad and Blackness as incompatible, and that this moment helped create space for Dominicans in both contexts to both reinforce and disrupt denials of Dominican Blackness. This work has important implications for understanding how hegemonic U.S. conceptions of race and Blackness travel and inform racial discourses in other contexts, and for beginning to understand what transnational Black consciousness building might look like across diaspora.


Panel 2: ​​Race, Migration & Identity

Discussant: Tiffany Joseph, Associate Professor of Sociology and International Affairs, Northeastern University

Making Global Citizens: English Travel, Working Holidays, and Undocumented Labor among South Korea Youth in a Global Age 

Carolyn Choi, Post-doctoral scholar, Center for Korean Studies, UCLA

This paper explores the educational and labor migration pathways of lower-resourced South Korean youth to the popular English study destinations of the Philippines, the US, and Australia. With youth now viewed as a cornerstone to South Korean biopolitical state projects for national ascendance, this research uses 137 in-depth interviews and six years of ethnographic methods to investigate how the country’s late-modern transformation from a “colonized nation” to a “neocolonial superpower” shapes the everyday transnational experiences of young South Koreans on the move for projects of class mobility. Weaving together the lives of young Korean migrants working as karaoke hostesses in Los Angeles, laboring in zucchini farms in rural Australia, and learning English in the provincial Philippines, this project expands existing analyses on East to West, South to North elite educational migration to examine a wider swathe of South Korean youth on the move, largely from provincial regions of the nation. In doing so, I introduce the concept of transnational stratification, or how educational migration extends homegrown class inequalities transnationally through the intersection of legal, racialized labor, and spatial processes in varied destination countries. Through telescoping out to geographically diverse, localized sites of transnational stratification, this paper illuminates the ways precariously positioned South Korean youth challenge national narratives of global economic prominence and global citizen-making in the context of emerging discourses of Asian ascendancy and shifting globalized racial orders. It also interlinks longer historical legacies of Western imperialism and U.S. militarization to contemporary geopolitical configurations of Asian migration—not just in Asian America but across different Anglo-American settler as well as emerging intra-Asian contexts and dynamics. 

Immigration, Indigeneity, and the Politics of Ethnoracial Identity

Beka Guluma, Department of Sociology, Stanford University

For most Black immigrants, immigration to the United States compels them to negotiate between their ethnic identity and their racial identity as Black. Historically, we’ve tended to see Black immigrants subsumed into Blackness following arrival in the United States. As a result, we know little about the conditions under which Black immigrants’ sense of identity continues to be shaped by racial schema in their homeland. Drawing on Dana Moss’s concept of conflict transmission and the literature on reactive ethnicity, I show how Oromo immigrants from Ethiopia—a historically marginalized ethnic group in that country—define and articulate their identity in relation to homeland ethnic conflict. Drawing on 48 in-depth interviews and fieldwork in the Minneapolis/St. Paul and Washington, D.C. metropolitan areas, I show how the policing of Oromo identity in the United States by Ethiopian co-nationals leads Oromo immigrants to further embrace their Oromo identity as a reactive response. In particular, Oromo identity is cultivated and sustained through the revival of an indigenous Oromo thanksgiving holiday called Irreechaa. In Minneapolis/St. Paul, where group threat is less of an issue, Oromo immigrants celebrate Irreechaa with more fidelity to the traditions and rituals that govern its celebration, and they are beginning to forge connections with Indigenous American groups by inviting them to join in celebrating Irreechaa. In Washington, D.C., where group threat is more of an issue, Oromo immigrants celebrate Irreechaa with less adherence to ritual and tradition. In particular, Irreechaa is celebrated as an act of resistance and is explicitly linked to the politics of Oromo self-determination. Insights from this research help expand the conversation on indigeneity and colonialism to include global perspectives, namely from Africa. Furthermore, this research illustrates how homeland ethnic conflict shapes immigrants’ navigation of diasporic identity.

From Oriental to Asian American: Cultivating Diasporic Allegiances and Shaping Asian America from Manhattan’s Chinatown (1969-1986) 

christina ong, Department of Sociology, University of Pittsburgh

What does it take for a group to see themselves as a collective, capable of instituting change and altering hegemonic institutions? In the late 1960s, Americans of Asian descent forged a new collective identity when they took up the label “Asian American.” This paper uncovers how newly defined Asian Americans cultivated their own imagined diasporic community through an in-depth case study of the Basement Workshop (1969-1986), the east coast’s first pan-Asian political and arts organization based in New York City’s Chinatown. During this time, global struggles against colonialism alongside U.S. anti-war, feminist, and anti-racist movements were strong influences. However, travel to Asia from the US was infrequent and discussion about the continent was highly politicized. Under these constraints, in what ways did Asian Americans understand their newfound identity as a diasporic, transnational one? And as US-Asia relations shifted into the 1970s, how did altering flows of migration impact Asian Americans’ sense of collectivity?  Through original interviews with former members of the Basement Workshop and archival analysis of the organization’s cultural productions and internal documents, demonstrate that the Basement Workshop presented a divergent and varied vision of Asian America throughout the life course of the organization due to members’ own understanding of their racialized identities, relationships with other members and those in the wider diaspora, and connections to the spaces in and around Manhattan’s Chinatown where the organization was active. 


