Mee-Ju Ro

Profile Image of Mee-Ju
Assistant Professor
Walker 411
PhD, Cornell University, 2018
Teaching at UChicago since 2022
Research Interests: Asian American literatures; Transpacific literatures; Contemporary Korean literatures; Translation theory; Women’s writing; Race & gender; Trauma theory; Performance studies

Biography

My research focuses on Asian American literatures, more specifically transpacific women’s writings. I also work with Korean texts and their English translations. Both my research and teaching engage with women’s writing, race & gender studies, translation theory, performance, and frames that disarticulate national paradigms.  

My book project, Entangled Testimonies, rethinks current forms of testimony that stem from a Eurocentric genealogy of individualism, traced back to early forms of reported speech and Christian confession. Reported speech rose to prominence alongside a European interest in stylization that became vital to ethical and juridical thought. The ability to confess and to take active responsibility for one’s words constituted a notion of self-possession that became the fundamental indicator of a legal human being and by extension personhood itself. What this means is that there are real ontological, material, social, and political stakes for someone who is incapable of confessing or providing testimony through authorized and proscribed forms. Given the importance of testimonial forms to the question of redress, it is necessary more than ever to re-evaluate their purchase. During critical moments of historical redress, how has the genre of testimony functioned as a tool of visibility but also complicity? In order to read and write against the grain of individuated subjectivity, I consider a theory of entanglement that privileges relationality. The project brings together a constellation of texts—fiction but also the testimonies of the “comfort women”—narrated by women of colour who must contend with the dislocation of migration, a history of violence, and multilingual realities. Here, testimony emerges not as the monadic expression of discrete, autonomous subjects but instead as the entangled and shared expression of a set of social relations. This book project is fueled by the idea that our responsibility to storytelling requires new or revitalized forms and even new and strange subject positions. 

I am committed to a theory of translation and pay special attention to texts that highlight multilingual realities in significant ways. Translation is a mode constituted through difference that performs a creative citability oriented toward the unknown. The translator is an enunciative position that already assumes that someone else is speaking. Therefore, it is foremost a mode of relationality (not individuality) that has always known what it means to be possessed by another. In opposition to privileging a hermeneutics of self and self-possession, studying translation in/and fiction underscores the conditions of possibility for sacrifice, for hope, and a relation to difference.

Several years ago, I did fieldwork in Seoul where I conducted research at and provided translation services to the House of Sharing (a community of Korean comfort women) and related archives. My short story, “seoriseori,” was published in The New Quarterly. My new research involves a piece on the significance of the Forgotten War (Korean War) in Toni Morrison’s Home and another about subject formation in Cho Nam-Joo’s bestselling, newly translated novel, Kim Ji-Young, Born 1982. 
 

Publications

“Missing Mom: Translation as Testimony in Shin Kyung-Sook’s Please Look After Mom,Mosaic 48:1 (December 2016): 154-70. 

Fiction

“seoriseori,” The New Quarterly: Diversity Issue 140 (Fall 2016): 111-17.