#ElliottExpert: Alexa Alice Joubin

Alexa Alice Joubin is Professor of English, International Affairs, Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies, and East Asian Languages and Cultures. At the Elliott School she is affiliated with the Sigur Center for Asian Studies and the Institute for Korean Studies. In her outreach work, Alexa has testified before congress in a congressional briefing on the humanities and globalization, and been interviewed by BBC, The Economist, Voice of America, Foreign Policy, and the Washington Post. She also serves as founding co-director of the Digital Humanities Institute. Alexa is a fellow of the GW Cross-Disciplinary Collaboration Initiative (Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs). Her books include Race (Routledge New Critical Idiom series, 2019); Shakespeare and East Asia (Oxford University Press, 2011); Local and Global Myths in Shakespearean Performance (2018); and Shakespeare and the Ethics of Appropriation (2014). Her work addresses the global south as well as transpacific cultural flows.

  • Hometown: Taipei, Taiwan, and Paris, France
  • Program/Institute: Sigur Center for Asian Studies
  • Area(s) of expertise: digital humanities, film studies, race and gender, globalization, Asian-European cultural exchange, East Asian studies, Taiwan studies, critical theory, intercultural theatre, Sinphone and Chinese theatre and film, Shakespeare
  • Institutions Attended: Stanford University
  • Teaching courses this or next semester? In spring 2021 she will teach ENG2800W Introduction to Critical Theory as well as a graduate seminar on global film studies. In fall 2020 she teaches Honors 2053 Shakespeare on Film and ENG3440W on race and gender issues.

When did you know you wanted a career in academia?

For all my life, I have been looking for a place to call home, which is why I became interested in how narratives are transformed when they move across boundaries of all kinds. I have always longed to travel, and a career in the academia is a ticket to the wider world. Story-telling makes us human because it helps us understand the human condition in different contexts. It is a privilege and a unique responsibility to teach globalization in downtown Washington, D.C. I am proud to have answered my calling to tell stories and to show others how to listen for silenced voices.

What has been your favorite course to teach and why?

I enjoy working with students on difficult but necessary conversations about race, gender, disability studies, and globalization. Ethics and diversity are key elements in my classroom. My course on critical theory is particularly relevant to Elliott School students, as we explore new ways to analyze politics and culture. Some of my courses have an Asian studies component, and students from broadly-defined Asian studies fields are welcome. Further, my graduate seminar, “Screening Race and Gender,” will examine racialized, disabled and gendered bodies on screen.

If you could make any book required reading for the incoming class, what book would you recommend and why?

Given the unprecedented times we live in, I recommend my new book, Race. Co-authored with postcolonial theorist Martin Orkin, Race draws on culturally and historically diverse materials, particularly non-North American and non-Western European case studies at the intersections of gender, disability, and race. If race is a central part of human identity, can one own or disown one’s race? To which community would a multiracial person, immigrant, or diasporic subject belong? How do ideas of race intersect with gender? The book argues that ideas about race rely on epistemologies of otherness— the location-specific formation and dissemination of knowledge. From Israel, South Africa, Germany, France, South American colonial history, India and British expatriate culture to Asian-American history and Japanese and Chinese mythologies; from Black Lives Matter movements to #MeToo movements, the book close reads a wide array of examples from the Middle Ages, Renaissance, and the twentieth- and twenty-first-centuries.

What advice do you have for first-year students who are starting their graduate studies?

First, find a voice of your own. Our job is to carve out a corner for ourselves in a noisy room of the lively dinner party that is known as the academia. If you give it everything you’ve got, the foreign shore will eventually become home turf. Secondly, go all in. Jump right in. Start swimming. The water may be cold, but standing by the pool will only earn us regret later in life. Look fear in its eyes and part ways with old habits, old modes of existence, old comfort zones. We are on borrowed time, and we don’t have the luxury of living someone else’s dream.

What food have you “rediscovered” in quarantine?

During quarantine I cooked every meal for my family and rediscovered a few recipes, including Taiwanese three-cup chicken and French confit de canard (duck confit). The sizzling Taiwanese dish derives its name from the three cups of sauces required: soy sauce, rice wine (mijiu), and sesame oil. The French dish refers to skin-on duck cured with salt and cooked in duck fat; with crispy home-made potato crisps on the side. Food such as this brings a bit of my and my husband’s cultures into our home.


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The #ElliottExpert profile series is managed by the Elliott School Office of Graduate Admissions and highlights current professors to answer common questions posed by prospective, incoming, and current students. For more information on this series or to submit questions, e-mail the Office of Graduate Admissions at esiagrad@gwu.edu.

The views expressed by students profiled do not necessarily represent those of organizations they work for, are affiliated with, or the Elliott School of International Affairs.