a.naomi.paik [at] gmail.com

Department of Asian American Studies

University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

1208 W. Nevada Street, MC 142

Urbana, IL 61801

@2016 by A. Naomi Paik

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Published Articles and Chapters

Winner, Best Book in History Award, Association for Asian American Studies, 2018

Runner up, John Hope Franklin Prize for best book in American Studies, American Studies Association, 2017

In this bold book, A. Naomi Paik grapples with the history of U.S. prison camps that have confined people outside the boundaries of legal and civil rights. Removed from the social and political communities that would guarantee fundamental legal protections, these detainees are effectively rightless, stripped of the right even to have rights. Rightless people thus expose an essential paradox: 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 United States' status as the guardian of rights coincides with, indeed depends on, its creation of rightlessness.

Yet rightless people are not silent. Drawing from an expansive testimonial archive of legal proceedings, truth commission records, poetry, and experimental video, Paik shows how rightless people use their imprisonment to protest U.S. state violence. She examines demands for redress by Japanese Americans interned during World War II, testimonies of HIV-positive Haitian refugees detained at Guantanamo in the early 1990s, and appeals by Guantanamo's enemy combatants from the War on Terror. In doing so, she reveals a powerful ongoing contest over the nature and meaning of the law, over civil liberties and global human rights, and over the power of the state in people's lives.

"A. Naomi Paik's meticulous book opens new interpretative approaches to fundamental problems of U.S. sovereignty and democracy. A challenging historical survey of the relationship between normal styles of government and states of emergency has been artfully combined with a bold defense of the value of rights in the struggles of the excluded, racialized, and incarcerated."
--Paul Gilroy, Professor of American and English Literature, King's College London

"This original and convincing book shows how the United States relies on prison camps in an era of both rights assertion and global dominance. A. Naomi Paik persuasively explains why these camps were created, why they persist, and why we must listen to those who are detained."
--Leti Volpp, University of California, Berkeley, School of Law

"In her innovative and scrupulously researched book, A. Naomi Paik recovers the profound testimonies of human subjects made rightless in the context of American liberalism. Engrossing and powerful, this beautifully crafted book makes a rigorous, erudite, and lucid argument."
--Alex Lubin, University of New Mexico

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Radical History Review Special Issue

Published Articles 

Militarism and Capitalism: The Work and Wages of Violence
Issue Editors: Simeon Man, A. Naomi Paik, & Melina Pappademos


This issue explores the ways, means, and co-constitution of military infrastructures, labor, strategies of violence, and capital's emergencies and ever-expanding need for growth. Throughout the issue's articles, it threads together critical themes: militarism as a structure of everyday life under capitalism; the role of the state in managing the contradictions of militarized capital, from suppressing dissent to mobilizing labor; violence that exceeds the temporal and spatial boundaries of formal combat, as well as the discursive boundary between “soft” and “hard” power; and the spaces of sociality where local workers and foreign soldiers interact. The included essays show that the relations of violence that converge in any particular site animate other sites of the empire where the imperatives of militarism and capitalism converge. They also show the creative militancy of people who are on the front lines of documenting communities and lifeways lost to these convergent
forces and who insist that another world is possible.

Editors' Introduction
Violent Entanglements: Militarism and Capitalism
Simeon Man, A. Naomi Paik, & Melina Pappademos


The editors introduce the issue by examining the grassroots struggles against the U.S. military expansion in Pyeongtaek, South Korea. More specifically, it discusses the Daechuri Art and Peace Village whose image graces the cover, as it continues to contest the U.S. Army Garrison Humphreys, the largest U.S. military base in the world.

Published Articles and Chapters

“Representing the Disappeared Body: Hunger Strikes at Guantánamo,” Humanity: An International Journal of Human Rights, Humanitarianism, and Development, 9:3 (Winter 2018): 423-448.

This article focuses on the force-feedings inflicted on Guantánamo detainees and the efforts to make visible their violence visually and legally. It examines three visual representations of the force-feedings: a government video demonstrating the feedings on an absent body; a video produced by the legal charity Reprieve demonstrating the feedings on hip-hop star Yasiin Bey; and the videos recording the actual feedings of hunger striker Abu Wa’el Dhiab, whose legal case first revealed the existence of these videos. The majority of the article centers on the Dhiab case and interprets the debates over the government’s justifications for force-feedings and its ostensible need to keep evidence of its abuses disappeared.

“Between Rights and Rightlessness: Haitian Migrants and the Elusive Promises of Humanitarianism,” Invited article for e-misferica, 14:1 (2019). Special Issue on “Expulsions/Expulsión/Expulsão,” edited by Marcial Godoy and Macarena Gómez-Barris. 

Following the devastating 2010 earthquake that rocked Haiti, the United States offered reprieve to Haitian migrants, not only suspending their expedited removals, but also offering Temporary Protected Status (TPS) that allowed them to live and work in the United States. Brazil, enjoying a booming economy, also offered Haitians humanitarian visas. However, with the economic and political crises in Brazil and the recent election of an explicitly xenophobic U.S. president, this window of humanitarian beneficence is closing, returning Haitian migrants to the status quo of expulsion. This paper focuses on the multiple expulsions of Haitian migrants and the liminal legal statuses they have lived under since leaving their homes. Situating this current “crisis” in a longer history of Haitian migration and US deterrence efforts, it examines how Haitian migrants have moved between rights and rightlessness, as they migrate across multiple national borders and negotiate nation-states’ sovereign decisions to revoke the humanitarian gifts once offered. While TPS and humanitarian visas appear as a benefit of rights where there were none before, they are in fact forms of liminal legality in the grey zone between being documented and undocumented, rightful and rightless.


