Publication Date

October 23, 2018

Perspectives Section

Member Spotlight, Perspectives Daily

Loretta Kim is assistant professor and director of the China Studies program (Arts Stream) at the University of Hong Kong. She lives in Hong Kong and has been a member since 2007.


Loretta KimAlma maters: AB (government and East Asian studies), Harvard University, 1999; AM (regional studies-East Asia), Harvard University, 2002; PhD (history), Harvard University, 2009

Fields of interest: borderlands, ethnic minority identities, frontiers, imperial China, intangible cultural heritage, modern and contemporary China, language policy and language identity

Describe your career path. What led you to where you are today? I thought I would develop a lifelong career in the US Department of State, so my career has evolved as an ongoing surprise. After completing my PhD, I gave up on government service because my husband wanted to retain his non-US citizenship, instead of naturalizing as an American so I could obtain the necessary security clearance. I was fortunate to start my first faculty position at SUNY Albany where I learned how to be an independent teacher and researcher. My Albany colleagues were very supportive and helped me balance new teaching and administrative responsibilities with my own research. Family circumstances compelled me to resign from that position and relocate to Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU). I spent four productive years at HKBU and planted deeper roots in the East Asian community of historians. Then I successfully transferred to my current post at the University of Hong Kong (HKU), where I am a historian and can cultivate multidisciplinary interests through my research and teaching in China studies.

What do you like the most about where you live and work? I like the convenient transportation links to my research sites in mainland China and to participate in conferences around East Asia. I also benefit from the diverse, international group of faculty members at my home institution.

What projects are you currently working on? I am working on a dataset of non-(ethnic) Han personal names in Northeastern China from the 16th century to the present, and on a cultural history of Northeastern China cuisine.

Have your interests evolved since graduation? If so, how? My interests have changed a lot, thanks to the positive influence of colleagues all around the world. I enjoy applying methodology from environmental history, sociolinguistics, and historical anthropology to my studies of borderlands and frontiers which I formerly approached from political angles.

What’s the most fascinating thing you’ve ever found at the archives or while doing research? I saw an ornately carved wooden box containing genealogies from the 17th and 18th centuries while leading my students on a field trip in China’s Heilongjiang province. My students and I had a thorough discussion with the current caretaker of the genealogies about his ancestors and what cultural preservation means for people in his home region.

Is there an article, book, movie, blog etc. that you could recommend to fellow AHA members? I appreciate the work of the Recipes Project. I am sure many members are already familiar with it, as contributors and readers, but I still want to recommend it because it makes food studies and other related fields so accessible.

What do you value most about the history discipline? We do not give up on the potential of history to inform decisions at the individual and collective levels affecting our world’s present and future circumstances.

Why is membership in the AHA important to you? I like to know what fellow historians are investigating and to admire their achievements.

Do you have a favorite AHA annual meeting anecdote you would like to share? I have only presented a paper at one AHA annual meeting. I was happy to meet and engage with my fellow panelists, who I met for the first time at the conference. I was also pleasantly overwhelmed by the size and diversity of our audience. I was inspired by all of the comments and questions from such a large, supportive group. I look forward to presenting at another annual meeting in the future.

AHA members are involved in all fields of history, with wide-ranging specializations, interests, and areas of employment. To recognize our talented and eclectic membership, Perspectives Dailyfeatures a regular AHA Member Spotlight series.

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Matthew Keough
Matthew Keough

American Historical Association