Photo: UW Photo

Justin K.H. Tse (謝堅恆) is Visiting Assistant Professor of Asian American Studies at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL. Previously, he taught religious studies at the University of Washington’s Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies in Seattle, WA, and human geography at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, BC. He became a Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of Canada Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Washington in 2014 after receiving his Ph.D. in Geography at the University of British Columbia at Vancouver (UBC) in May 2014. He earned his B.A. (Hon.) in History in 2007 and an MA in Geography in 2009, also from UBC.

Justin’s research focuses on the civil societies of the Pacific Rim, especially on the relationship between ideology and theology in cities in this region. Since his undergraduate studies, he has found himself especially curious about the anchoring role that Hong Kong plays in this geography. His B.A. honours essay in history focused on the films of the Hui Brothers in 1970s Hong Kong and examined what it meant to be a young man in Hong Kong during that time period. A fascination with Chinese churches in Vancouver brought him to the Department of Geography, where he worked with Professor David Ley to write an M.A. thesis on a transnational Hongkonger church in Richmond, British Columbia, where he explored ways in which a Hongkonger, Cantonese-speaking cultural geography is constructed in relation to both an Anglophone Canadian one as well as Mandarin-speaking migrants from the People’s Republic of China (PRC). He is also involved in publishing from a collaborative project on the immigrant integration and interfaith dialogue opportunities on Richmond’s ‘Highway to Heaven,‘ a stretch of road where over 20 religious institutions are located in the space of two blocks of converted agricultural land. His PhD dissertation, also supervised by Professor Ley, examined Cantonese-speaking Protestants’ engagements with the secular civil societies of Hong Kong, Metro Vancouver, and the San Francisco Bay Area and the ‘grounded theologies’ (including theological ‘secular’ ones) that these activities generated. His current postdoctoral project focuses on the politicization of civil societies in Pacific Rim cities in relation to state-and-market schemes of privatization and economic integration; the case studies include the origins and aftermath of Hong Kong’s 2014 prodemocracy Umbrella Movement protest occupations, Asian Americans involved in the Black Lives Matter movement in American cities (especially Seattle), and Chinese and Japanese Canadians engaging the neighbourhood politics of Chinatown and the Downtown Eastside in Vancouver.

Justin was born in Vancouver and moved to the San Francisco Bay Area when he was six weeks old.  He was raised in Fremont, CA, and attended a Chinese Protestant church where Cantonese, Mandarin, Taiwanese, and English members attempted to co-exist. He also attended Moreau Catholic High School in Hayward, CA. Both of these cities are on the East Bay, where his Chinese American father was ordained in the African American Progressive Baptist denomination at Allen Temple Baptist Church in Oakland, CA. By the time Justin left Fremont in 2004, the 2000 United States Census recorded that 37% of its residents were Asian American and that the nonwhite population was officially greater than a numerical white minority (47%).


Allen Temple Baptist Church, June 19, 2000

Justin returned to Vancouver in 2004 to attend UBC while living in Richmond, a Vancouver suburb that boasted a population of 43% Chinese by the 2006 Canadian census. While completing his degrees at UBC, he took advantage of the diverse theological landscape of the city and has developed an increasingly ecumenical orientation in his practice of theology – especially engaging Anglicanism (including the Episcopal Church) across the alphabet soup of the global realignment (by which liberals, conservatives, and the vast majority in between are all included), Catholicism of Latin and various Eastern varieties, and the dizzying array of Orthodox churches – as well as appreciation for other faith communities, religious traditions, and interfaith dialogues. This broader religious scope has enabled him to teach and interact with a diverse array of students and faculty from many theological and ideological persuasions when he moved to Seattle in 2014 to be a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Washington’s Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies. He hopes to hone this commitment to ideological mapping, theological generosity, and personal engagement as he becomes Visiting Assistant Professor of Asian American Studies at Northwestern University.

For him, studying Cantonese Protestants (among various other theological traditions) is thus not an attempt to reinforce his own identity, but to map various modes of theological and ideological existence in the world. This research agenda indicates that he still maintains geography as a primary disciplinary home, although geographers are notorious for interdisciplinary promiscuity. As an academic, he is committed to public community engagement and has spoken with media and community groups about religion, ethnicity, and civil society, which is why he also runs a blog called Religion Ethnicity Wired.


Religion and ethnicity wire me like coffee. (Photo Credit: Ignatius Ng Photography)

Awards, Fellowships, and Scholarships:
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Postdoctoral Award,
Edgar Wickberg Prize in Chinese Canadian History
, Chinese Canadian Historical Society of British Columbia, 2012.
Pacific Century Graduate Scholarship, Province of British Columbia, 2009-2013
Four-Year Fellowships for Ph.D. Students, University of British Columbia, 2009-2013.
Ph.D. Tuition Award, University of British Columbia, 2009-2013.
Go Global International Learning Programs Award, University of British Columbia, 2010.
Joseph-Armand Bombardier Award of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Master’s Award, 2008-2009.
Graduate Entrance Scholarship, Department of Geography, University of British Columbia, 2007-2008.
History Students’ Association Award, University of British Columbia, 2006-2007.
TREK Excellence Continuing Scholars’ Award, University of British Columbia, 2006-2007.
TREK Excellence Continuing Scholars’ Award, University of British Columbia, 2005-2006.
Undergraduate Scholars Program Award, University of British Columbia, 2004-2005

Professional Memberships
American Association of Geographers
Canadian Association of Geographers
Association for Asian American Studies
Chinese Canadian Historical Society of British Columbia
American Academy of Religion
Society for the Scientific Study of Religion