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Graduate Students

Lizette Arevalo
Lizette "Lucha" Arévalo

B.A. Sociology, Chicana/o Studies, and Black Studies
University of California, Santa Barbara

M.A. Sociology and Education with Policy Studies Concentration
Columbia University

Since Lizette "Lucha" Arévalo's undergraduate experience at UC Santa Barbara, her primary research interests have been social issues related to race relations among Black and Latina/o communities and the privatization of public k-12 schools in Los Angeles and New York. Lucha's previous research revealed strategies of “McCharterization of public education”: the public and private partnership that has influenced neoliberal education policy reforms; the elimination of traditional public schools in “low performing communities”; and the creation of charter schools often controlled by education management corporations. As a graduate student at Columbia University, Lucha strengthened her theoretical foundation in the field of sociology and education to understand the logics that structure education and how this increases the vulnerability of racialized working class communities. Lucha's current work highlights strategies of "low intensity education" and argues for a more sober analysis on the changing nature of state sanctioned violence that incorporates how state violence responds to coalitions across racial lines within a neoliberal urban school context.

Research Interests: K-12 education policy reforms, privatization of public schools, state violence, criminalization of youth, critical theories of race and ethnicity, Black-Latina/o relations, insurgent learning, community agency and autonomy.

Iris Blake
Iris Blake

B.A. Music and Art
Arizona State University

M.M. Ethnomusicology, Certificate in Women’s and Gender Studies
University of Texas at Austin

A first year Ethnic Studies PhD student, Iris is interested in how the historical legacy of minstrelsy in burlesque performance continues to inform contemporary burlesque.  She looks at the intersection of musical sound and embodiment as a site of negotiation and meaning-making that affects lived realities and experiences of race, gender, sexuality, and class.

In her Master’s Report, Burlesque: Music, Minstrelsy, and Mimetic Resistance, Iris used music as a lens to show how burlesque, like minstrelsy, has functioned on the historical erasure of Black and Brown bodies. She highlighted the work being done by queer and of color burlesque performers through disidentification and mimetic resistance to make space for alternate histories and modes of being in burlesque. Iris plans to expand this work into a collaborative ethnography that centers the work of queer and of color burlesque performers and supports performances that open up space for multiple ways of being and performing burlesque.

Research Interests: Performance Theory, Music and Sound Studies, Critical Race and Ethnic Studies, Burlesque Performance and Blackface Minstrelsy, Feminist and Queer Theories, Collaborative Ethnography, Cultural Studies, Postcolonial Theory, Affect Theory

Jessica Fremland
Jessica Fremland

B.A. Sociology, American Indian Studies, and Global Studies, 2012
Magna Cum Laude
University of Minnesota Twin Cities

MSc Sociology (Contemporary Social Thought), 2013
London School of Economics and Political Science

Jessica Fremland is a current PhD student in the Ethnic Studies Department at the University of California, Riverside.  During her undergraduate career she focused primarily on Dakota language revitalization in the Dakota/Lakota communities of Minnesota.  Her research focused on the colonial influences of the American Indian Blood Quantum, and modern day identity policing.  Her Master’s Thesis, entitled "Performing Motherhood: Celebrity Intercountry Adoptions, Rescue Culture, and the Reification of Patriarchal Motherhood” argued that media representations of celebrity intercountry adoptions utilize white savior rhetoric to reify patriarchal notions of motherhood and patriarchal relationships to underdeveloped nations. After completing her master’s degree at LSE, she returned to her hometown of San Diego, California.  She taught for a year at San Diego Mesa College before commencing her PhD program at UCR.

Currently, Jessica is interested in researching media and cultural representations of Native American women, and their correlations to heightened experiences of gender-based violence.  Ultimately, Jessica hopes that by uncovering a link between colonial representations of women and the disproportionate experience of gender-based violence in native communities, she can shed light on another avenue of decolonization.

