Son Ca Lam Awarded Prestigious ACLS Fellowship

Three Dartmouth scholars have been awarded 2023 ACLS Fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies. 

Sarah Carson, a lecturer in the Department of History, Son Ca Lam, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Geography, and Sara Swenson, an assistant professor of religion, were selected as part of a cohort of 60 early-stage scholars from nearly 1,200 applicants. Each fellowship provides between $30,000 and $60,000 to support scholars during six to 12 months of sustained research and writing. 

Drawing on over two years of ethnographic video field work with Vietnamese refugee families in the U.S. and Vietnam, Lam will focus her fellowship project on refugee displacement and placemaking.

"My work aims to humanize refugees, not as victims, but as agents with universal desires for home and belonging," Lam says. "These motivations are shaped by my own family's experiences coming to the U.S. as refugees from Vietnam without a cent in their pockets or a word of English."
Lam's research reveals the ways that people remain influenced by ongoing displacement, generations after resettlement. 

"Many elders even decide to return to Vietnam because they feel that 'no one has time in the U.S.,' calling attention to the friction between Vietnamese refugee temporality and the rhythm of daily life in their host country," Lam says. "Yet much of the scholarship on the relationship between time and space is premised upon a linear notion of time that is culturally specific but assumed to be universal. My project highlights how diasporic people create alternative spaces in which time operates differently, and home can be made."
By centering refugee lives, Lam's work contributes to the emerging field of critical refugee studies, which generates scholarship for and by refugees. 

"Despite the impossible circumstances that my family and many others like them face, they still find ways to carve out places to call home," Lam says. "I am indebted to them and all the families who have shared their lives with me during my fieldwork. The ACLS fellowship gives me the opportunity to focus on producing work that amplifies and honors these stories."

Read more about Lam's research here