Sina Lee wins two grants to support her works in feminist and Korean studies

Head shot of Sina Lee

Sina Lee, a visiting assistant professor in women’s, gender, and sexuality studies at The College of Wooster, recently received two grants to support her works in feminist as well as Korean studies.

Lee was awarded a 2023 fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies, a program that supports exceptional scholarship in the humanities and social sciences, for her research exploring the relationships between Korean adoptees and their adoptive and birth mothers. Lee’s project, “The Other Mother of My Child: Transnational Solidarity among Transnational Korean Adoptees, Adoptive Mothers, and Birth Mothers,” will be a study that will expand on the research she completed for her dissertation that she hopes to turn into a book.

“I’m thrilled my work can be part of this rising interest in adoption studies,” Lee said. “To understand the global circuit of transnational adoption, it is important to pay attention to adoptees, adoptive mothers, and birth mothers. I hope my work can contribute to adoption studies by shedding light on each adoption triad.”

While there has been increased scholarship in adoption studies, it has been primarily focused on the perspective of the receiving countries, including the United States. Lee’s study will provide perspective from sending countries, specifically South Korea. “This study applies transnational feminist epistemologies and methodologies to recover the forgotten stories of adoptees and their two mothers in existing master narratives to document their lost histories,” Lee said. “The ACLS fellowship will allow me to contribute decolonial feminist work on feminist, adoption, migration, and Korean studies scholarship.”

Lee, along with her three colleagues, Justin Sprague from West Chester University, Carolyn Choi from University of California, Los Angeles, and Mi Hyun Yoon from Rutgers University-Newark, also received a grant from the Academy of Korean Studies to support a hybrid conference “Decolonizing Korean Studies in the Global Era: An Intergenerational Workshop of Senior and Junior Scholars of Critical Korean Studies,” which will be held June 6 through 7 at the University of California, Los Angeles and virtually. The conference will also serve as the basis for an edited collection of essays that will feature the work of early-career Korean studies scholars.

The conference aims to encourage a new direction for Korean studies, including highlighting the Korean diaspora around the globe. “The discipline of Korean studies is in a critical period of transition, and emerging scholars in the field are redefining and actively reorienting the scholarly trajectory of the field’s transformation,” Lee said. “With a particular focus on interdisciplinarity and the inclusion of feminist research methodologies, we advocate for a renewed investment in the study of non-normative experiences and diasporic figures that have received limited attention outside of Korean studies.”

As an early-career interdisciplinary feminist scholar interested in Korean diaspora, the chance to organize this conference and affect the direction of future scholarship is significant for Lee. “This gives us a big opportunity as young scholars to initiate the conversation about the new direction of Korean studies,” Lee said. “The reason I have these grants is not just because I did something good; it was because there has been more attention in adoption and Asian studies, especially with decolonial and feminist perspectives.”

Lee sees this as an urgent moment for Asian studies, with increased anti-Asian sentiment in the United States that has been exacerbated recently. “We need to give more voice and empower Asian Americans and Asian migrants,” she said. “I hope my work can contribute to challenging systematic oppression that (re)produces ‘the category of Asian.’ As transnational feminist scholar M. Jacqui Alexander said, ‘We are not born women of color. We become women of color.’”

It’s something she’s already doing through the classes she teaches at Wooster, particularly Transnational Feminisms and the Politics of Transnational Adoption. “As a transnational feminist and Asian immigrant, I hope to help Wooster students think critically with non-U.S.-centric perspectives,” Lee said. “I hope exposing them to non-U.S.-focused perspectives will expand their scope of knowledge to the globe and help them unlearn the system of oppression.”

Posted in News on May 3, 2023.