Research Interests: Native American Studies, Settler Colonialism, Decolonization, Indigenous Feminism, Media and Cultural Studies, Dakota Language and Revitalization

Romina Garcia
Romina Garcia

B.A. Columbia College, Cultural Studies

As a Cultural Studies major at Columbia College, my senior capstone thesis investigated the intersection of ethnic identity, gentrification, and commodified urban culture. This project, entitled “From Identity to Commodity: Dialectics and Impacts of the Neoliberal (De)-Valorization of a Gentrifying Chicago Community” sought to understand the commodification of Mexican (and Latino) identity and culture, as well as the kind of Mexican subjectivity that is constructed through specific neoliberal urban and cultural policies and practices. Specifically, I tracked the appropriation of Mexican-ness by Chicago's ruling and business elites.

Currently, my research is primarily focused on examining structural violence, human trafficking and sex economies surrounding women of color.  Specifically, how is the commodification of women of color perpetuated by gendered/cultural expectations?  What kind of gender/cultural mechanisms are behind recruitment and control?  How do cultural expressions like "te gusta la mala vida" and the “American Dream” influence violence towards women of color.  Also, how does femicide, rape culture and slut-shaming help operate the continued psychological manipulation of women of color in sex trafficking environments

Research Interests: Chicana feminisms, Black Studies, gender, sexuality and reproductive politics, girl studies, knowledge production, gender violence, critical race theory

Sneha George
Sneha George

Sneha George is a PhD candidate in Ethnic Studies at the University of California Riverside. She received a Master of Arts in International Relations at The New School, New York, and a Bachelor of Arts in Women’s Studies and World History at the State University of New York in Albany. Her master's thesis examined nationalism as a remnant of colonizer mentality. As a theorist, she studies critical, post-colonial, feminist and non-western theory.

Currently, she examines the relationship between South Asian diasporic communities in the West and Western political identity. She uses non-western theories on gender and race and cultural mediums to highlight the ability of diasporic communities to redefine sovereignty, citizenship, and borders. She questions whether this is an indication of a shift of power from a static and binary-based state identity to a dynamic and fluid identity of the people.

Research Interests: Post-colonial Feminist theory, Queer Theory, Critical Theory, Non-Western theory and philosophies, South Asian film, art and culture

Tomoyo Joshi
Tomoyo Joshi

Tomoyo is a 1.5 generation Japanese American born in Kyoto, Japan, and raised in the Bay Area. At Oberlin College, her honors thesis “Managing Racist Pasts: the Black Justice League’s Demand for Inclusion and Its Challenge to the Promise of Diversity at Princeton University” examined the discourse of diversity in Princeton’s online diversity initiative page “Many Voices, One Future,” and how Black student activism challenged the rhetoric of inclusion that the administration embodied. As a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow, her research interests have included Asian and Asian American studies, women of color feminisms, the politics of knowledge production, and critical race theory.

Given her background of growing up in both the United States and Japan, Tomoyo is curious about the relationship between memory, nationalism, colonialism and racism, as well as how these ideas are produced or disrupted through the lens of U.S. and Japanese militarism. At UC Riverside, she plans to conduct transnational and comparative research on how servicemen of Japanese descent in World War II are remembered in institutions of public memory, such as museums, memorials and monuments, in Okinawa and Hawai’i. How do institutions of memory in Okinawa and Hawai’i negotiate narratives of Japanese soldiers within the violent geographies of racism, nationalism and neocolonialism? And how does the narrative of heroic military sacrifice deployed by museums memorials or monuments implicate indigenous people in these sites to conceal imperialist and militaristic violence produced by Japanese and U.S. empire? In addressing these questions, she wishes to use an interdisciplinary approach of visual and textual discourse analysis combined with historical and archival research.

Through this research and other future projects, Tomoyo wishes to align herself with scholars that call for Asians, regardless of generational status, to critically examine their own settler positions within whichever empire they may be serving. Her experience of liminality in the United States and Japan informs her investment in the (re)telling of a story, one that that centers decolonization, in an interdisciplinary discursive space that rejects narratives of both American exceptionalism and Japanese victimization.

