Mere Mortals: Recovering the Model Minority

Venue: Department of Social and Cultural Analysis at NYU
20 Cooper Square, 4th Floor
New York, NY 10003 United States
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Add to Calendar 05/04/2023 06:00 PM 05/04/2023 08:00 PM America/New_York Mere Mortals: Recovering the Model Minority More detail: Department of Social and Cultural Analysis at NYU, New York, NY, 10003

Presented by the Asian/Pacific/American Institute at NYU.  


More than simply a “myth” or a stereotype, the model minority is a racial form that brings with it very real expectations and consequences for Asian Americans. What kinds of harm are done when Asian Americans too often and too readily invest in the idea of the model minority? What will it take to undo this devastating ideal altogether? This panel brings together authors whose work examines the relationship between the model minority, health, and Asian American well-being.

With scholars and writers erin Khuê Ninh (University of California, Santa Barbara), Melissa Hung, and James Kyung-Jin Lee (University of California, Irvine).

COVID-19 & NYU campus access guidelines: This is an in-person event, open to the public. Registration is required. All attendees must be able to present proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and boosted with an FDA-authorized or WHO-listed vaccine. Non-NYU guests may be asked to present a government-issued photo ID. NYU guests must present their NYU ID. It is strongly recommended that audience members wear a well-fitted mask during the event.

Accessibility note: This venue has an elevator and is accessible for wheelchair users. There are single-stall, all gender restrooms available. If you have any access needs, please email


Melissa Hung is a writer and journalist. She is the founding editor in chief of Hyphen and the former director of San Francisco WritersCorps. She writes about immigrant communities, culture, food, and living in a body with chronic pain. Her work has appeared in Longreads, NPR, Vogue, Pacific Standard, and Catapult, where she wrote a column, “Pain in the Brain,” about her chronic headache. Her essays are anthologized in Body Language (Catapult, 2022) and Disability Intimacy (Vintage, forthcoming). Melissa grew up in Texas, the eldest child of immigrants.  

James Kyung-Jin Lee (he/him) is Professor of Asian American Studies and English and Director of the Center for Medical Humanities at the University of California, Irvine. He is the author of Pedagogies of Woundedness: Illness, Memoir, and the Ends of the Model Minority (Temple, 2022), which was selected as a Choice Outstanding Academic Title for 2022. He also wrote Urban Triage: Race and the Fictions of Multiculturalism (Minnesota, 2004), and was a co-guest editor (with Jennifer Ho) of a special issue of Amerasia Journal in 2013 titled “The State of Illness and Disability in Asian America.” Most recently, Jim has been developing new pedagogy that centers care as a primary learning objective.

erin Khuê Ninh is an associate professor of Asian American Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She writes about the model minority not as myth, but as racialization and subject formation. Her latest monograph, Passing for Perfect: College Impostors and Other Model Minorities (Temple University Press, 2021), written up in the New Yorker, asks how it feels to be model minority—and how that might drive some to truly desperate lies. Her first book, Ingratitude: The Debt-Bound Daughter in Asian American Literature (NYU Press, 2011), awarded Best Literary Studies Book in 2013  by the Association of Asian American Studies), centers on intergenerational conflict in immigrant families. Along with Shireen Roshanravan, she edited #WeToo: A Reader, a special issue on sexual violence for the Journal of Asian American Studies , awarded “Best Public Intellectual Special Issue” of 2021 by the Council of Editors of Learned Journals.


Photograph by Jean Shon.

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