Kailey Tam (BA, English Language and Literatures, Honours)

Kailey Tam is a Han Chinese settler born and raised on the unceded and ancestral territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh nations. They are graduating with a BA in Honours English Literature and Language with a minor in Asian Canadian and Asian Migration Studies. During their time at UBC, they’ve worked as a Communications Coordinator for ACAM; been a part of ACAM Tributaries team of editors; and completed an honours thesis about the biopolitical perception of (un)impressibility in Asian bodies and how that determines their positionality on a racial hierarchy that justifies the exploitation of their labour.

Why were you drawn to the ACAM program? 

In full transparency, I was looking for electives, and ACAM happened to be at the top of the list on SSC due to alphabetical order. I clicked into it and went into a deep dive into ACAM’s website. I think it was one of the first times where I saw myself reflected directly in school content—people with similar stories of migration, people that looked like me, people that were voicing and exploring the things that I wanted to voice and explore. I love that ACAM is interdisciplinary—that I can bring my full self and experiences and background into the program and have that be considered valuable and integral to learning. I took my first ACAM course (ASIA 389 with Dr. Sunera Thobani), joined ACAM’s Tributaries team, and that was that.

How has ACAM impacted you or the people around you? 

I don’t think I’ll ever forget that first day of class in ASIA 389 with Dr. Thobani. The class was titled “Life Writings of South Asian Diasporic Women,” and before we began our deep dive into these personal and vulnerable stories, Dr. Thobani asked us why we should even bother studying and learning about these life writings. Our class came up with great answers—knowledge is valuable; closing a gap in history; creating spaces of acceptance and belonging; fulfilling missing narratives. Of course, all these answers aren’t wrong, but Dr. Thobani just said simply, “Because they are there.”

And I think that’s one of the guiding principles of ACAM that really impacted me: these stories and experiences that we try our best to voice and retell are valuable because they are there, simply by virtue of their existence. I’m learning that my own experiences are valuable—not necessarily because they’re life-changing or revolutionary—but because they exist.