Research Interests: intersections of Asian and Asian American studies, the politics of knowledge production, nationalism, U.S. and Japanese militarism, critical race theory, settler colonial studies, feminist and queer theory, affect theory, memory studies, cultural studies .
Beth Kopacz
Beth Kopacz

B.A. Earth Systems, Environment, and Society
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

M.A. Asian American Studies
University of California, Los Angeles

As a Korean American adoptee, Beth Kopacz has always been critically invested in understanding the inherent tensions and contradictions of the transnational adoption system.  During her Master’s degree program in Asian American Studies at UCLA, she began to explore these questions when she directed the documentary, Who is Park Joo Young?  Through this creative medium, she utilized film to address the tangible ways that adoptee subjecthood and narrative become circulated, cohered, and mobilized as discursive investments in particular birth family ‘reunion’ tropes.

From this work, Beth is currently interested in examining the role of genetic science in adoptee reunion narratives and kinship networks.  She particularly hopes to understand how new technologies such as commercial direct-to-consumer DNA tests and birth parent ‘paternity’ tests rupture and reify adoptee ideals of identity and kinship, especially as these desires are fraught by geopolitical ties to empire.

Research Interests: Korean American adoptees, transnational and transracial adoption, DNA testing, feminist science and technology studies, kinship, new media, critical Asian American studies

Lawrence Lan
Lawrence Lan

Lawrence Lan is a PhD student in the Ethnic Studies Department at the University of California, Riverside (UCR). His research interests include racial capitalism, human geography, and left/progressive labor and community organizing in southern California.

William Madrigal
William Madrigal

Will is California Indian and an enrolled member of the Cahuilla Band of Indians located here in Riverside County. He grew up on the reservation learning and practicing his traditional ways. He is a Native Educator and Cultural Resource Manager, having worked for numerous tribal governments in Riverside/San Bernardino counties. As an undergrad at UCR, he was fortunate to collaborate with his professors on a joint project, Keeping the Songs Alive: California Indian Historical Perspectives (2010). This project actively sought to provide the forgotten voices and perspectives of the California native peoples regarding California indigenous: epistemologies, conversations on race, notions about the colonization of traditional native gender roles, ethno-musicology, local historiography and origin narratives, and the root of indigenous Traditional Ecological Knowledge. The DVD is now being used as an educational resource.

Will’s grad work will include de-constructing native studies through an interdisciplinary, indigenous lens. Archival study of his Cahuilla ancestry and interactions with early colonizers in Riverside County, with regards to impacts on the economic and socio-political identity of the region, are also being studied.

Cinthya Martinez
Cinthya Martinez

B.A. Ethnic Studies, Political Science
University of California San Diego

M.A. Chicana and Chicano Studies
California State University Northridge

Cinthya Martinez is a first generation Chicana from the San Gabriel Valley in Southern California. She completed a Masters of Arts degree at California State University department of Chicana and Chicano Studies. In her Master’s thesis titled “Gendered Necropolitics at las Fronteras: Gendered Spatial Death and Violence at the U.S.- Mexico border and Israel- Palestine Border(s)” she conducts a comparative analysis of the U.S. Mexico border and the Israel-Palestine borders as gendered-racial sites of death and violence. She develops an intersectional theoretical lens of a gendered necropower by engaging Native feminist geographers, border feminists, and biopolitics theorists to connect current gendered violence and death at the borders as techniques rooted in colonial spatial arrangements. Through a feminist discourse analysis of border political rhetoric in Israel and the U.S., she demonstrates the gendered processes of Latina/o migrants, Palestinians, land, borders, and the state itself, utilized to legitimize and rationalize borders. 

As a PhD student, Cinthya is currently interested in expanding her analysis of gendered necropower at the fronteras/borders by including a third border as a site for comparison and employing ethnographic methods that center women’s narratives of violence, survival, and resistance.  She is also currently interested in investigating the border technology and weaponry corporations involved in constructing these state-national territorial demarcations as gendered-sexual deathworlds. Ultimately, Cinthya’s work locates gender and sex as instruments of state power that inflict violence and death to uphold concepts of citizenship and borders.

Jennifer Martinez
Jennifer Martinez

Jennifer Martinez is a Chicana, first generation Ph.D. student at the University of California, Riverside. During her undergraduate career as a double major in Chicana/o Studies and Sociology at UC Santa Barbara, Jennifer’s research focused on historical mass deportations particularly on outlier experiences concerning citizen children of the deported. 

