Meet the Fellows: 2017 Women’s Studies Fellow Karen Hanna

The Woodrow Wilson Dissertation Fellowship in Women’s Studies supports the final year of dissertation writing for Ph.D. candidates in the humanities and social sciences whose work addresses women’s and gendered issues in interdisciplinary and original ways. The 2017 class of Fellows includes Karen Hanna, a feminist studies doctoral candidate at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Her dissertation, Makibaka!: A Feminist Social History of the Transnational Filipina/o American Left, 1969–1992, examines the evolution of transnational revolution-making by US-based anti-Marcos activists. She shares some of the connections she discovered while conducting research:

Hailing from a long line of ancestors, including those of Ilonggo, Masbateño, Pangasinense, and Teochew descent, I am the proud child of immigrants to the United States from the Philippines and Thailand. Through my oral history research, I am reminded just how small the Filipina/o and Thai diasporas are. One Filipino activist and New York City restaurant owner whom I interviewed told me about how he learned to cook French cuisine from a Thai chef while living in Philadelphia forty years prior. Having grown up in the South Jersey suburbs of Philadelphia myself, I was curious about this chef, as my Thai father had many friends in the Thai restaurant community. I soon learned that this activist had worked for my father’s friend for many years—at a restaurant that I had spent many weekends visiting as a child. Towards the end of another interview, I learned that another Filipina activist, now living in Montreal, had graduated from the same nursing school as my Filipina mother in the Philippines. It was then that I realized that one of my mother’s best friends from nursing school, a bridesmaid in her wedding, had lived in Montreal for most of her life until she passed away from cancer only six months earlier. It turned out that this activist and her husband were her close friends and they had cared for her during the last days of her life. Hearing this, I was moved to tears. Neither of these activists knew my parents, as my parents were not political activists. Yet these small “coincidences” remind me that we are all connected, and only through sharing our stories do we reveal these connections.


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