Going Beyond the (Un)awakened Body: Arts-Based Collaborative Autoethnographic Inquiry of Korean Doctoral Students in the United States


  • Hyeungok Kang University of Georgia https://orcid.org/0000-0002-5340-4098
  • Sung-Ryung Lyu The Pennsylvania State University
  • Sehyun Yun George Mason University




collective autoethnography, international students, Asian, race


Three Korean female doctoral students studying at U.S. higher education institutions address our lived experiences in this paper. By drawing on Critical Race Theory (CRT) and Asian Critical Theory (AsianCrit), we reflected upon the feelings and experiences that we swallowed to survive. We used collaborative autoethnography with artistic methods, such as digital collage and poetry, to share how we have wrestled with feelings of shame when reckoning our embodied knowledge of race and racism. Using CRT and AsianCrit, we disrupted racial stereotypes regarding Asians and their invisibility in racial discourses. We end with suggestions for providing support to Asian international students exploring racialized discourse and positioning themselves as qualified professionals and political agents. In sharing our stories, we hope to illuminate lived experiences that have been neglected, misunderstood, silenced, and forgotten.   

Author Biographies

Hyeungok Kang, University of Georgia

HYEUNGOK KANG, is a PhD candidate in the Department of Educational Theory and Practice at the University of Georgia emphasizing Early Childhood Education. Her research interests included colonial educational research and culturally sustaining education using technology. Email:hyeungok@uga.edu

Sung-Ryung Lyu, The Pennsylvania State University

SUNG RYUNG LYU, PhD, is an assistant professor in School of Education at American University. Her major research interests lie in the area of early childhood education focusing on praxis of critical multicultural education and critical race theory.
Email: lyu@american.edu

Sehyun Yun, George Mason University

SEHYUN YUN, PhD, is an assistant professor of Elementary Education at Ball State University. Her research interests are mostly focused on the bilingual and biliteracy development of children as well as the professional development of preservice teachers. Particularly, she is interested in how teacher education programs develop preservice teachers’ expertise in fair and equitable assessment for children from diverse cultural, linguistic, and socio-economic backgrounds. She can be reached via email at sehyun.yun@bsu.edu.


Adebayo, C. T., & Allen, M. (2020). The experiences of international teaching

assistants in the U.S. classroom: A qualitative study. Journal of International Students, 10(1), 69–83. https://doi.org/10.32674/jis.v10i1.1086 DOI: https://doi.org/10.32674/jis.v10i1.1086

Anandavalli, S., Borders, L. D., & Kniffin, L. E. (2021). “Because here, White

is right”: Mental health experiences of international graduate students of color from a critical race perspective. International Journal for the Advancement of Counselling, 43(3), 283–301. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10447-021-09437-x


Buckner, E., Lumb, P., Jafarova, Z., Kang, P., Marroquin, A., & Zhang, Y.

(2021). Diversity without race: How university internationalization strategies discuss international students. Journal of International Students, 11(1), 32–49. https://doi.org/10.32674/jis.v11iS1.3842 DOI: https://doi.org/10.32674/jis.v11iS1.3842

Bui, T. A. (2021). Becoming an intercultural doctoral student: Negotiating

cultural dichotomies. Journal of International Students, 11(1), 257–265. https://doi.org/10.32674/jis.v11i1.1272 DOI: https://doi.org/10.32674/jis.v11i1.1272

Campbell, T. A. (2015). A phenomenological study on international

doctoral students’ acculturation experiences at a US university.

Journal of International Students, 5(3), 285–299. https://doi.org/10.32674/jis.v5i3.422 DOI: https://doi.org/10.32674/jis.v5i3.422

Chang, H., Ngunjiri, F. W., & Hernandez, K. C. (2013). Collaborative

autoethnography. Left Coast Press.

Chang, R. S. (1993). Toward an Asian American legal scholarship:

Critical race theory, post-structuralism, and narrative space. California Law Review, 81 (5), 1241–1323. https://heinonline.org/HOL/P?h=hein.journals/calr81&i=1261

Cortes Santiago, I., Karimi, N., & Arvelo Alicea, Z. R. (2017).