Her honors thesis, entitled “Tales of Legal Orphanood: Case Studies of Citizen Children with Deported Parents” focused on the lived experiences of Santa Barbara youth dealing with the deportation of a family member. Jennifer is interested in developing her research on a larger scale and examining the intricate relationship between deportations and identities.

Research Interests: Identity Politics, Public Education Policy, Immigration, Migration, Repatriation, Transnational Identity Reformation, Nationalism, Memory Studies.
Aaron Munoz-Alvarado
Aaron Muñoz-Alvarado

B.A. American Studies and Women & Gender Studies
University of California, Davis

Aaron’s current research attempts to understand how student of color activism at U.S. educational institutions from the 1990’s till now serve as critical moments for how multicultural ideologies, that began to develop in the United States in response to 1960’s protests, fully formed into institutional practices.

Research Interests: Chican@ Studies; Critical Theory; Critical University Studies; Feminist Theories and Epistemologies; Politics of Knowledge; Politics of Institutionalized Multiculturalism; and Queer of Color Critique. 

Beyaja Notah
Beyaja Notah

Beyaja Notah is proud member of the Diné Nation (Navajo). She is a member Tábąąhá (Edge of the Water) and Tódích’íi’nii (Bitterwater) clan on her father’s side. On her mother’s side Beyaja is Cherokee & Lakota. Beyaja grew up in West Highland Avenue area of San Bernardino and attended San Bernardino city schools. She received her BA in Native American Studies from the University of California, Riverside in 2010 and a teaching credential from the University of Redlands and Claremont Graduate School in 2012 and 2016 respectively. Beyaja has worked in the Southern California Native American community as a cultural program assistant, a tutor, K- 12 teacher, and program coordinator. Currently Beyaja is pursuing her Ph.D. in Ethnic Studies.

Research interests: traditional ecological knowledge, indigenous education, and decolonial methodologies.

Julio Orellana
Julio Orellana

M.A., Political Science, Cal State Northridge 
Single-Subject Teaching Credential (Social Science), Cal State LA 
B.A., Ethnic Studies, Humboldt State University

Before pursuing graduate school, Julio worked as a teacher for almost seven years at the Los Angeles Unified School District. Since then he has worked as a school and youth coordinator for the non-profit Asian-Americans Advancing Justice-Los Angeles. There, he focused on working with high school youth of color by engaging them in the process of Youth Participatory Action Research. In the past, he worked with Latino day-laborers through the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition’s former City of Lights Program. He conducted popular education workshops on bicycle safety and cyclist rights. His community work also includes working for the Los Angeles Mayor’s Office of Gang Reduction and Youth Development. 

Currently, Julio’s research is primarily focused on Latino politics. As a rapidly increasing population at the national level, his research enters the Latino politics debate by exploring the contradiction of the Latino community. As a large, marginalized and extremely diverse group, the “Latino community” continues to suffer from a lack of full-incorporation into the social and economic institutions of the United States; despite being a potentially powerful electoral bloc. On this premise, the research asks how multiple Latino communities are responding to attacks on their community by the state and how they are resisting both within and outside the arena of electoral politics. As an interdisciplinary project, Julio’s research will employ paradigms which work within and beyond those used in political science and other traditional social science disciplines.  

Fields of Interest: Latino/a Studies; Social Movements; Race and Ethnic Politics; Political Economy; Immigration/Migration

Frank Perez

Frank holds a BA in Sociology: Law and Society Emphasis from CSULA and MA in Sociology from CSUF. He has done activism and taught classes centered on educational funding/budget cuts, stopping violence against women and LGBTQIPSA communities, and community outreach and coalition building. He’s also taught Sociology at the Community College and Chican@ Studies at the CSU levels

Frank is a bi-racial (Cuban and Anglo American) first generation college/graduate/PhD student born and raised in southern California. He started out in the California Community College system eventually making it UCR’s Ethnic Studies doctoral program. His previous research centered on various pedagogies used by professors at a public university. His work sought to qualitatively demonstrate how professors came develop self transforming pedagogies, which teaching methods were used to inspire students to transform, and show how certain institutional factors limit instructors’ ability to teaching in transformational ways.

