Research

Research and Practice Statement

I am currently completing my PhD. in the department of Media Arts + Practice in the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California, and I will defend my dissertation in April 2022. My research and art practice explore the role of memory, violence, emotions, performance, and participation in the political imagination through the creation of anti-racist, transformative justice and community engaged documentary projects. Specifically, I investigate and experiment with expanded forms of media to design community-based projects (web, interactive, transmedia, games and public interventions), that document and archive memories of human rights violations, denounce injustices, and worldbuild alternative futures, with women led, feminist and LGBTQ+ collectives. I am interested in the politics of transference of knowledge and power inherent in archival procedures that takes place in the entanglement of stories, memories, people, media and things. In the process, I foster interdisciplinary collaborations that engage film, digital media and game design through discussions around race, gender, social movements, memory and cultural studies.

Based on the experiences of racialized state violence against popular anti-government uprisings in Nicaragua in 2018 that left a death toll of more than 300 civilians, my practice-based dissertation AMA y No Olvida (Love and do not forget), Museum of Memory Against Impunity involved the creation of the  first museum of memory in Nicaragua, and one of the few made collaboratively by the victims’ families.  The government has denied the existence of victims of state violence, denied the right to mourn and violently prevented the construction of memorials in public space. The museum documents memories of state violence, while still under repression, with a human rights and participatory approach, to dignify the victims who have been denied justice and as a way to challenge the climate of impunity that the regime wants to install. It consists of a database documentary and archive that holds more than 200 video testimonials, a photographic archive, memory artifacts, and hand-drawn maps that were turned into geographic information systems (GIS) digital maps that geo-localize the narratives of the murder of 100 victims as well as an itinerant transmedia exhibition including an Interactive Art book with an Augmented Reality component.

My doctoral dissertation is hybrid in form, bringing together my activist and artistic endeavors with critical and scholarly analysis. In the making of this project, I used feminist methods to engage critically and carefully in the labor of memory work as a form of community organizing that is at once affective, subjective, and embodied. The process was informed by participatory and decolonizing media design methods, which emphasizes collective exchange, collaboration and prioritizing the community’s knowledge and practices. Across the written portion of my dissertation, I have been able to critically examine the implications of including diverse voices in media ideation, creation, and distribution beyond the Nicaraguan context. I theorize how, through a set of media design methods, the families of victims became activist media makers by sharing and representing their memories of violence through what  I call “transmedia memory practices” that involved the collective creation, assembly and dissemination of this community owned media archive. I argue that in an environment of hyper-circulation and commodification of images of racialized death, families can deploy what I call “modular visibility” through the digital, to exercise control against the revictimization and retraumatization that the circulation of the images bring. Lastly, I also talk about participatory witnessing made possible by expanding the project into a performative and political space, in which society at large can participate and witness in the victims’ struggle for justice, creating an emotional community with solidarity and a moral and political commitment that recognizes and centers the victims as active survivors.

Other projects

My dissertation is part of a broader research agenda that engages with the use of temporality and fiction and media creation for anti-racist activism, and transnational feminism, based on women of color’s memory and critiques. For the Animating the Archives fellowship of the Los Angeles Woman’s Building I created an immersive multimedia piece that animated the work of the feminist performance art and activist collective called Sisters of Survival, active from 1981 to 1985. I also was part of the team that created Tracking Ida, an award winning educational alternate reality game inspired by the pioneering investigative journalism of Ida B. Wells in the 1890s. Student players uncover Ida B. Wells’ crusade against lynching by manipulating archives and historical artifacts, and use her strategies to investigate police and vigilante killings today. Another relevant experience was my master’s thesis, a participatory web based project called  OcupaInss.com, which hosts the memories of a social movement organized by Nicaraguan youth to support the elderly in their plea for a pension from the government in Nicaragua.

Publications 

Chamorro, Luciana, and Emilia Yang. 2018. “Social mobilization and control tactics in Neo Sandinismo: the case of #OcupaINSS.” Sandinismo 2.0: Neo-Authoritarianism, Oligarchy, and New Ideological Reconfigurations of the Political in Contemporary Nicaragua, Special Issue, Cahiers des Amériques Latines (87), 91-115. https://doi.org/10.4000/cal.8546

Yang, Emilia and Rogelio López. 2020. “Postcards​ ​from/at​ ​Donde​ ​Rebotan​ ​Los​ ​Sueños* (Where​ ​dreams​ ​hit​ ​the​ ​wall).” In Practicing Futures: A Civic Imagination Action Handbook. edited by Gabriel Peters-Lazaro, and Sangita Shresthova. New York: Peter Lang Publishers.

