Henry Yu

Associate Professor

Relevant Thesis-Based Degree Programs

Affiliations to Research Centres, Institutes & Clusters


Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision

Dissertations completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest dissertations.

Museums as spaces of belonging: racialized power in the margins (2022)

This dissertation addresses how museums, as colonial institutions, can become meaningful spaces of belonging for their racialized visitors. The methods used include visitor interviews at three case study sites: The first two sites, the Nikkei National Museum and Sikh Heritage Museum, offer insight from racialized communities within spaces that are made to be spaces of belonging for them, and the third site, the Burnaby Village Museum, offers comparisons to a space within a colonial museum where racialized visitors are able to experience an exhibit acknowledging their local presence and history for the first time. The visitor surveys reveal stark patterns in the affective responses to the sites, in particular, around feelings of belonging and a sense (or lack thereof) of connection to museum spaces. Based on these findings, this study also offers insights on how museums must change in order to become more inclusive spaces, especially with the continuing legacies of long histories of racial exclusion and denial that shaped, and still structure, so many public museums.

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Kisah Sukses: Stories of Indonesian Migrant Worker Returnees Living in Greater Jakarta (2018)

Based on interviews with Indonesian women migrant workers and informed by their experience living in Greater Jakarta, this dissertation explores how migrant worker returnees view their work experience overseas and how their lives in Asian urban centres affected their life back in the Indonesian urban centre. It focuses on their relationships with the complex notions of "city," that reflect the returnee women's attachment to "home," and their desire to build it in a new space where they have settled. The dissertation also seeks to unfold how the city is represented through their experiences. In telling the stories of the past and present, the women shared their written works, documentary films, and their everyday life experiences to provide a more nuanced understanding of "migration" and "migrant workers." The dissertation explores the returnee women’s interpretations of "Jakarta" and "Indonesia," notions of return, and the idea of an emotionscape.

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Unwanted Refugees: Chinese Migration and the Making of a Global Humanitarian Agenda, 1949-1989 (2012)

This project traces the history of population movements out of “Red China” during the Cold War and investigates how certain Chinese migrants came to be treated as refugees when the vast majority did not. From 1949 to 1989 thousands of people left the People’s Republic of China. The settler societies of the British Commonwealth offered refuge to only a few.Contrary to the politics surrounding the flight of individuals and groups from the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc, no discourse of “Cold War warrior” or “freedom fighter” attended the movement of people leaving the Chinese mainland after the victory of the Chinese Communist Party in 1949. In investigating the reason for this marked difference, this project connects the mediating role played by humanitarian actors and officials in Hong Kong with longstanding histories of racist exclusion in the settler societies of Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. States were confronted with the challenge of reconciling notions of universal human rights, liberty and freedom with their persistent reservations about the desirability of Chinese migrants. As a result, there was an inconsistent and fractured response to the idea advanced by NGOs, churches and Chinese community organizations that the people leaving China were refugees in need of assistance. States responded to the movement of people and pressure from humanitarian actors by carefully delineating the ways and means in which people would be identified as refugees. They proffered aid accordingly. Questions of assistance and protection were deeply entwined with the elaborate migration controls and regulation that characterized the international migration regime of the late twentieth century. Authorities frequently defined people as illegal in order to reject calls to provide assistance or protection. While the discourse of illegality undermined claims to refugeehood, the growth in the number and variety of official migration categories meant that people simply moved according to whatever category, or discrete resettlement program, was available to them. This movement subverted state efforts at regulating migration and further undermined the work of religious and secular humanitarians who consistently depicted refugees as abject and helpless. Humanitarian actors were therefore only modestly successful in their efforts to secure consistent state engagement with refugee issues. For most of the Cold War, refugees from China were unwanted in the settler societies of the British Commonwealth.

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Master's Student Supervision

Theses completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest theses.

Pestilential policy and migratory maladies : the American state, epidemic disease policy, and migration, 1890–1915 (2023)