Neoliberalism and higher education: A collective autoethnography of brown women teaching assistants. Gender and Education, 29(1), 48–65. https://doi.org/10.1080/09540253.2016.1197383 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/09540253.2016.1197383

Delgado, R. (Ed.). (1995). Critical race theory: The cutting edge. Temple University Press.

Delgado, R., & Stefancic, J. (2017). Critical race theory: An introduction (3rd ed.). New York University Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctt1ggjjn3

Ellis, C. (2007). Telling secrets, revealing lives: Relational ethics in research

with intimate others. Qualitative Inquiry, 13(1), 3–29. https://doi.org/10.1177/1077800406294947 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1077800406294947

Ellis, C., Adams, T. E., & Bochner, A. P. (2011). Autoethnography: an overview. Historical Social Research/Historische Sozialforschung, 273–290. https://www.jstor.org/stable/23032294

Essed, P. (2008). Everyday racism. In D. T. Goldberg & J. Solomos (Eds.), A companion to racial and ethnic studies (pp. 202–216). Jon Wiley and Sons. https://doi.org/10.1111/b.9780631206163.2002.00020.x DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/b.9780631206163.2002.00020.x

Finley, S. (2008). Arts-based research. In J. G. Knowles & A. K. Cole (Eds.), Handbook of the arts in qualitative research (pp. 71–81). SAGE Publication. https://doi.org/10.4135/9781452226545.n6 DOI: https://doi.org/10.4135/9781452226545.n6

Gutiérrez, K. D., Morales, P. Z., & Martinez, D. C. (2009). Re-mediating literacy: Culture, difference, and learning for students from nondominant communities. Review of Research in Education, 33, 212–245. https://doi.org/10.3102/0091732X08328267 DOI: https://doi.org/10.3102/0091732X08328267

Guyotte, K. W., Hofsess, B. A., Wilson, G. J., & Shields, S. S. (2018). Tumbling from embodiment to enfleshment: Art as intervention in collective autoethnography. Art/Research International: A Transdisciplinary Journal, 3(2), 101–132. https://doi.org/10.18432/ari29334 DOI: https://doi.org/10.18432/ari29334

Hernandez, G. L. (2021). Racial unspeakability: Affect and embodiment in Swiss international higher education institutions. Journal of International Students, 11(S1), 108–132. https://doi.org/10.32674/jis.v11iS1.3846 DOI: https://doi.org/10.32674/jis.v11iS1.3846

Hong, C. P. (2020). Minor feelings: An Asian American reckoning. One World.

Hughes, S. A. (2008). Toward “good enough methods” for autoethnography: Trying to resist the matrix with another promising red pill. Educational Studies, 43, 125–143. https://doi.org/10.1080/00131940801944504 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/00131940801944504

Iftikar, J. S., & Museus, S. D. (2018). On the utility of Asian critical (AsianCrit) theory in the field of education. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 31(10), 935–949. https://doi.org/10.1080/09518398.2018.1522008 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/09518398.2018.1522008

Jang, B. G. (2017). Am I a qualified literacy researcher and educator? A counter-story of a professional journey of one Asian male literacy scholar in the United States. Journal of Literacy Researcher, 49(4). 559–581. https://doi.org/107.171/1707/81602869269X6X17177333491 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1086296X17733491

Kim, C. J. (1999). The racial triangulation of Asian Americans. Politics & society, 27(1), 105–138. https://doi.org/10.1177/0032329299027001005 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0032329299027001005

Kim, E. H. (1998). “At least you're not Black”: Asian Americans in US race relations. Social Justice, 25(73), 3–12. https://www.jstor.org/stable/29767082

Kim, H. J. (2020). ‘Where are you from? Your English is so good’: a Korean female scholar's autoethnography of academic imperialism in U.S. higher education. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 33(5), 491–507. https://doi.org/10.1080/09518398.2019.1681551 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/09518398.2019.1681551

Koo, K. (2021). Am I welcome here?: Campus climate and psychological well-being among racially minoritized students. Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice, 58(2), 196–213. https://doi.org/10.1080/19496591.2020.1853557 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/19496591.2020.1853557

Koo, K. (2021). Distressed in a foreign country: Mental health and well-being among international students in the United States during COVID-19. In Bista, K. & Chan, R. (Eds.), Routledge Studies in Global Student Mobility Series- Impact of COVID-19 on Global Student Mobility and Higher Education. (pp.28-41). Routledge. DOI: https://doi.org/10.4324/9781003138402-3