Yang, Emilia. 2020. “Tracking Ida: Unlocking Black resistance and civic imagination through alternative reality gameplay.” In Popular Culture and the Civic Imagination: A Casebook. edited by Henry Jenkins, Gabriel Peters-Lazaro, and Sangita Shresthova. New York: NYU Press.

López, Rogelio and Emilia Yang, Pablo Martínez, Gabriel Peters-Lázaro, Sangita Shresthova, Jenkins, Henry. 2018. “Postcards​ ​from/at​ ​Donde​ ​Rebotan​ ​Los​ ​Sueños* (Where​ ​dreams​ ​hit​ ​the​ ​wall) archive.” Regarding Borders issue. Immediacy New School Journal. 

Jenkins, Henry, Thomas J Billard, Samantha Close, Yomna Elsayed, Michelle C. Forelle, Rogelio Lopez, and Emilia Yang. 2017. “Participatory Politics.” In Keywords in Remix Studies, edited by Eduardo Navas, Owen Gallagher, and xtine burrough. New York, NY: Routledge.

Yang, Emilia. 2017. “Downtown Browns: Interactive Web Series, Intersectionality and Intimacy.” Henry Jenkins Blog. Confession on an ACA-FAN. 

Bogosian, Biayna and Emilia Yang. 2016. “Maria Clandestinas.” Additivist Cookbook. Amsterdam: The Institute of Network Cultures.

Copus, Jeff and Emilia Yang. 2015. “Creative Community Action to Reclaim City Spaces.” Sites of Protest, Protest, Media and Culture series, MeCCSA Social Movements Network, Rowman & Littlefield.

Selected Exhibitions and Screenings

2021 The Art of Change Human Rights Film Festival, Berlín, Germany.

2021 “AMA: Constructing Memory- Interactive Art Book” Resistance Biennale, Guatemala.

2021 Remembering is resisting: Archive in Construction”, Casa de las Américas, Madrid, Spain.

2021 “Mesoamérica Land of Fire”, Jade Museum, Poor and Workers’ Museum, San José, Costa Rica.

2020 “Focus on Centroamerica”, International Videoart House Spain, Madrid, España.

2019 “AMA y No Olvida, Memory Museum Against Impunity”, Institute of History of Nicaragua and Central America, Central American University, Managua, Nicaragua. 

2019 “Artists in Context”, Collective Show, Resistance Biennale, Guatemala, Guatemala.

2018 “HORs,” Outsider Transmedia Queer Festival Vortex Theatre, Austin, USA.

2017 “HORs,” Vital Hybrids Exhibition. B4BEL4B Gallery, Oakland, USA.

Animating the Archives, Women’s Building, Avenue 50 Gallery, Los Angeles, USA. 

Open Shows: Mndsgn, Sudan Archives, Cat500, Alex Theatre, Pasadena, USA.

IndieCade International Festival of Independent Games Europe, Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers, Paris, France.

“HORs” and “Tracking Ida,” IndieCade International Festival of Independent Games, Los Angeles, USA.

“HORs” and “Tracking Ida,” Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), Los Angeles, USA.

“Tracking Ida” Games for Change, New York, USA.

2017 “Postcards From/At Donde Rebotan Los Sueños,”  International Communications Association (ICA), Making and Doing Program, San Diego, USA.

2017 “Interactive Wearable Float,” Tote Your Float, deconstructed art parade, Art Walk Pasadena and Pasadena Armory Center for the Arts, Pasadena, USA.

2017 “Downtown Browns,” Queerness N’ Games Arcade, Los Angeles, USA.

2016 “Downtown Browns,” New Media and Games Summit at Tribeca Film Festival.

Play and the Subject of Social Change, First Forum Exhibition, Cinema and Media Studies Graduate Student Conference, School of Cinematic Arts, USC, Los Angeles, USA.

2016 “Magical Circles of Life Game,” Gaming for Everyone, IndieCade, International Festival of Independent Games, Los Angeles, USA.

Invited Talks

2021 “Archives of the Commons, Archives to Come” Vital Archives. Red Conceptualismos del Sur (Southern Conceptualisms Network) Queen Sofía Museum, Madrid, Spain. 

