AAS Member Spotlight: Victoria Reyes

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Dr. Victoria Reyes, Bryn Mawr College, Assistant Professor, Growth and Structure of Cities Department
Sociology; Philippines

How long have you been a member of AAS?
3 years
Why did you join AAS and why would you recommend AAS to your colleagues?
I joined AAS to meet scholars interested in Asia, particularly Southeast Asia, and to share my own research.
How did you first become involved in Asian Studies?
I first learned about the AAS through an email about the Philippine Studies Group and wanted to get involved. However, I've been interested in Asian studies more generally since I was an undergraduate at The Ohio State University, where I have dual degrees in International Studies and Psychology and a minor in Asian American studies. As an undergraduate, I conducted research on Filipinas who migrated to the US through marriage to US servicemen, and after I graduated I was able to conduct research in the Philippines on mothers of Amerasian children through a Fulbright.
What do you enjoy most or what have been your most rewarding experiences involving your work in Asian Studies?
I enjoy conducting research, learning from others, and teaching students
Tell us about your current or past research.
My work focuses on semi-autonomous, foreign-controlled sites of international exchange that I call "global borderlands" (Reyes 2015). By foreign-control, I refer to either foreign-ownership or places that are heavily influenced by foreigners. For example, special economic zones are places where tariff barriers are relaxed to attract international businesses, but are not foreign-owned. Global borderlands include places like overseas military bases, special economic zones, tourist resorts, embassies, international branch campuses, and cruise ships. Despite encompassing such different sites, I argue that global borderlands share three characteristics: semi-sovereignty based on foreign-control, geographic and symbolic boundaries, and structural inequality.

I suggest that in order to understand global inequality, it is important to study not only global cities or highly contested zones alongside geopolitical boundaries, but also smaller scaled places where routine interactions occur between locals and foreigners in foreign-controlled spaces. My book manuscript explores this concept through a case study of the Subic Bay Freeport Zone, Philippines (SBFZ). As home of the former U.S. Subic Bay Naval Base, and current site of Freeport businesses, tourist resorts, and the continued presence of the U.S. military, the SBFZ serves as a particularly strategic research location to study varied forms of foreign-control on-the-ground. In this project I show how legal, political, socio-economic, and cultural negotiations among Filipinos and foreigners maintain the SBFZ’s distinctiveness and reproduce inequality within and outside this space.

What advice or recommendation do you have for students interested in a career in Asian Studies?
Be methodologically and theoretically grounded in a particular discipline, while bringing the interdisciplinary strength of Asian studies to the substantive content of your work.
Outside of Asian Studies, tell us some interesting facts about yourself.
I have a 22 month old who I take everywhere with me. I was pregnant with her while in the field, she traveled with me to the American Sociological Association’s annual meeting at 6 weeks old and she accompanied me to the Philippines for additional field work January 2016! I’m lucky and privileged to have my grandmother live with us to help raise my daughter.

Reyes, Victoria

"Be methodologically and theoretically grounded in a particular discipline, while bringing the interdisciplinary strength of Asian studies to the substantive content of your work."

— Victoria Reyes