This month, the Center for Jewish Civilization is reintroducing its Student Spotlight Series! This month’s spotlight is Yebin Won, a sophomore in the School of Foreign service majoring in International Politics with a concentration in Security Studies. Recently, she was awarded funding to conduct independent research this summer. The Lisa J. Raines Fellowship provides up to $5,000 in funding for successful applicants; 66 Georgetown students have won the award in the past 20 years. Won, who is from Singapore and Seoul, South Korea, will conduct research on the incel movement this summer. In the fall, she plans to study ethnopolitical conflicts at Oxford University. Read our interview with her below to learn about her research interests and experience on the Hilltop.
Q: Could you tell us about how you joined the CJC? What were some of the push factors?
A: I first learned about the CJC while being in Prof. Berlinerblau’s freshman proseminar, Fictions of Politics and International Relations. I came to Georgetown interested in learning about genocide prevention and ethnopolitical conflicts. After talking with Prof. Berlinerblau, CJC staff, and students about the center, I knew CJC was the place for me. Everyone was so sweet and welcoming whenever I was at the Center, and as a brand-new freshman I was drawn to its sense of community and warmth. It also didn’t hurt that Prof. Berlinerblau is very persuasive!
Q: What was you first CJC class?
A: My first (and favorite) CJC class was Holocaust Forensics with Fr. Desbois and Fr. McManus. It was an absolutely riveting class – I had superficial knowledge of the Holocaust from my fourth-grade history unit, but this class took it to a whole new level. In addition to learning about concepts like “perpetrator culture” and the stages of a genocide, the class’s impact was further augmented by our trip to Lviv, Ukraine. Following Fr. Desbois, we visited mass graves of Holocaust victims, interviewed witnesses, and examined the legacy of the Holocaust in Ukraine. I still find myself flipping through our syllabus, reminding myself of our readings and the discussions; so much of this class informed me of my studies as well as my how I might translate my academic pursuits into meaningful forms of service.
Q: You have just won a Raines award to research incels this summer. Congratulations! Can you tell us about how you developed this research interest and what you hope to accomplish this summer?
A: I was inspired to pursue my research into incels (involuntary celibates) when I attended Professor Bruce Hoffman’s talk on incels and their interaction with online far-right groups this January. When Professor Hoffman detailed key incel rhetoric and jargon, I was struck by how common these features were in everyday social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. After doing some research, I found that there was a group of Asian incels separate from the mainstream, predominantly white “inceldom.” Despite being thoroughly disturbed by their violently misogynistic rhetoric, especially against Asian women, I was drawn to studying them, as they embodied a very unique space in online extremism and radicalization. They not only juggled a multitude of identities (e.g. race, gender expression), but also showed no noticeable violent strain like their mainstream counterpart. By conducting a comparative analysis between Asian and mainstream inceldoms, my research hopes to make sense of why that might be.
My summer will be spent following the incel movement on social media forums, Zoom-interviewing experts in the field of terrorism and extremism, and drinking lots of cold brew! I’m so excited to see where this research will take me.
Q: Another amazing development in your academic career was your acceptance to Oxford’s study abroad program. Can you tell me a bit about the opportunity, why you applied, and what you anticipate for the fall?
A: The Oxford study abroad program is an opportunity for Georgetown juniors to spend an entire year at the University of Oxford. The selection process is a bit different from other study abroad programs in that it requires applicants to receive a university nomination from Georgetown before they can apply to Oxford; this means that applicants start preparing in early September!
Oxford didn’t really enter my mind until the beginning of my sophomore year. Since I’m an international student, I was always a bit hesitant to go abroad (or, as my dad jokes, go “abroad-abroad”). However, while researching possible study abroad destinations, I was immediately drawn to the University of Oxford. Not only is the campus absolutely gorgeous (always a plus if you’re going to be anywhere other than the Hilltop), but it also affords students the opportunity to engage in the famous Oxford tutorial system. The one-on-one tutorial system was definitely a big push factor because I wanted to explore a more intimate learning experience than ones usually offered in American universities. And, as someone who used to be a classical singer, I was also intrigued by the possibility of joining (or at least attending live performances of) Oxford’s famous choirs.
Due to the current pandemic, my study abroad plans are a bit up in the air; that being said, if I am allowed to go to Oxford, I plan on studying violent ethnopolitical conflicts and their influence on post-conflict democratic processes. In particular, I hope to investigate ideological and philosophical thoughts around ethnicity and how they contribute to violent state disintegration and formation. Going to Oxford this fall seems a bit unrealistic at the moment given the COVID-19 situation, but I’m hoping that I will get to take classes with my tutors online and arrive on campus during the second term.
Q: How has the CJC informed your time at Georgetown?
A: I’ve been very fortunate to call this incredibly community my on-campus family since my first semester on the Hilltop. It’s where I go almost every day to chat with my friends, check in with my favorite professors, or discuss cover letters and career opportunities with its stellar staff. The CJC has introduced me to some of my favorite classes, amazing academic mentors (in both professors and students), and an unbeatable support system. I’ve also found that CJC people are the first I turn to for advice, encouragement, and celebration, whatever the occasion may be.
Q: What are some of your professional goals for the future? What do you look forward during your next few years at Georgetown?
A: Looking forward to the next few years on the Hilltop, I hope to continue my studies in violent ethnopolitical conflicts and extremism. I’ve also been planning to apply for the accelerated degree program for the Security Studies Program, which I believe will help further my academic and professional interests.
Q: What are some other clubs you’re involved in and activities you engage in at Georgetown?
A: I’m currently a regular contributor for the Caravel, a barista at Uncommon Grounds (a branch of Students of Georgetown, Inc.), and a TA for the Map of the Modern World. When I’m not chatting up a storm in the CJC or frantically brewing coffee during UG rush hour, you can find me religiously avoiding the gym or strolling down to Compass Coffee on Wisconsin Avenue.