Jennifer Zelnick

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

California, Irvine, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 9672

Approve Date

April 18, 2018

Project Title

Zelnick, Jennifer A., U. of California, Irvine, CA - To aid research on 'Deported 'Home?': Cambodian-Americans and the Limits of Legal Permanent Residency,' supervised by Dr. Leo R. Chavez

JENNIFER ABBEY ZELNICK, then a graduate student at University of California, Irvine, California, received funding in April 2018 to aid research on ‘Deported ‘Home?’: Cambodian-Americans and the Limits of Legal Permanent Residency,’ supervised by Dr. Leo R. Chavez. What does it mean to ‘return’ to a country one doesn’t remember, or where one has never lived? Since the 2002 signing of a Memorandum of Understanding, 757 Cambodian-American refugees — who were legal permanent residents of the United States — have been deported to Cambodia. Unlike most deportees who return to countries where they previously resided, and have citizenship and family ties, Cambodian-Americans are exiled to Cambodia without citizenship, largely unfamiliar with their ‘homeland.’ This project examines how legal mechanisms, social and political histories, transnational flows, networks and absences of kin, and geopolitics of inclusion and exclusion complicate anthropological theories of migration, removal, and ‘return.’ How does the emergence of ‘deportable refugees’ challenge extant notions of transnationality, migrant precarity, documentation, and illegality? How does the removal of Cambodian-American LPRs problematize notions of refugee futurity alongside notions of return that invoke the past? Research consisted of twenty months of transnational ethnographic data collection among deportees, their friends and family members, policy makers, activists, Cambodian government officials, and community-based organizations in Phnom Penh and Battambang, Cambodia, and Long Beach, Los Angeles, and the Bay Area, California.