“Abolitionist Futures and the U.S. Sanctuary Movement,” Race & Class, 59:2 (Fall 2017): 3-25.

This article focuses on the histories, current challenges, and future directions of the sanctuary movement in the United States, which is becoming a central front of resistance to the administration of Donald Trump. The article is comprised of three main components. It discusses the history of the US sanctuary movement and situates it in the context of the rise of neoliberalism and its attendant escalating criminalisation, particularly since the 1980s, when

the first iteration of the movement began. The article then discusses the limits of sanctuary, rooted in the movement’s liberal framework that risks reproducing the exclusions it has sought to dismantle. It nevertheless argues for the importance of sanctuary in opposing the Trump regime, while advocating that the movement adopt a more radical framework and solidarity-organising strategies inspired by the prison abolition movement.


"Storytelling and Truth-Telling: Testimonial Narratives in The Road to Guantánamo and Guantánamo: ‘Honor Bound to Defend Freedom,’" in Guantánamo and American Empire: The Humanities Respond, edited by Don E. Wallicek and Jessica Adams. (New York: Palgrave-McMillan, 2018): 121-148.

This essay analyzes two of the earliest cultural productions responding to the prison camps built at Guantanamo under the War on Terror: the docudrama film The Road to Guantánamo (2006) and the verbatim play Guantánamo: ‘Honor Bound to Defend Freedom,’ (2004). These testimonial texts attempted to restore the ability of the prisoners to tell their stories to audiences beyond the state, particularly during these early years of the camp, under circumstances in which the U.S. state disappeared the prisoners, not even releasing their names to the public. In constituting representational forums as well as audiences to receive their acts of bearing witness, the film and play offered a means for these prisoners to reclaim their ability to communicate and their recognition as subjects who exceed their status as enemy combatants.


“Education and Empire, Old and New: H.R. 3077 and the Resurgence of the U.S. Imperial University,” Cultural Dynamics, 25:1 (March 2013): 3-28.

This essay examines HR 3077, the 2003 International Studies in Higher Act, which sought to tie federal funding for university-based area studies programs to the interests of the US security state. While locating it in the post-9/11 context, the essay situates HR 3077 in a broader frame that elucidates the shifting but always intimate relationship between education and imperialism. It discusses how knowledge production has long been tied to imperialist endeavors and examines the origins and development of US area studies during the Cold War and its critical turn in the late 1960s. The article closely reads HR 3077 and the neoconservative literature that grounds it to trace wide-ranging efforts to foreclose intellectual freedom and critiques of the US state. It argues that HR 3077 marks only one example of a troubling movement to arrest critical public discourse, one that subjects invested in maintaining vigorous democratic publics must contest.


“Carceral Quarantine at Guantánamo: Legacies of U.S. Imprisonment of Haitian Refugees, 1991-1994,” Radical History Review, 115:1 (Winter 2013): 142-168.  Special Issue on “Haitian Lives/Global Perspectives,” edited by Amy Chazkel, Melina Pappademos, and Karen Sotiropoulos.

This article examines the case of nearly 300 HIV-positive Haitian refugees the US state indefinitely detained on its Guantánamo naval base from 1991 to 1994. It argues that the predicament of these refugees emerged out of a nexus of historical threads that became entangled at Guantánamo, including the US state's near absolute exclusion of Haitian refugees, the legacy of antiblack and anti-Haitian racism, the discourses of disease that were linked to Haitian bodies, and the history of US (neo)imperial interests in the Caribbean. Its analysis centers on legal discourses and key federal court cases leading to US anti-Haitian refugee policies, including Haitian Refugee Center v. Civiletti(1980) and Haitian Centers Council v. Sale (1993), while examining the history of Haiti's political economy and relation to the United States, as well as discourses of race, nation, and contagion as they relate to Haitian migrants.


“Testifying to Rightlessness: Haitian Refugees Speaking from Guantánamo,” Social Text, 28:3 (Fall 2010): 39-65. Special issue on “Dislocations Across the Americas,” edited by Micol Siegel and David Sartorius.

This essay is a cultural analysis of the legal testimony given in Haitian Centers Council v. Sale (HCC III), a federal lawsuit brought against the U.S. state on behalf of nearly 300 HIV-positive Haitian refugees imprisoned in a United States–operated refugee camp at Guantánamo Bay from 1991 to 1994. By reading this legal archive as both storytelling and truth-telling, it examines how the refugees speak to their experiences of persecution and of their lives inside the Guantánamo camp to illuminate what it means to have their rights and humanity stripped by their supposed guardians. These Haitian refugees inhabited both literal and discursive “zones of exclusion” that they had to negotiate in order to communicate their stories and have their claims for recognition as full persons heard and taken seriously. The essay opens by examining the historical, political, and economic context in which these refugees were situated to uncover how their rightlessness was produced and how these historical conditions established the terms of their demands for recognition. It then explores how the legal frame shaped the limits and opportunities mediating the refugees' testifying acts and moves to the testimonies themselves, outlining my method and highlighting prominent themes. It concludes by focusing on the testimonies that spoke to the hunger strike through which the refugees verbally and physically communicated their demands to be released from camp and have their full humanity recognized.