Skip to main content

Mira BalbergAndrea Mendoza

Assistant Professor

Department of Literature

Andrea Mendoza received her Ph.D. from Cornell University in August 2019 and will be joining the Department of Literature as assistant professor in Inter-Asian and Transpacific Studies.

As a scholar of literature and transpacific studies, forging interdisciplinary and intercultural connections is at the core of her comparative research, which focuses on bringing together East Asia and Latin America to analyze how cultural differences and identities are imagined and expressed in diverse media.

In her dissertation, Mendoza combined analyses of philosophical texts, novels and films to speak critically to and trace unexpected parallels between ideas and discourses about race, empire and nation in 20th-century Japan and Mexico.

Alongside generous fellowships from Cornell’s East Asia Program, her doctoral work has been supported by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, the SSRC-Mellon Mays Graduate Initiatives Program, and the Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowships Program.

Beyond her research, Mendoza is committed to promoting the collaborative, transnational study of texts and media — something she pursued by participating in and organizing interdepartmental reading and writing groups while at Cornell. She has also taught popular courses highlighting this commitment at both Cornell and New York University.

At UC San Diego, she looks forward to further opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration and will offer courses that that overlap her interests in critical race and gender studies, critical theory, and popular culture.

What excites you most about coming to UC San Diego?

The Department of Literature and the academic community at UC San Diego are what makes me most thrilled about coming to UC San Diego. First and foremost, I am excited about being part of a department that has such a rich history and reputation for interdisciplinary work and whose faculty have been direct sources of inspiration for my writing and research for a long time.

I am also looking forward to getting to know the fantastic student community of the Division of Arts and Humanities. UC San Diego is unique for its many opportunities for cross-departmental collaboration through its various exciting programs and centers, and my sense is that the university’s commitment to providing a rigorous and supportive intellectual life for its students comes through in its stellar record for interdisciplinarity. Needless to say, I am eager to become a part of that!

Why did you choose your field of study?

I always knew I wanted a career where I could read and write about literature. When I started my B.A., I initially wanted to major in French literature. Because I tested into upper level seminars for the French department at my college, however, I chose to fulfill my language requirement with Japanese. Cut to my second semester: I began taking more courses in Japanese literatures and cinema and switched majors.

I was lucky to have professors who incorporated perspectives in postcolonial theory and gender and sexuality studies very early on in my training. It opened my eyes to the ways in which the field of literature, studied against traditional modes of thinking about national literatures, could speak to a variety of issues pertaining to questions on race, nationalism and colonialism. These formative experiences helped me perceive the study of literature as a responsibility to address those questions. Seeing the study of Japanese language literatures as an opening for responding to larger historical and political questions was the first step to my becoming a comparatist.

What advice do you have for students who choose to major in arts and humanities?

Get more sleep! On a more serious note (though sleep is a very serious matter), I cannot sufficiently emphasize the importance of having a good community of fellow students with whom you can have meaningful conversations and feel safe in thinking critically and creatively. Such an intellectual community is often more valuable to your academic growth than the required texts (but please do read them!). A strong network of support will be what allows you to thrive in studying what you love.

How do you view your role relative to the greater regional community?

I have only just arrived, so it’s difficult to speak to an image of a role at the time. I am, however, looking forward to becoming more familiar with the greater San Diego community as a scholar and avid lover of all things literature and art. My dream is to collaborate with other activists, scholars and artists in San Diego on programs that promote cultural awareness, equity and inclusion.

Tell us something about yourself that is not normally mentioned in your bio.

Two things: 1) I try to befriend every cat I meet. 2) I draw a lot and not very well.