Back in 2021, undergraduate student Jennifer Orth participated in the University's Petersheim Academic Exposition – an annual celebration of scholastic accomplishments involving students, faculty, administrators and staff from various disciplines – where she spoke about her research and ultimately, received a Student Travel Award. Presented at each Expo, the award is a reimbursement stipend offered to select students that can be used toward the presentation of their research at a regional, national or international conference.
Fast forward to this summer, Orth is entering her senior year with an impressive accomplishment under her belt: her research took the stage at the 16th World Congress of Bioethics (WCB), an international gathering of bioethicists on cutting-edge, bioethical topics that continue to challenge the field.
"When I was researching conference options, I was drawn to the WCB for a few reasons, but mainly because it was international which meant more networking opportunities with established bioethicists from around the world," explained Orth, who is double majoring in Biochemistry and Philosophy.
Held in Basel, Switzerland, this year's WCB meeting focused on the theme, "Bioethics post COVID-19: Responsibility and transparency in a globalized and interconnected world," a topic directly in tune with Orth's Petersheim presentation, A Return of the Yellow Peril Beast.
After applying to speak at the WCB, Orth expanded her project to further develop the philosophical theories used, renaming the presentation to Recontextualizing Yellow Peril for the SARS-CoV-2 Pandemic.
"The project examines how violence and perceptions against Asian Americans in the United States has changed in recent years, shifting a focus on the model minority myth to Yellow Peril and viral rhetoric, which is more recently used in light of the pandemic," explained Orth.
Orth partnered with one of her closest friends on the project, Jadon Grossberg, who is currently attending Georgia Institute of Technology (GIT). Both Orth and Grossberg are proud of their Asian American heritage, which helped inspire the project's vision and focus.
"Many of my conversations with Jadon focus on our experiences as Asian Americans living in a majority whitespace. I knew the project I wanted to take on for the WCB was beyond my sole philosophical knowledge, so I invited Jadon to work together given his experience with Asian American identity theory," commented Orth.
At the conference, the pair received positive and encouraging feedback from the audience on their presentation, who asked thought-provoking questions. "We turned the questions into a conversation, which made the overall experience more enjoyable," said Orth.
Summarized in its abstract, the project explored modes of solvency and survival strategies for Asian American communities, offering a narrative that can produce affective connections which foster sympathy and deconstruct racist modes of understanding.
However, one of the most surprising elements of the project came at its beginning, Orth highlighted: "Much of Asian American past is made invisible and has been erased, so we really took a deep dive into learning more about Asian American history and key historical points like the Los Angeles lynchings, the murder of Vincent Chin and the In re Ah Yup decision."
Reflecting on her experience, Orth offered her gratitude to faculty and administrators within the College of Arts and Sciences who supported her presentation saying, "This effort would not have been possible without the help and support of my professors, Dr. KC Choi, Dr. Abe Zakhem, Dr. Bryan Pilkington and GIT's Dr. Ida Yoshinaga, along with the Dean’s Office and Department of Philosophy."