Karen J. Leong

Photo: Karen J. Leong

Associate Professor

Email: kleong@unm.edu
Office: 2094


Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley

Research Interests:

History of Women, Gender and Sexuality, Asian American History, American West History, 20th Century U.S. History, Cultural History, Critical Race and Relational Ethnic Studies

Research Statement:

My research interests are in 20th century U.S. social and cultural history, with a focus on nationalism, borders, and citizenship as articulated through popular culture, immigration policy, and social formations at the intersections of race/ethnicity, gender, sexuality, socioeconomic status, and other social factors. My scholarship seeks to demonstrate how different communities have engaged and challenged the United States in diverse ways, and how the U.S. as a nation state has sought to organize diverse communities to promote certain values and ideals. I enjoy interdisciplinary approaches to history because I believe that understanding history requires multiple perspectives and approaches to engage the diversity of lived experiences, and how individuals and communities   respond to social change. As an interdisciplinary scholar, I also draw upon feminist and critical race theory to make sense of how structural inequities continually inform the different ways diverse communities—particularly those at the margins of power – navigate sustainability and survival in U.S. society.  My commitment to Asian American History also informs my engagement with the presence of the United States in the Pacific Rim and the diasporic movements of people and ideas that have resulted. 


I have three ongoing projects:  Japanese Americans in Transnational Arizona uses the archive of Japanese American oral histories explores Japanese immigrant community building in relation to transnational empire building and settler colonialism; American Movements: Understanding the Ideological and Institutional Reasoning for Japanese American and American Indian Relocations, 1940-1970  with Dr. Myla Vicenti Carpio explores how U.S. federal policies toward the Japanese American immigrant community and American Indian communities as domestically dependent sovereign nations informed each other; and Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health: Visibility, Equity, and Asian America, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islanders with Dr. Kathy Nakagawa and Dr. Aggie Yellow Horse seeks to be an introduction for students and community organizations. I enjoy working with communities to document their own experiences.  I also enjoy working with various communities to support their documentation of their own histories and to support K-12 educators in teaching more complete and more complex local and national histories.  I have been privileged to co-organize and co-teach oral history workshops for Japanese American, Pacific Islander, and Native American communities, and to work with K-12 educators in Arizona to create a curriculum about the Japanese American WWII experiences of incarceration.

Recent/Select Publications:

Leong, K.J., Nakagawa, K., Yellow Horse, A. “Complexities in studying Asian American and Pacific Islander women’s health.” Mary Romero, ed. Research Handbook on Intersectionality (Edward Elgar Publishing, 2022), 351-368.

Leong, K.J., Li, W. & Chen, A. CC.  “Racism, Risk and Supply: US Policies toward COVID-19 and Asian, and Current and Future Impacts on Asian America.” In Stanley D. Brunn and Donna Gilbreath eds., COVID-19 and a World of Ad Hoc Geographies (Springer, 2022), 1325-1340.

Karen J. Leong, “Transnational Representations of ‘The Rape of Nanking’ in US Media and Film, 1938-1945.” Rumi Yasutuke, ed.  Movements of Women across Nations and Their Effects on Nation-States & International Relationships. Konan Research Institute Publication 18 (2018), 21-50.

Leong, K.J.  “The Many Labors of the Gendered Trans-Pacific World.” Chapter 3 in Judy T.Z. Wu and Catherine Ceniza Choy, eds. Gendering the Trans-Pacific World an Anthology (Brill, 2017), 20-36.

Leong, K. and Vicenti Carpio, M. “Carceral Subjugations: Gila River Indian Community and Incarceration of Japanese Americans on its Lands, in Leong and Vicenti Carpio, guest editors, “Carceral States” special issue Amerasia Journal, 42 no. 1 (2016): 103-120.

“Still Walking, Still Brave: Mapping Gender, Race, and Power in U.S. Western History.” Invited essay for “Forum: If not now, when? Gender, Power, and the Decolonization of U.S. Women’s History,” Pacific Historical Review, 79 no. 4 (2010): 618-628.

Leong, K. J., Airriess, C., Li, W., Chen, A. & Keith, V. Resilient History and the Rebuilding of a  Community: The Vietnamese American Community in New Orleans East. Through the Eye of Katrina: The Past as Prologue? Special issue, Journal of American History, 94 no. 3 (2007): 770-79.

Leong, K.J. Anna May Wong and the British Film Industry.  Quarterly Review of Film and Video, 23 no. 1 (2006): 13-22.

Leong, K.J. The China Mystique: Mayling Soong Chiang, Pearl S. Buck, and Anna May Wong in the American Imagination (University of California Press, 2005).