Koo, K., Baker, I., & Yoon, J. (2021). The first year acculturation: A longitudinal study on acculturative stress and adjustment among the first year international college students. Journal of International Students, 11(2), 278-298. https://doi.org/10.32674/jis.v11i2.1726 DOI: https://doi.org/10.32674/jis.v11i2.1726

Koo, K., Kim, Y., Lee, J., & Nyunt, G. (2021). It’s my fault? A qualitative study on Korean international graduate students’ psychological well-being and experiences. Journal of International Students. 11(4), 790–811. https://doi.org/10.32674/jis.v11i4 DOI: https://doi.org/10.32674/jis.v11i4.2801

Koo, K., Nyunt, G., & Wang, B. (2021). Who spends too much time online?: Associated factors of Internet addiction among international college students in the United States. Journal of International Students, 11(1), 122–143. https://doi.org/10.32674/jis.v11i1.2063 DOI: https://doi.org/10.32674/jis.v11i1.2063

Koo, K., Yao, C., & Gong, H. (2021). It is not my fault: Exploring experience and perceptions of racism among international students during COVID-19. Journal of Diversity in Higher Education. Online First Publication. https://doi.org/10.1037/dhe0000343. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1037/dhe0000343

Lahman, M. K., Richard, V. M., & Teman, E. D. (2019). How to write poemish (research) poetry. Qualitative Inquiry, 25(2), 215–227. https://doi.org/10.1177/107780041775018 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1077800417750182

Lapadat, J. C. (2017). Ethics in autoethnography and collaborative autoethnography. Qualitative Inquiry, 23(8), 589–603. https://doi.org/10.1177/1077800417704462 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1077800417704462

Leavy, P. (2020). Method meets art: Arts-based research practice. Guilford Publications.

Ledesma, M. C., & Calderón, D. (2015). Critical race theory in education: A review of past literature and a look to the future. Qualitative Inquiry, 21(3), 206–222. https://doi.org/10.1177/1077800414557825 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1077800414557825

Lee, J. J., & Rice, C. (2007). Welcome to America? International student perceptions of discrimination. Higher Education, 53(3), 381–409.

https://doi.org/10.1007/s10734-005-4508-3 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10734-005-4508-3

Li, M. (2016). Developing skills and disposition for lifelong learning: Acculturative issues surrounding supervising international doctoral students in New Zealand Universities. Journal of International Students, 6(3), 740–761. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10734-005-4508-3 DOI: https://doi.org/10.32674/jis.v6i3.354

Li, Y., & Nicholson Jr, H. L. (2021). When “model minorities” become “yellow peril”—Othering and the racialization of Asian Americans in the COVID–19 pandemic. Sociology Compass, 15(2), 1–13. https://doi.org/10.1111/soc4.12849 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/soc4.12849

Lin, H. (2021) Second language, body, and race—a poetic analysis of international doctoral students’ experiences at a university. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 34(7), 645–662. https://doi.org/10.1080/09518398.2020.1783015 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/09518398.2020.1783015

Mitchell, D., Steele, T., Marie, J., & Timm, K. (2017). Learning race and racism while learning: Experiences of international students pursuing higher education in the Midwestern United States. AERA Open, 3(3), 1–15. https://doi.org/10.1177/2332858417720402 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/2332858417720402

Museus, S. D., & Iftikar, J. (2014). Asian critical theory (AsianCrit). In M.Y. Danico (Ed.), Asian American society: An encyclopedia (pp. 95–98). Sage Publications and Association for Asian American Studies.

Ng, J. C., Lee, S. S., & Pak, Y. K. (2007). Contesting the model minority and perpetual foreigner stereotypes: A critical review of literature on Asian Americans in education. Review of Research in Education, 31, 95–130. https://doi.org/10.3102/0091732X06298015 DOI: https://doi.org/10.3102/0091732X07300046095

Nichols, T. R., Biederman, D. J., & Gringle, M. R. (2014). Using research poetics “responsibly”: Applications for health promotion research. International Quarterly of Community Health Education, 35(1), 5–20. https://doi.org/10.2190/IQ.35.1.b DOI: https://doi.org/10.2190/IQ.35.1.b

Poon, O., Squire, D., Kodama, C., Byrd, A., Chan, J., Manzano, L., … Bishundat, D. (2016). A critical review of the model minority myth in selected literature on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in higher education. Review of Educational Research, 86(2), 469–502. https://doi.org/10.3102/0034654315612205 DOI: https://doi.org/10.3102/0034654315612205

Saito, N. T. (1997). Model minority, yellow peril: Functions of foreignness in the construction of Asian American legal identity. Asian American Law Journal, 4, 71–95.