2021 “Nicaragua’s Collapse into Dictatorship” David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

2021 “Expressions of Memory and Political Imagination” Casa América, Madrid, Spain. 

2021 “Transmedia Memories, Participatory Witnessing and the Search for Justice in Nicaragua” UNC Chapel Hill, Department of Communication Colloquium Series, Chapel Hill, USA.

2020 “Tertulia: Social Movements, Identity, and Resistance in Contemporary Nicaragua” Latin American and Iberian Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara, California.

2020 “A Feminist look into Collective Memory”. Exchange of experiences of women human rights defenders. Alianzadas Project, Malvaluna Women’s Association, Spain.

2019 “Memories, feminism and media activism in Nicaragua after the Uprisings” Central American Memory Conference, Guatemala.

2017 “Political memories and imaginative futures through playful methodologies” UCLA Information Studies 2017-18 Colloquium, Los Angeles, USA. 

2017 “Poema Colectivo: Revolución +/- Technology” HTWW, Held Together with water, Le Commun, Geneva, Switzerland.

2016 “Salon on media activism with LA hacktivists/gamers,” Munroe Center for Social Inquiry and Digital Humanities Studio, Claremont College, Claremont, California.

Conferences 

2021 “Defending the right to Justice and Memory” Photography in, from and about Central America. Vulcanoamérica, Central American Congress of Cultural Studies, Guatemala. 

2021 “Traces of colonial violence in Central America today” Afro-descendant and Indigenous Cultures and Knowledge in the Past and Present of Mesoamerica, Wuppertal University, Germany.

2021 “AMA y No Olvida, Participatory Witnessing and Emotional Communities: through Spaces, Bodies and Objects”, Places of Memory, Latin American Studies Association (LASA), New York, USA.

2018 “Agit-Prop and Science Fiction as Intersectional and Queer Modalities”, Conference on the Couch, OUTsider Queer Transmedia Fest, Austin, TX, USA. 

2017 “Unbordered Imaginaries: Creative engagements Across the US/Mexico Border”, Civic Imagination Project. Annenberg School of Journalism, USC, Los Angeles, USA.

2017 “ThinkIndie: Games and Politics: Where Do We Stand?” IndieCade International Festival of Independent Games, Los Angeles, USA. 

2017 “Marías Clandestinas: between control, speculation and fabrication for a DIWO (Do-it-with-Others) abortion kits”. AIGA Design Educators conference, Converge: Disciplinarities and Digital Scholarship. Los Angeles, USA.

2017 “Social mobilization and digital communication in and against authoritarian populism: #OcupaInss, Nicaragua”. Populism, Post-Truth Politics and Participatory Culture: Interventions in the Intersection of Popular and Political Communication”. International Communications Association Pre-Conference, San Diego, USA.

2017 “Mapping Oppression in Women Players, GameDevs, and Characters”. Gender and Videogames Conference, San Jose, USA.

2017 “Downtown Browns: Interactive Film Series, Intersectionality and Intimacy” Queerness N’ Games Conference,  Los Angeles, USA.

2016 “Subjected to Play: Locating the Subject in the Promise of Play” Panel, First Forum Conference by USC SCA Critical Studies

2016 “To Trump Trump’s wall. Designing a framework for participatory, co-creative media and political design practice ” HASTAC 2016. Impact: Variation, Innovation, Action, Arizona, USA.

2016 “Dialogue with digital creators of Mexico and Central America. Cyberculture, politics and intellectual property rights”, Latin American Studies Association (LASA), New York, USA.

Selected Press

Dissertation coverage

¡Abril no se olvida! Libro recuerda a víctimas nicaragüenses”, La Nación, Costa Rica, 2021. 

Nicaragua: How Social Justice and Grief go Hand in Hand”, Humanities and Fine Art News, UCSB, 2020

Museum of Memory dedicated to victims of state violence wins prize in Nicaragua”, The Art Newspaper, 2020. 

Meet these 5 badass Nicaraguan women who are at the forefront of change”, The Tempest, 2020.

Museo sobre víctimas de las protestas contra Ortega gana premio en Nicaragua”, EFE, 2020.

“Protecting the most vulnerable: What it takes to make a case under the US asylum system”, San Diego Union Tribune, 2020. 

El Museo de la Memoria contra la Impunidad que rinde homenaje a las víctimas del régimen de Daniel Ortega”, Univision, 2019

Nicaragua: “Madres de Abril” abren Museo de la Memoria”, Deutsche Welle, 2019.

