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Student of the Month: Mihee Kim-Kort

Mihee Kim-Kort (she/her) is a PhD candidate in Religious Studies at Indiana University with a focus on Religion in the Americas as well as a PhD minor in Critical Ethnic and Postcolonial Studies. Prior to her doctoral studies she received degrees in Theology ('08) and Divinity ('04) from Princeton Theological Seminary focusing on Religion and Society, and then a BA in English Literature and Religion ('96) from the University of Colorado-Boulder. She was also ordained as Presbyterian (PCUSA) minister in 2005 and has served two churches as an associate pastor and is presently co-pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Annapolis, MD.

Her research looks at how religion and race intersect to construct the minoritized subject as a US citizen, and how not only racial/ethnic but specifically religious figures are necessary for the US body politic. Her work explores the impact of religion, specifically American Christianity, not simply as one cultural marker or characteristic of these processes but as a driving force by looking at a variety of "texts" and "objects" including memoirs by early Korean immigrants, H-Mart, Theresa Hakyung Cha's Dictee, and ways that Korean churches and parachurch orgs articulate who they are through various media.

What are you studying and why? How will you use that in your call?

I study religion because it's a way to look at the cultural, social, political, and theological phenomena of something so deeply intertwined in people's lives, even those who say they are not part of a religious or faith tradition. Especially in the US it's easy to overstate its presence and impact, but it's just as easy to gloss over it at so many levels whether individual/personal, and public, especially in terms of the political, by flattening it and making it one-dimensional. What's amazing to me is to see how religion shows up in the places we least expect but how it can give us unique insight into humanity. My hope is that my research will help us better understand relationships towards just ways of doing community and life together.

What have you learned from your leadership experiences? What student activities have you been involved in/led?

One leadership activity that I've been involved in this past year was chairing the Religion in the Public Life Unit for the Midwest Region of the American Academy of Religion. It's really wonderful and interesting to see the kind of work people are doing all over the world—one of our panels had someone from Brazil—and how they see religion operating in the public sphere. It's been great to engage people who are at different points in their own professional careers, students and doctoral candidates and faculty, and learn from the passion they have for their own research topics. The main thing I've learned so far in this work is the push to continuously be open to learning from other projects—methods, objects of study, interlocutors—and rather than a scarcity mindset, which leads to unhelpful comparison, I'm learning to look at all of this as one large conversation. There's so much to explore, to think about and talk about, so how can institutions—whether guilds or programs—encourage space for cross-pollinating and a mutual growing-together?

How would you describe yourself?

In whatever spare time (or sometimes if I'm procrastinating or ultimately need a break), I will read and journal, and try to reflect on some bigger questions. I enjoy exercising and working out, walking and running, and just being outside. I love all things Marvel, and have cultivated my children's love of the movies and stories. During the pandemic I didn't make much bread, but I did buy way too many plants. They're all doing well, except sadly, one didn't make it.

What are you looking forward to most this year?

It's been such a hard, strange season, but I feel thankful for what I've experienced and accomplished so far: taking my written exams even in the midst of our entire household getting coronavirus in January, passing my oral exam afterwards in February, working on the dissertation proposal and passing the oral defense for it in October. . .all in the middle of moving to and living in a whole new city, a whole new full-time job, raising three children with my spouse, and in the middle of a pandemic. I'm trying not to take things for granted. So, I'm looking forward to this next season of the process—really immersing myself in this work—in the research, reading, reflecting—and then looking forward to how this work will teach and grow me not just professionally but as a whole person. I love the surprise of breakthroughs and epiphanies. I'm looking forward to other writing opportunities and ways to connect and grow through different networks, and then just the feeling of being on the other side of a finished project in the dissertation.

Anything else you would like to share about yourself?

We have a boxer dog named Beatrice (almost 3) and two cats, named Bane and Drake (neither are named after the villain or the rapper, respectively). We also help care for our daughter's hamster, Dora (named after the Explorer). These creatures deftly add to the zoo-like life we try to facilitate in our home with our three elementary school-aged kids. But, I love this life, I wouldn't trade it for anything, and am continually inspired by the little community in our home.

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