SunAh M Laybourn, PhD is an Affiliate Faculty Member for the Center for Workplace Diversity & Inclusion and a former Academic Research Fellow of the Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change. She is the co-lead facilitator for the National Civil Rights Museum’s Unpacking Racism for Action six-month cohort program. SunAh received her PhD in Sociology from the University of Maryland (2018). Her research examines racialization processes, cross-racial interaction, and Asian America. She is the co-author of Diversity in Black-Greek Letter Organizations: Breaking the Line (Routledge 2018). Her work has been published in Social Problems, Sociology of Race & Ethnicity, Racial & Ethnic Studies, and Asian Pacific American Law Journal, among others.
SunAh’s next book project, Out of Place: The Lives of Korean Adoptee Immigrants (New York University Press, January 2024) examines immigration, citizenship, and belonging through the case of Korean transnational transracial adoptees. Since the 1950s over 150,000 Korean children have been adopted by American families. Yet, many of those adoptees are now vulnerable to deportation. How did adoptable orphans become deportable immigrants? Out of Place examines the process of exceptional belonging that made transnational adoptees desirable yet discardable and how adoptees assert their own belonging outside of these constraints.
Rather than attempt to achieve belonging within the confines of exceptionalism, Out of Place uncovers how adoptees refuse to stay in their place as adoptable orphans or deportable immigrants. Adoptees engage in collective action for citizenship rights, transform the meaning of adoptee beyond expectations of assimilation and gratitude, and create mainstream media that re-presents adoptees as adults. Out of Place challenges the racialized logics undergirding the belief that you must be exceptional to belong.
Currently, SunAh is working two projects that examine the Asian American race-making process: 1.) Asian American in/visibility within sociological research on race and racism; and 2.) Historically Black Colleges and Universities’ enrollment of and approach towards Japanese Americans during the immediate post-internment period.
Outside of academia, SunAh serves on the Korean American Adoptee Adoptive Family Network’s Advisory Committee, and she is the organizer of Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month Memphis, Memphis’s first month-long celebration of the heritage month. She is the host of WYXR 91.7FM’s Let’s Grab Coffee, a weekly radio show featuring experts from across the country, who are investigating our most pressing social issues and common curiosities. SunAh enjoys a good cup of coffee, French croissants, and tending to her plants (30 and counting).
*pronunciation: sahn-aah lay-bȯrn