Un museo por la memoria y contra la impunidad en Nicaragua”, El País, 2019.

Inauguran el Museo de la Memoria contra la Impunidad “AMA y No Olvida” en Managua”, CNN, 2019.

Inauguran en Nicaragua museo memoria sobre víctimas de protesta contra Ortega”, EFE, 2019.

Interviews & work reviews

Ruberg, Bonnie. 2020. “Making Games about Queer Women of Color by Queer Women of Color”, Tonia B****** + Emilia Yang, The Queer Games Avant-Garde: LGBTQ Video Game Makers and the Future of Interactive Media. Duke University Press p.153-162.

Arkee, Donna. 2019. w3 wi11 ov3rf10w ur cistem g4t3s: The Hackers of Resistance.” American Quarterly 71.1: 287-294.

Valley, Lauren. 2018. Electric Women, “Time to Escalate”.

Dambrot, Shana Nys. 2017. “Animating the Archives: The Woman’s Building,” Art and Cake.  

Muchnic, Suzanne. 2017. “Wondering Women: ‘Animating the Archives’ Channeled the Energy of Feminist Activity in L.A. from 1975 to 1991”, Artnews

Ohanesian, Liz. 2017. “Young Creatives Are Using Games to Take on Issues Like Racism and the Refugee Crisis”, LAWeekly.

Jones, Kevin. 2017. “#Time2Escalate: Interactive Game Shows How Activism Requires Collaboration,” KQED Arts

Tittor, Anne. 2017. “La Cultura del Sandinismo in Nicaragua – Teorías y Testimonios”, H-Soz- i- Kult.

Weisenstein, Kara. 2016. “Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Videos Spotlight Women of Color,” The Creators Project, Vice.

Mask Staff, 2016. “Watch: Downtown Browns,” Mask Magazine, The Proximity Issue.

Downtown Browns,” USC Games. 2016.

Curatorial Projects

2017 Co-curator and founder of PRAXIS a series of exhibitions and monthly conversations with media artists, School of Cinematic Arts, USC.

2016 Curator “Play and the Subject of Social Change,” First Forum Exhibition, Cinema and Media Studies Graduate Student Conference, School of Cinematic Arts, USC.

2014 Curator “Operación Queer” ¿Cuál es tu cochonada? exhibition, Managua, Nicaragua. 

Research groups and summer schools

2020-2018 “Espira Espora “Espacio para la Investigación y Reflexión Artística”, Space for Research and Artistic Reflection led by Patricia Belli, Managua, Nicaragua.

2019 “Fight The Power 2019/1989: We, the Ungovernable”,  Nida Doctoral  School, Research Pavilion, Venice Biennale.

2019 “Decolonizing Memory, Ludically Unsettling Space and Time” Work Group led by Marianne Hirsch, Hemispheric Institute of Performance Arts Encuentro, CDMX. 

2017 “Summer School on Sandinista Culture, theories and testimonies”, HHU Düsseldorf in der BU Wuppertal.

2018-2015 Civic Paths Research group and Civic Imagination Project led by Henry Jenkins.

2016-2015 Archeologies of the Present Research Lab led by Norman Klein

Teaching 

Instructor: 

“Narrate to not forget. Historical memory and feminism”. Feminisms, Memory and Resistance in Latin America Graduate Seminar, Center for Higher Studies of Mexico and Central America. Chiapas University of Sciences and Arts, Mexico, 2021.

Annenberg Youth Academy for Media and Civic Engagement, Annenberg School of Journalism, USA, 2017.

Teaching Assistant:

IML 354 Introduction to 3D Modeling. Instructor Silvia Ragon. Fall 2020.

IML 202 Media Arts and Practice Studio I. Instructor Michael Bodie and Evan Huges. Fall 2020. 

IML 320 Designing and Writing for Transmedia. Instructor Vicki Callahan. Spring 2018.

IML 364 Methods in Digital Research. Instructor Kiki Benzon. Spring 2018.

CNTV 101 Reality Starts Here. Instructor: Jeff Watson. Fall 2017.

IML 364 Methods in Digital Research. Instructor Kiki Benzon. Spring 2017.

IML 335 Digital Narrative Design. Instructor Ashley York. Spring 2017.

IML 295 Race, Class and Gender in Digital Culture. Instructor Virginia Kuhn. Fall 2016.

Workshop: “How do we turn interactive videos into tools of empowerment?” Allied Media Conference 2016.