Frank is looking at the impact of social justice teaching on a broader scale. He wants to see how teachers at both K-12 and higher academic levels can use critical and transformative pedagogies to help push students along the academic pipeline. Frank is also interested in examining how various California propositions in the 1990’s led to the devaluation of public schools and criminalization of Black and Brown youth. He hopes to provide policy and curricular interventions that will promote equalization and diversification of education throughout public schools and universities.

Justin Quang Nguyên Phan
Justin Quang Nguyên Phan

B.A. Women & Gender Studies, Asian American Studies, and Sociology
University of California, Davis

Justin Quang Nguyên Phan is an M.A. student in the Southeast Asian Studies Program and a Ph.D. student in the Ethnic Studies Department. Justin’s current research interests seek to critically examine the cultural, political, and economic legacies of de/colonization and war making specifically in Vietnam and among the Vietnamese diaspora, and how these legacies intersect with gendered relations, nationalism, race, embodiment, and fashion.

Research Interests: Transnational Feminisms, (Post)Colonialism, Militarism, Asian American Studies, Southeast Asian Studies, Critical Fashion Studies.

Marlen Rios
Marlen Rios-Hernández

M.A. Ethnic Studies 2015
University of California, Riverside

B.A. Musicology and Women's Studies 2012
University of California, Los Angeles

Marlen Ríos-Hernández is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Ethnic Studies Department at the University of California, Riverside. Her dissertation “We Were There”: From Alice Bag to Emos The War on Punk and Sonic Latinidades in the Time of Ronald Reagan and Other Décadas Podridas is a full length transnational comparative study of queer Chicana and Latina participants in the Los Angeles/Southern California and Latin American punk scenes from 1977-2001 respectively. Alice Bag, a queer Chicana punk from the 1970s punk scene in L.A., creates this dissertation’s foundation by calling for both a reexamination of the lack of representation of queer Latinas/Chicanas in punk historiography and L.A. punk as a global scene in conversation with the global south specifically Mexico and Nicaragua. Considering how punk during these years existed within a broader network of other newly forming punk scenes in Latin America, her dissertation aims to highlight particular scenes during the era Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari called “the lost decade” or “la decada perdida” in which he argued the moral fabric of Latin America was falling apart at the seems–– calling for a Reaganesque rise in political conservatism. Yet, according to punks these specified years were not lost but rather rotten or “pordrida.” Via Ethnic Studies as her area of study along with her humanities and arts training as a Musicologist, Marlen investigates the relationship between unruly Chicana/Mexicana/Latina performing bodies and bisexuality, swapmeets, police brutality, photography, and film as instruments of noise-making necessary to invert normative gender and sexual politics in punk across these “rotten decades.” Her recent publications include two pieces featured in Sounding Out! entitled: “If La Llorona Was a Punk Rocker: Detonguing The Off-Key Caos and Screams of Alice Bag” and ‘“Don’t Be Afraid to Pogo!”: Chicana Hollywood Punks Negotiate ‘h/Home’ After Hardcore Takes L.A.” which take on a feminist approach to the story of early punk in Los Angeles guided by the invaluable memoirs/stories of the artists and musicians from the L.A. scene. Research interests include: Neoliberalism, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Cultural Studies, Feminist Anarchist Theory, and Womxn of Color Feminist Musicology, Transnational Latina Performance Studies, Queer Theory, Oral Testimonio, Sound Studies with an emphasis on Noise, Mexican Sexploitation Cinema, and Chicana Feminisms

J. Sebastian
J. Sebastian

J. Sebastian earned a Juris Doctor degree from City University of New York, School of Law, after graduating from the University of Colorado at Boulder as an English & Biology double major.  J's research interests include the historical and theoretical foundations--and legal legitimacy--of the colonial project; the codification of a racialized, gendered, and heteronormative social order; and the ways that doctrines of conquest and colonization, colonial logic, and genealogies of power continue to work within modern legal systems.  J is interested in challenging the lawyer as "expert" framework within social justice lawyering to form a critical analysis of the role of law in social movement work.

