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ASU student awarded fellowship for American Indian literature study

PhD student in English, Seong-Hoon Kim
January 12, 2012

Seong-Hoon Kim, a doctoral candidate in English literature at Arizona State University, has received a fellowship from the Sequoyah National Research Center at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. The fellowship supports “significant studies” on indigenous American subjects, and is awarded based on the research project's potential contribution to Native American studies overall.

Originally from South Korea, Kim’s focus was first on British and American modernism and postcolonial theory. However, everything changed after he took classes with Department of English faculty members Elizabeth Horan and Simon J. Ortiz.  

It was while enrolled in Ortiz’s class on “Indigenous Poetry” that Kim encountered the culture and writing of the Native American community and found the topic that would be the basis for his Sequoyah Fellowship: Simon Ortiz himself. Ortiz, a Regents’ Professor in English and American Indian Studies in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at ASU, is considered a key figure in the so-called Native American Renaissance, a literary movement which began during the mid-twentieth century.

Kim’s work will focus on the political contexts of Ortiz’s early writings, specifically the Red Power Movement of the 1960s and 70s and his role in the National Indian Youth Council, Inc. (NIYC), a radical and militant activist organization. This will be the first study to encompass the “seminal, political, and philosophical background to Ortiz’s work,” and will take into account the impact of his life experiences – especially those concerned within civil rights groups – on his writings.

Not surprisingly, Kim approaches his study from an international perspective, saying: “Native tribal women writers . . . have recently indicated that Native Americans’ concern for tribal sovereignty is beyond a provincial one, being relevant to global postcolonial concern.” This is especially poignant since Kim is from South Korea, a country which has been frequently colonized by countries such as Japan, Russia, China and even the United States. 

As many Asian countries are still experiencing what Kim calls “the aftermath of colonialism,” the interest in post-colonial studies in the region is growing. Kim plans to teach indigenous American literature within Korea and possibly other universities in the Philippines, Vietnam, and Taiwan. He believes that developing post-colonial literature programs at these universities, “should certainly involve study of Native American writers who began questioning and protesting U.S. policies, at home and abroad, towards indigenous peoples.” 

The Sequoyah National Research Center houses the largest collection of Native American expression – including writings and artwork – in the world. Kim’s fellowship is for the 2012-2013 academic year, and he will start his research at the center this March. 

Written by Deanna Stover

Media Contact:
Kristen LaRue,
Department of English
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences