Crystal Baik
Mellon Second Project Fellow

Department: Gender and Sexuality Studies
Rank: Associate Professor (first year as a tenured professor)
# of years at UCR: this is my 7th year at UCR
Top three texts I would take to a desert island: Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider; Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart; Lisa Yoneyama, Hiroshima Traces.
Favorite activity: Since the pandemic, I’ve taken up birding and 풍물 (poongmul/Korean drumming).
Something people might be amazed to know about me: I’m an identical twin and my partner is also an identical twin.
An “adventure” I am looking forward to, post-pandemic: Hiking in the Inyo National Forest and birding around Mono Lake.
Website: Here is a link to an important collaborative space, GYOPO, I’ve been a part of that has compelled me to think more expansively when it comes to experimental research and experiential teaching.

Q: My research agenda summed up in one sentence:

My interdisciplinary research engages memory work that centers critical feminist orientations and racial justice, especially in relation to ongoing war, militarized migrations, displacement, and dispossession.

Q: Is there a theme or central question that organizes your work?

In my current research, I build on existing interdisciplinary scholarship to consider the creation of open-ended memory archives through methodological approaches that work against accumulation, possession, and extraction. In the broadest sense, I inquire into a myriad of consequences associated with institutional archives of memory when they are influenced by settler notions of property, whiteness, and ownership (for instance, solely defining oral histories as copyrighted products owned by institutions and organizations). Relatedly, I explore the possibility of creating memory archives that divest from a professionalized impulse to collect and accrue—especially during times of prolonged war, separation, and crisis. As a feminist memory worker, I prioritize radical care as an organizing principle by exploring what it means to approach relationship-building as an embodied form of memory archiving.

Headphones, 풍물 (poongmul) music sheet, and two books for research (E. Patrick Johnson’s Honeypot: Black Southern Women Who Love Women and Dylan Robinson’s Hungry Listening: Resonant Theory for Indigenous Sound Studies).

Q: How are you exploring these questions in your current project?

My current project is a creative non-fiction multimedia work that begins with 25 oral histories I’ve conducted these past two years with Korean/American feminist, femme-identified, transgender, queer, and non-binary activists, healers, and rebel rousers across social movements (and whose ages range from 21 to 80!). One of the goals of the project is to conceptualize listening, not only as a method, but as a mode of writing that attunes to “minor” moments of becoming rarely captured within traditional activist histories. I am slowly beginning to piece these narratives together and the creative writing process feels very differently from my first book project. I’m also creating an accompanying listening-archive-space for these interviews—one that is created, first and foremost, for narrators as the primary audience— alongside the book.

Q: What led you to this topic?

Before I entered graduate school in New York City and Los Angeles, I was a part of shifting networks of Korean/American feminist grassroots organizers, creative writers, cultural workers, farmers, healers, and troublemakers who, at that time, primarily worked outside of or at the very edge of formal institutions. While I moved away from these networks and spaces during graduate school for various reasons, I am circling back and returning to these people and conversations because they land for me as home in intellectual and affective ways.

Q: What do you say when people ask you what you like about your work?

For now, I’ll say that I am appreciative that my work gifts me with the space and time, as well as trusted allies, to messily struggle through and practice relational principles and ethics that are pivotal to who I am, who I am becoming, and how I want to live my life more broadly.

Q: How should – or could – the academy change for the better?

I wish the academy would prioritize critical, creative, and capacious collaborations among academics, artists, activists, and cultural workers in sustained ways that challenge how and what we define as “cutting-edge” or “rigorous” scholarship. More often than not, I feel like the academy as a whole privileges the individually-authored monograph (or article) or individual contributions to a field as the most significant criteria in determining intellectual heft, productivity, and of course, promotion. At times, I imagine what it would be like if we were actually provided with time, resources, and support to collaboratively create in ways that move away from (or at least, expand beyond) this individuation– for instance, podcasts, collaborative improvised writing, cultural work, and emergent syllabi (the latter also acknowledges how much intellectual labor, careful thought, energy, and time it takes to teach and conceptualize radical curricula).

Q: Have you gained any wisdom about teaching from your time in the classroom?

I don’t know if these are words of wisdom as much as they are part of an ongoing reflection, but I engage teaching as a mutual experience where educators and students are constantly learning from each other. Just as much as students enter the classroom to engage, learn, and/or be challenged, I also enter the classroom cognizant that my own perceptions will likely be challenged if not destabilized. This has made me incredibly humble as an educator because I have to be open to un/learning, improvisation, and changing directions depending on who is in the room and what emerges within “live” time (for instance: COVID-19!).

Q: How have you adapted your teaching “style” for the online environment?

For me, it is important that each student has the opportunity to listen to, share, and/or be heard in ways that resonate for each of them. Pedagogically, I’ve tried to scaffold different approaches that attune to the plurality of students in the space— for instance, through reserved time for journaling and/or flash drawing in class; virtual jam and collage boards; live reading and annotation; collaborative writing through shared Google documents; larger discussions and smaller group work; and tailored exercises with a peer. On Zoom, this has translated into mobilizing the small breakout room function, scheduling one-to-one meetings with students, creating structured time for students to journal and/or draw via critical prompts, using accessible platforms like Padlet to create virtual exhibits, and creating pockets of time for students to discuss questions on their own (I temporarily “leave” the Zoom space).

Q: Do you have any favorite resources that you recommend?

There are so many great resources, podcasts, and films that I incorporate into my teaching—so I’ll list two resources here! In courses like feminist oral history, I draw on Sin Invalid’s “10 Principles of Disability Justice” to provide an entry-point for students to engage disability justice (if they are unfamiliar with this concept and social movement). We then transition into discussing what it means to actually practice DJ in our oral history work (which is often anchored in audism, assumptions about what a “good voice” sounds like, the fetishization of the sonic record, etc.). Relatedly, I’ve very much appreciated Alice Wong’s brilliant work, which focuses on disability justice, race, feminism, and listening. I often assign episodes + transcripts from her podcast, Disability Visibility, in my courses.


In Focus is a interview series that features faculty associates of the Center for Ideas and Society.