Tiffany Joseph, Associate Professor of Sociology and International Affairs, Northeastern University

Tiffany Joseph is an associate professor of Sociology and affiliated faculty in the International Affairs Program at Northeastern University. After completing her PhD in Sociology at the University of Michigan, she was a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Policy Scholar at Harvard University from 2011-2013. She was an assistant professor of Sociology at Stony Brook University from 2013-2018. Her research and teaching interests explore: race, ethnicity, and migration in the Americas; the influence of immigration on the social construction of race in the U.S., immigrants’ health and healthcare access; immigration and health policy, and the experiences of minority faculty in academia.

Freeden Blume Oeur, Associate Professor of Sociology and Education, Tufts University

Freeden Blume Oeur (he/him), a first-gen college student and child of Cambodian immigrants, is associate professor of sociology. (His full last name is “Blume Oeur” with no hyphen.) He holds a secondary appointment with the Department of Education and is a faculty affiliate with American Studies and the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies program. He is past co-chair of the Board of Representatives for the Boston Consortium for Graduate Studies in Gender, Culture, Women, and Sexuality (2017-2020); and a past postdoctoral fellow with the W. E. B. Du Bois Center at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst (2019). In 2022 he was recognized with the Distinguished Early Career Award from the Children and Youth section of the American Sociological Association (ASA).


Carolyn Choi PhD, Post-doctoral scholar, Center for Korean Studies, UCLA                          Dr. Carolyn Areum Choi (she/hers) is currently the Korea Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for Korean Studies at UCLA. As a former Fulbright, Academy of Korean Studies, SSRC, and Dartmouth Guarini Dean’s fellow, Carolyn’s research focuses on the mobility pathways of South Korean youth and the ways in which class, migration, race, labor, and education intersect. Her research has been published in the International Migration Review, Global Networks, AAPI Nexus Journal, Sexualities, and Social & Cultural Geography and when she’s not writing for adults, she also children’s books on feminism and intersectionality and is co-author of Intersection Allies: We Make Room for All.

Beka Guluma ABD, Department of Sociology, Stanford University                                          Beka Guluma is a Ph.D. candidate in Sociology at Stanford University. His research examines the relationship between immigration, and racial and ethnic identity with a particular focus on Black immigrants and Africa. His current work centers on Oromo immigrants from Ethiopia. Drawing on in-depth interviews and participant observation in the Washington, D.C. and Minneapolis/St. Paul metro areas, he explores how Oromo immigrants’ integration intoAmerican society, and ethnic and racial identities are and continue to be informed by ethnic conflict in the homeland. His research has been generously supported by several grants including the Stanford University Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity (CCSRE) Dissertation Fellowship and the Stanford University Ethnography Lab Graduate Fellowship. Prior to advancing to candidacy, he earned a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Michigan and an M.A. in Sociology from Stanford University.

Yao Lu ABD, Department of Sociology, University of California, Davis                                    Yao Lu is a Ph.D. Candidate in Sociology at the University of California, Davis. Her research interests include the sociology of Africa, empire/colonialism, and racial/ethnic classification.



Aaron Yates ABD, Department of Sociology, University of Massachusetts, Amherst   Aaron Yates is a PhD candidate in sociology at University of Massachusetts Amherst. His research interests center on science, religion, and the role of knowledge in the advancement of civilization. His work considers the connections between social scientific theories of progress and movements for social change that disrupt or reproduce entrenched systems of racial, colonial, and gendered domination. He draws inspiration from W. E. B. Du Bois’s conviction that knowledge is necessary for emancipation, and seeks to explore the conditions under which scientific knowledge production is a means of liberation rather than oppression.

Pamela Zabala ABD, Department of Sociology, Duke University            Pamela Zabala Ortiz is a Ph.D. candidate in Sociology at Duke University, where she studies race and ethnicity, Blackness, migration, identity, and belonging. Her dissertation is a qualitative exploration of the ways Dominican migrants to the U.S. contend with U.S.-based racial constructions, especially around Black identity. She holds an M.A. in Sociology from Duke University and a B.A. in Sociology from Bowdoin College.

christina ong, Department of Sociology, University of Pittsburgh                                    christina ong (she/her; lowercase intentional) is a PhD Candidate in Sociology and holds a certificate in Digital Studies and Methods from the University of Pittsburgh where she studies the evolution of diasporic imagined communities from a socio-historical perspective. Specifically, her work chronicles the development of Asian America through an in-depth case study of the Basement Workshop (1969-1986), the first pan-Asian political and arts organization on the east coast of the United States. Her stories and poetry about Asian American identity, migration, and home have appeared in Asian Americana, the Asian American Feminist Collective, and Critical Ethnic Studies. Her academic work is forthcoming in Art Journal, Asian Diasporic Visual Cultures and the Americas, and Sociological Inquiry (co-authored with Amy Zhang).