JHI Circle of Fellows Spotlight—Elizabeth Wong

April 29, 2024 by Sonja Johnston

Elizabeth Wong is majoring in Diaspora and Transnational Studies and Ethics, Society, and Law. Her work is interdisciplinary, often drawing on philosophy, anthropology, and cultural studies to analyze the intersections of race, culture, and colonialism in Toronto and abroad. Elizabeth is one of our 2023-24 JHI Undergraduate Fellows.

What are your main research interests?

My research is centred on the politics of migration, rights claims, and diasporic group identity. I am completing my BA in two interdisciplinary programs: Diaspora and Transnational Studies and Ethics, Society, and Law. Recently, I have been most interested in studying the legal and physical infrastructures that govern transnational climate mobilities. In the past, I have written about the way that representatives at the 1955 Bandung Conference strategically leveraged human rights and created a Third World identity to pursue anti-colonialism. I have also examined rights claims and cultural identity at the local level, analyzing a diasporic community's efforts to resist cultural erasure in Toronto’s Little Jamaica. In my work, I seek to analyze the connections of colonialism, imperialism, and racial capitalism and examine the possibilities and limitations of different discursive/legal tools for resisting oppression.

What project are you working on at the JHI and why did you choose it?

At the JHI, I have been working on a project entitled, “Climate Mobilities and Legal Nonperformatives.” This project critically analyzes and responds to the absence of international law governing climate migrations. At its core, this project is about power, mobility, and law. It's about how and why certain people are contained but others move freely.

I became interested in researching climate migration when I read about a landmark case on climate migration, Teitiota v. New Zealand, which resulted in the denial of a climate migrant’s claim to asylum. Given my background in diaspora studies, I saw this case as an opening to study the growing phenomenon of climate migration, which, though vital for many, remains heavily restricted.

Beginning from Teitiota v. New Zealand, I analyze the UN's contradictory statements on climate migration as legal nonperformatives. I then consider how these legal nonperformatives and absences function to contain climate migrants, producing mobility injustices. The final section of my project sketches a right to transnational climate mobility as a possible solution to the legal absences and nonperformatives that are harming those most vulnerable to climate change.

How has your JHI Fellowship experience been so far?

I have appreciated my fellowship experience at the JHI because it has given me the opportunity to do independent research over a long period of time. I feel grateful to have been able to sit with my ideas and write progressively over the year. It has also been lovely to meet and talk to the other fellows every week. I appreciate being a part of the JHI community.

Can you share something you read/watched/listened to recently that you enjoyed/were inspired by?

I recently read Saskia Sassen’s Expulsions: Brutality and Complexity in the Global Economy. This book has informed the way that I understand the workings of global capitalism.

What is a fun fact about you?

I have recently been enjoying the paintings of Stuart Dunkel. He often paints whimsical images of little mice holding pastries, fruits, and vegetables!.