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Access Type

Open Access Thesis

Document Type


Degree Program


Degree Type

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



Asian American belongings, migration patterns, and transnational identities are largely constructed in the United States as static, unidirectional, and invisible. Asian Americans complicate these constructions through the practice of ancestral return. In this thesis, “ancestral return” is constituted through one’s participation in a university study abroad program to a specific place to where one traces her heritage. I use “return” not necessarily to account for a form of reverse migration; rather “return” here names the multiple, sometimes contradictory kinds of return, including “return” to a place that one has not yet been. This project examines how Asian American identities are constructed, disrupted, and transformed when Asian Americans traverse borders, time, and imaginaries. I use a performance ethnography and personal narrative performance methodology to center the memories and experiences of Asian American women who have practiced ancestral return. Personal narrative performances theorize Asian American belongings, migration patterns, and transnational identities within the context of complex and contradictory practices of ancestral return. This work contributes to the theorization of personal narrative performance as well as a growing literature on the return mobilities of the Asian American second-generation and beyond.


First Advisor

Kimberlee Pérez

Second Advisor

Richard Chu

Third Advisor

Claudio Moreira