SunAh M Laybourn, PhD is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Memphis, an Affiliate Faculty Member for the Center for Workplace Diversity & Inclusion, Affiliate Faculty Member in the International and Global Studies Department, and an Academic Research Fellow of the Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change. She formerly served as 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 questions of race, identity, and belonging. 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 latest book, 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 early 1950s, over 125,000 Korean children have been adopted in the United States, primarily by white families. Despite being legally adopted, Korean adoptees routinely experience refusals of belonging, whether by state agents, laws, and regulations, in everyday interactions, or even through media portrayals that render them invisible. In Out of Place, SunAh M Laybourn, herself a Korean adoptee, examines this long-term journey, with a particular focus on the race-making process and the contradictions inherent to the model minority myth.
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 as conference co-chair for the Korean American Adoptee Adoptive Family Network’s annual conference, and she is the organizer of Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month Memphis, which in 2023 became 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 around the world, 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