This thesis examines the development of American public health institutions and public health policy during the Progressive Era through the interplay of the twin issues of anti-epidemic disease policy and immigration and rethinks the relationship between race, migration, policy, and public health. It investigates three disease epidemics that occurred during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, in which migrants figured prominently: the 1892 cholera outbreak in New York City, the 1900 plague epidemic in San Francisco, and the typhoid fever outbreaks started by the woman who came to be known as Typhoid Mary. Through these three case studies, this thesis argues that though American public health institutions greatly expanded their reach in this period as the central state took on the primary responsibility for protecting the nation’s health, these institutions remained shakier and more vulnerable to challenges than the secondary literature has appreciated. I demonstrate this trend by studying the perspectives of both the pub-lic health officials implementing anti-epidemic policies and the migrants caught up in these poli-cies, highlighting the roles played by challengers to public health policy. These “resisters,” as I term them, were a broad group of disparate individuals ranging from the political and racial elite, to racially and politically marginalized migrants; their resistance constrained public health offi-cials’ actions and the range of policy tools wielded by public health agencies. Finally, in light of this pattern, this thesis draws a comparison between public health in the Progressive era and the Covid-19 pandemic in twenty-first century America. I suggest that the vulnerabilities in the pub-lic health system exposed by the Covid-19 pandemic are part of a much longer history, and arose in part because America’s system of public health sits atop institutional foundations that were never particularly sturdy even at the time they were built.

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Respect, reciprocity, and right relations: learning and co-producing stories about the Chinese market gardens at Musqueam (2018)

This thesis demonstrates the significance of the Chinese market gardens that once populated the Musqueam reserve, underscoring the respectful and reciprocal relationships that were formed historically. Through reflecting upon the collaborative processes by which stories about this history were recovered and recorded, this thesis also explains how the values that animated the relations between Chinese farmers and their Musqueam hosts served as an inspiration for the process of revitalizing these stories in the present. By recounting my involvement in developing collaborative educational initiatives on the unceded lands of the Musqueam people, I hope to provide my own limited insights into some of the core principles that any collaborator and researcher must learn, and some of the pre-conceptions they must unlearn, if they are going to make the serious commitment to ethically and respectfully collaborate with Indigenous knowledge keepers. Through experiences that challenged me to deepen my understanding of my roles and responsibilities as a visitor to these lands, and as a student and staff member working at the University of British Columbia (UBC), the reader can perhaps learn from my path rather than make common mistakes that outsiders often inflict upon Indigenous communities. The creation of educational resources involved non-Musqueam individuals working in collaboration with members of the community in order to identify needs and bring together the necessary resources. Such partnerships require constant care and a willingness to reflect continually upon how decisions are made, and how consensus is maintained through iterative and repeated consultations throughout the process from beginning to end. I conclude that collaborative knowledge making in general, and in particular with Indigenous communities, involves a) a considerable amount of time devoted to create and foster long term relationships; b) a genuine commitment to develop a connection to the territory and language of the community; c) a humble and respectful openness to recognizing misconceptions that need to be unlearned and work practices that need to be changed; and d) an attention to how reciprocal relations are needed both to identify and to create meaningful ways to give back to the community.

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Handmaids of medicine : Filipino nurses' liminality in infant mortality campaigns (2011)

In the 1920s, Philippine infant mortality campaigns called into question Filipino women’s capacity to care as both mothers and nurses. Therefore the campaign required a two-step process of first remodeling elite Filipino women as nurses who would then transfer their knowledge to mothers. In order to address the needs of the people, nurse education needed to be remodeled. Therefore, the colonial government partnered with the Rockefeller Foundation (RF) to remodel Philippine nursing through an experimental system that emphasized university training and specialization in public health. Even though the Foundation wanted to prove the universality of this system it was inevitably hampered by local conditions in the Philippines. It would take two decades for a university nurse training system to finally take shape. Although it took years for the university system to be established offshoots of the original program did take root, particularly the RF fellowship program that sponsored Filipino nurses to temporarily migrate to the U.S. to study abroad.By examining a variety of sources, including RF records, letters, newspapers, dissertations and conference transcripts, this paper considers the role Filipino student nurses played in infant mortality campaigns. Filipino nurses sought U.S. training, in order to have their medical authority recognized, but in seeking recognition within a system that saw Filipino nurses as inherently inferior due to their race, gender, and profession meant that their authority would perpetually be called into question. For Filipino nurses that took part in the colonial medical project they occupied a liminal space that both simultaneously validated and invalidated their knowledge. The dilemma of recognition was an issue that all Filipino migrants in the U.S. faced which created a constant state of surveillance within the community abroad. While some crumbled under the pressure of constant policing other Filipinos used it challenge the U.S. colonial project. At infant mortality health conferences, Filipino medical practitioners asserted their own medical authority. Even though these conferences were the same sites where both colonial and native medical practitioners invalidated nurse knowledge, nurses used it to legitimize native authority and the medical authority of women.

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Current Students & Alumni

This is a small sample of students and/or alumni that have been supervised by this researcher. It is not meant as a comprehensive list.

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