A. Naomi Paik

A. Naomi Paik is an associate professor of Asian American studies with appointments in Gender & Women’s studies and History at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She published Rightlessness: Testimony and Redress in U.S. Prison Camps since World War II (UNC Press, 2016; winner, Best Book in History, AAAS 2018; runner-up, John Hope Franklin prize for best book in American Studies, ASA, 2017). Her book Bans, Walls, Raids, Sanctuary: Understanding U.S. Immigration for the 21st Century (forthcoming, May 2020, University of California Press), examines the long-developing criminalization of foreign-born people in the United States and the need for radical, abolitionist approaches to sanctuary.

She is currently working on a book-length manuscript on the most capacious meaning of “sanctuary for all” and developing another on military outsourcing.


As a board member of the Radical History Review, she has co-edited three special issues of the journal—on “Militarism and Capitalism (Winter 2019), “Radical Histories of Sanctuary” (Fall 2019), and “Policing, Justice, and the Radical Imagination” (Spring 2020). She has published articles in Social Text, Radical History Review, Cultural Dynamics, Race & Class, e-misferica, Humanity, The Conversation, The Funambulist, and the collection Guantánamo and American Empire.


She is the IPRH-Mellon fellow in Legal Humanities (2019-2022), working to build the legal humanities at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. With Toby Beauchamp, she is organizing a series of events on “Abolition” as a Resident Associate of the Center for Advanced Study (2019-present). Her research and teaching interests include comparative ethnic studies; U.S. imperialism; U.S. militarism; social and cultural approaches to legal studies; transnational and women of color feminisms; carceral spaces; and labor, race, and migration.

Current Events


University of California, Irvine – January 24, 2020
Princeton University – February 3, 2020
University of Texas, Austin – February 13, 2020
Brown University, Providence, RI – March 5-6
University of Illinois, Chicago – March 12-13
University of British Columbia, Vancouver – March 18-19
Harvard University – March 25

“A. Naomi Paik’s meticulous book opens new interpretative approaches to fundamental problems of U.S. sovereignty and democracy.  A challenging historical survey of the relationship between normal styles of government and states of emergency has been artfully combined with a bold defense of the value of rights in the struggles of the excluded, racialized, and incarcerated.”

–Paul Gilroy, Professor of American and English Literature, King’s College London

Winner, Best Book in History, 2018, Association for Asian American Studies

Finalist/Runner Up, John Hope Franklin Award for Best Book in American Studies, 2017, American Studies Association

Bans, Walls, Raids, Sanctuary contextualizes our current reality in a long legacy of racial exclusion in America. If we are to realize a healthy, multiracial democracy in the United States, we must face and learn from this history—understanding it can help us make meaning of the cruelty of our current era in immigration policy and can ultimately put an end to it. We cannot continue on this path. This book reveals a generational opportunity to turn the country in a new direction toward a more just, equitable, and inclusive future for all Americans.”

—Ai-jen Poo, Executive Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance and Cofounder of Families Belong Together