Shuck, G. (2006). Racializing the nonnative English speaker. Journal of Language, Identity, and Education, 5(4), 259–276. https://doi.org/10.1207/s15327701jlie0504_1 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1207/s15327701jlie0504_1

Solórzano, D. G., & Yosso, T. J. (2001). Critical race and LatCrit theory and method: Counter-storytelling. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 14, 471–495. https://doi.org/ 10.1080/09518390110063365 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/09518390110063365

Sterzuk, A. (2015). ‘The standard remains the same’: language standardisation,

race and othering in higher education. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 36(1), 53–66. https://doi.org/10.1080/01434632.2014.892501 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/01434632.2014.892501

Sullivan, C., & Kashubeck-West, S. (2015). The interplay of international students' acculturative stress, social support, and acculturation modes. Journal of International Students, 5(1), 1–11. https://doi.org/10.32674/jis.v5i1.438 DOI: https://doi.org/10.32674/jis.v5i1.438

Suspitsyna, T. (2021). Internationalization, whiteness, and biopolitics of higher education. Journal of International Students, 11(1), 50–67. https://doi.org/10.32674/jis.v11iS1.3843 DOI: https://doi.org/10.32674/jis.v11iS1.3843

Those Asian-American Whiz-Kids. (1987, August, 31). TIME.

Tran, L. T., & Hoang, T. (2020). International students: (Non)citizenship, rights, discrimination, and belonging. In A, Peterson, G. Stahl, & H. Soong (Eds.), The Palgrave handbook of citizenship and education (pp. 599–617). Palgrave Macmillan.

https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-67828-3_23 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-67828-3_23

Trieu, M. M., & Lee, H. C. (2018). Asian Americans and internalized racial oppression: Identified, reproduced, and dismantled. Sociology of Race and Ethnicity, 4(1), 67–82. https://doi.org/10.1177/233264921772575 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/2332649217725757

Winkler, I. (2018). Doing autoethnography: Facing challenges, taking choices, accepting responsibilities. Qualitative Inquiry, 24(4), 236–247.

https://doi.org/10.1177/1077800417728956 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1077800417728956

Wu, F. H. (2002). Yellow: Race in America beyond black and white. Basic Books.

Xu, L. & Hu, J. (2020) Language feedback responses, voices and identity (re)construction: Experiences of Chinese international doctoral students. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 57(6), 724–735. https://doi.org/10.1080/14703297.2019.1593214 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/14703297.2019.1593214

Yi, V., Mac, J., NHugha, V. S., Venturanza, R. J., Museus, S. D., Buenavista, T. L., & Pendakur, S. L. (2020). Toward an anti-imperialistic critical race analysis of the model minority myth. Review of Educational Research, 90(4), 542–579. https://doi.org/10.3102/0034654320933532 DOI: https://doi.org/10.3102/0034654320933532

Zhang, Q. (2010). Asian Americans beyond the model minority stereotype: The nerdy and the left out. Journal of International and Intercultural Communication, 3(1), 20–37. https://doi.org/10.1080/17513050903428109 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/17513050903428109

Zheng, Y., & Samuel, A. G. (2017). Does seeing an Asian face make speech sound more accented? Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 79(6), 1841–1859. https://doi.org/10.3758/s13414-017-1329-2 DOI: https://doi.org/10.3758/s13414-017-1329-2




How to Cite

Kang, H. ., Lyu, S.-R., & Yun, S. (2022). Going Beyond the (Un)awakened Body: Arts-Based Collaborative Autoethnographic Inquiry of Korean Doctoral Students in the United States . Journal of International Students, 12(S2), 88–105. https://doi.org/10.32674/jis.v12iS2.4345