Elisa Kim

Ph.D. Candidate
B.A. in Asian American Studies, Pomona College
M.A. in East Asian Studies (specializing in Korea), Stanford University
Elisa Kim

General Information

I am a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Sociology and a former fellow at the Center for Comparative Studies in Race & Ethnicity. My primary stream of research attempts to further our understandings of racialization, prejudice, and stereotypes—using attitudes towards immigrants living in South Korea as a theoretically informative case. My ongoing dissertation (under the tutelage of Professors Gi-Wook Shin, Matt Snipp, and Dan McFarland) explores the dynamic nature of racialization in response to immigration. My other research interests include the meaning of “race” and “ethnicity”, the experience of double consciousness, and computational methods. Prior to the Ph.D., I received my B.A. in Asian American Studies from Pomona College and M.A. in East Asian Studies from Stanford University. In my master’s thesis, I analyzed the relational landscape of North Korean human rights organizations by applying social network analysis to archival data of events they co-organized.



While it is widely accepted that a sudden inflow of foreigners leads to prejudice among natives, how this in-migration shapes the cultural meaning of racial categories is less well-understood. In this dissertation, I use computational linguistics tools to quantitatively analyze the relationship between changing immigration patterns and the meanings natives associate with linguistic labels of various migrant groups.

In ongoing work, I perform a series of analyses to build my theory abductively. The linguistic corpus is a large collection of local newspapers from throughout the U.S. published in the 19th century, a tumultuous time in terms of both the meaning of race (e.g., the Irish came to be considered White) and immigration policy (e.g., The Chinese Exclusion Act was passed). I examine how fluctuating immigration patterns of many racialized groups relate to changes in how they are discussed in these newspapers.

After abductively building my theory on U.S. text data and immigration rates, I will test my theory in an entirely different time, place, and language: South Korea in 1990-2020. During this time, South Korea—a country with overwhelming ethnic homogeneity—experienced unprecedented levels of immigration. The linguistic corpus in this context is a collection of articles published in the most circulated newspaper in South Korea.