Brian Stephens
Brian Stephens

B.A. English and Philosophy
Humboldt State University

M.A. Afro-American Studies
University of California, Los Angeles

Brian Stephens is a Ph.D. candidate in Ethnic Studies at University of California, Riverside. Stephens completed a Master of Arts degree in Afro-American Studies at University of California, Los Angeles where he specialized in Afro-American literature. His Master thesis, “Real Blackness is Played Out: Blackness and the Politics of Performance” argued that black cultural workers can make creative and sardonic use of anti-black visual iconography to critique both anti-black racism and the black politics of respectability via a strategy called racial camp. Camp is a queer derived cultural practice that uses humor, pastiche, mimicry, and double coding to question the stability of gender categories through performance. In his dissertation, Stephens argues that camp has also been used by black cultural workers to question the stability of interlocking identity categories, especially race and gender, through a strategy that addresses the specificity of black cultural labor in challenging essentialism and the black politics of respectability. Accordingly, Stephens makes the claim that the work of controversial and “humorous” visual artists Kara Walker and Glenn Ligon are strong examples of this political strategy of refusal.

Academic interests: black visual culture, black literature, black intellectual history, black face minstrelsy, queer theory, feminist theory, performance studies, popular culture.

Forthcoming article to be published in Open Cultural Studies: “Prissy’s Quittin’ Time: the camp aesthetics of Kara Walker

Luis Trujillo
Luis Trujillo

My dissertation centers my “fieldwork” as an observant-participant. It has allowed me to generate theories specific to my project that come from my experience of organizing and working with community. As such, it aims to make sense of contemporary iterations of settler colonialism and anti-blackness disguised within "Neoliberal Urbanism."The effects of “actually existing neoliberalism” in American cities reveal themselves to be more complex than any one project could capture. Subsequently, this project focuses on the organizing itself and the subaltern knowledge production of anti-displacement activist across generations and neighborhoods. Framed within the “neoliberal deconstruction and reconstruction of American cities,” I focus on how the knowledge production of anti-displacement organizers. I believe that it will help us to reflect and illuminate a recent history who’s intermediate position between the longer history of formal residential segregation to the economic and cultural displacement of gentrification. Putting in conversation, critical ethnic studies scholars with urban and political-economic studies, I demonstrate how the logics of anti-blackness and settler colonialism, within the practice of displacement and dispossession, actively remake and rehash the racial landscape of Los Angeles through gentrification. Focusing on one anti-displacement collective, the North East Los Angeles Alliance, my involvement as one of their constructive members, my position and the community's position as Latinx in a predominately Latinx city situates my methodological orientation towards understanding how the Mexican-American neighborhoods I live in and work with are not immune in reproducing the same logics of settler-colonialism and anti-blackness in their quest for social and housing justice. An investigation of the term "Latinx" itself requires that we further complicate the legacies of anti-blackness and settler colonialism in Latin America that collude and/or conflict with those present in the United States.

Maria T. Vallarta
MT. Vallarta

M.A. Ethnic Studies
University of California, Riverside

B.A. Asian American Studies and English
University of California, Berkeley

MT Vallarta’s research is an examination of queer futurities in Filipinx poetry. They are interested in the ways contemporary avant-garde and experimental queer Filipinx poetics provide modes of critical transformative resistance and utopic desire that oppose and challenge the hegemonic, the (hetero)normative, and the boundaries of race, class, gender, and sexuality. They examine mixed-media, digital, and experimental poets and artists who push the borders of our sensory and affective experiences such as Mark Aguhar, Kimberly Alidio, and Karen Villa. They are interested in the ways poetry not only critiques empire, nation, and capital, but how poetry can encapsulate an embodiment of what Ashon Crawley terms as “otherwise possibility”—a concrete look, space, and feel for another world—that comes alive in the moment of the poetic.

MT is also a poet and has work published and forthcoming in Apogee Journal, TAYO Literary Magazine,and {m}aganda Magazine.

Research interests: Affect Studies, Asian American Literature, Avant-Garde/Experimental Poetics, Cultural Studies, Critical Asian American Studies, Digital Humanities, Feminist and Queer Theory, Filipino/x Studies