Assistant Professor, American Culture
Dr. Melissa Borja, a core faculty member in the Asian/Pacific Islander American Studies Program, earned a PhD and MPhil in history from Columbia University, in addition to an MA in history from the University of Chicago and an AB in history from Harvard University. Before teaching at the University of Michigan, Dr. Borja was Assistant Professor in the Department of History at the College of Staten Island, City University of New York.
She researches migration, religion, politics, race, and ethnicity in the United States and the Pacific World, with special attention to how Asian American religious beliefs and practices have developed in the context of pluralism, migration, and the modern American state. Her book, Follow the New Way: Hmong Refugee Resettlement and Practice of American Religious Pluralism (under contract, Harvard University Press) draws on oral history and archival research to investigate the religious dimensions of American refugee care—how governments have expanded capacity through partnerships with religious organizations and how refugee policies have shaped the religious lives of refugees. Animating her work is a deep fascination with how new religious diversity has complicated old practices of governance and, in turn, how Americans have attempted to govern new religious diversity.
Her work appears in The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Race in American History, Shaped by the State: Toward a New Political History of the Twentieth Century, The Oral History Review, Harvard Divinity Bulletin, and The American Historian. She contributes regularly to the religious history blog, Anxious Bench. Her lecture on Southeast Asian refugees was featured on C-SPAN’s “Lectures in American History,” and she has been active in Princeton University’s Religion and Resettlement Project, a three-year national program that aims to improve understanding of the role that religion plays in the lives of refugees as they resettle in the United States.
She has been awarded the ACLS/Mellon Fellowship and Charlotte Newcombe Fellowship, and her research has been supported by the Institute for Religion, Culture, and Public Life; the Immigration History Research Center; the Center for the Study of World Religion; and the Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History. She is a 2018 Young Scholar in American Religion. She currently serves as co-chair of the American Academy of Religion’s "Asian North American Religion, Culture, and Society” group, as well as a member of the steering committee for the “North American Religions” group.
Profile photo credit: Patricia Burmicky