Thy Phu

Photo of Thy Phu.
Professor and Departmental Chair
Telephone number
Building AA 327
Media Studies


Thy Phu is a Distinguished Professor of Race, Diaspora and Visual Justice at the Department of Arts, Culture, and Media. After completing her PhD at the University of California Berkeley, and a Mellon postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Toronto, she joined Western University, where for more than a decade, she taught courses on visual studies, cultural theory, and Asian North American culture. Her research and public humanities practice examine the intersections between media studies, diaspora and migration, vision and justice. She is the author of two books, Picturing Model Citizens: Civility in Asian American Visual Culture and Warring Visions: Photography and Vietnam. She is also coeditor of another three volumes, Feeling Photography, Refugee States: Critical Refugee Studies in Canada, and Cold War Camera. In 2017, she was elected as member of the College of New Scholars, Artists, and Scientists at the Royal Society of Canada. She is co-editor of the peer-reviewed journal of Trans Asia Photography and is currently co-director of Refugee States, a community-led project that creates counter-archives of refugee and migrant digital storytelling, which is funded by a SSHRC Race, Gender and Diversity Initiative grant.


Ph.D, University of California at Berkeley

Teaching Interests

Visual culture and communication; critical refugee studies; multiculturalism and diaspora 

Research Interests

War and visual culture; photography studies; Asian North American studies; critical refugee studies; diaspora studies

Awards and Grants

SSHRC Insight Grant, "Visual Kinship: : Race and the Transnational Practices of Family Photography" (2020-2025)
SSHRC Partnership Development Grant, “The Family Camera Network.” (2016-2019)
SSHRC Connection Grant, "Cold War Camera." (2014-2016)


Brown, Elspeth and Thy Phu, eds. Feeling Photography (Durham: Duke University Press, 2014).

Edited book.


Vinh Nguyen and Thy Phu, eds. Refugee States: Humanitarian Exceptionalism and Critical Refugee Studies in Canada (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2021).

Edited book (open-access copy available)


Phu, Thy and Elspeth Brown. “The Cultural Politics of Aspiration: The Family Camera’s Mixed Feelings.” The Journal of Visual Culture 17.2 (2020): 152-165.

Journal Article


Phu, Thy. “Double Capture: Native Americans in WRA Internment Photography”  

Amerasia 42.1 (2016): 16-40.

Journal article


Phu, Thy. Picturing Model Citizens: Civility in Asian American Visual Culture. (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2012).



Phu, Thy. “Refugee Photography and the Subject of Human Interest,” in Photography and Migration, ed. Tanya Sheehan (London: Routledge, 2020): 135-149.•


Phu, Thy. “The S-21 Archive and the Ethics of Proximate and Distant Spectatorship in the Time of Cold War Human Rights,” in The Public Life of Photography, eds. Melissa Miles and Ed Welch (London: Bloomsbury Press, 2020).


Phu, Thy. Warring Visions: Photography and Vietnam (Durham: Duke University Press, forthcoming December 2021)



Phu, Thy. Cold War Camera (Durham: Duke University Press, forthcoming 2022)



“Queering Family Photography”
Co-curator with Elspeth Brown
April 21-May 26, 2018
Stephen Bulger Gallery (Toronto)

The Family Camera
Co-curator with Deepali Dewan, Julie Crooks, and Sarah Bassnett
May 6, 2017 to October 29, 2017    
Royal Ontario Museum and the Art Gallery of Mississauga (Toronto + Mississauga)



Trans Asia Photography
Co-editor with Deepali Dewan and Yi Gu