A. Naomi Paik is an interdisciplinary scholar whose work examines the relationship between law and cultural politics, centering racism, state violence, and the limits of citizenship to secure rights and social equity. Her book, Rightlessness: Testimony and Redress in U.S. Prison Camps since World War II (UNC Press, 2016; winner, Best Book in History, AAAS 2018; runner-up, John Hope Franklin prize for best book in American Studies, ASA, 2017), reads testimonial narratives of subjects rendered rightless by the U.S. state through their imprisonment in camps. Its narrative is built on a study of three camps and their detainees—Japanese Americans interned during World War II, who then fought for redress in the late 1980s; HIV-positive Haitian refugees detained at Guantánamo in the early 1990s; and Guantánamo’s enemy combatants from the War on Terror. While the United States purports to champion inalienable rights at home and internationally, it has built its global power in part by creating a regime of imprisonment that places certain populations perceived as threats beyond rights. The concept of rightlessness—both a theoretical vantage point and a lived experience—confronts and interprets this seeming paradox.
Paik is currently writing a short book entitled Walls, Bans, Raids, Sanctuary (under contract with University of California Press), which focuses on the criminalization of foreign-born people in the United States and the need for radical, abolitionist approaches to sanctuary. Her following project centers on military outsourcing, labor regimes, and neoliberal governance. She is co-editing three special issues of Radical History Review--on militarism and capitalism (with Simeon Man and Melina Pappademos, Winter 2019), on radical histories of sanctuary (with Jason Ruiz and Rebecca Schrieber, Fall 2019), and on policing and the radical imaginary (with Amy Chazkel and Monica Kim, Spring 2020).
Paik has also published articles in Social Text, Radical History Review, Cultural Dynamics, Race & Class, e-misferica, Humanity, and the collection Guantánamo and American Empire.
She is an assistant professor Asian American studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, where she teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on topics including im/migration, U.S. imperialism, comparative ethnic studies, women of color feminisms, carceral spaces, and racial violence.