Skip to main content

Fellow Profiles


Sonia Gomez


“A Gendered Diaspora: Intimacy and Empire in the Making of Japanese America, 1908-1952.” This book project explores the complicated and changing race and gender logics that alternately excluded and included Japanese women in the United States. It demonstrates how intimacy (marriage) and empire (immigration policies) intersect in the making of Japanese America in the Twentieth Century, and discusses how marriage -- as a contested mode of immigrant incorporation -- shaped the process of immigration and settlement for women and their families.



Why did you decide to become a professor of history?

I once read that every historian is in search of their past. While that might not, actually, be true for every historian, it certainly is true for me. I majored in history as an undergraduate largely because I was trying to make sense of my place in the world and studying history helped me do that. Then, I had the opportunity to conduct my own independent research and I traveled to the Library of Congress and National Archives in College Park, Maryland. That experience was thrilling. I am kind of a nosy person which worked well in the archive and, as they say, the rest is history!


How do your personal identity and background inform your teaching and scholarship?

My personal background is foundational to who I am as a teacher-scholar. My scholarship trajectory began when I wrote an undergraduate research paper on women like my maternal grandmother, so-called Japanese war brides who married non-white men. I was interested in learning more about their migration experience and telling their stories since so much of the literature had focused on the relationships between Japanese women and white men. My thesis led me to my dissertation topic, which led me to my (first) book and so on. My next project builds off of everything I learned and didn't learn with the first book.
I am a first-generation college student/graduate who started at community college. That experience has made me sensitive to issues of inequity both in the classroom and within the university at large. Like many of my colleagues I am committed to inclusive teaching practices. As a U.S. historian, I try to expose my students to diverse voices.


How did you become interested in the CAH project you are working on this year?

As I mentioned earlier, my book project began as an undergraduate paper about my grandmother. Of course, it has evolved and expanded over time. Throughout the years, I became more and more interested in exploring how gender shapes immigration policies and the experience of immigrants. My CAH project is the culmination of that work. In the book, I explore how gender and intimacy, in this case marriage, facilitated the migration of Japanese women during periods when the Japanese were legally excluded on the basis of race. Largely, I am interested in troubling binary conceptions of inclusion and exclusion and calling attention to the ways in which gender shapes migration.