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Koh Libong, Thailnd


Dr. Jon Cho-Polizzi is a Collegiate Fellow and Assistant Professor of German at the University of Michigan. He received his PhD from UC Berkeley in the fields of German and Medieval Studies. His research focuses on contemporary literature, literary translation, migration, poetry, translingualism, and radical diversity in the German-speaking world. 

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Growing up in a rural community on the sea-blown shores of the world's largest ocean, I always knew a part of me belonged overseas. Maybe it started with my hyphenated name: this feeling of belonging at once to more than just one place.

My childhood blessed me with a sense of tolerance born from the inescapable cohabitation of small-town life in the American West, a love for nature from a childhood spent in sylvan isolation, and a profound sense of the fragility of humanity's disputed role amidst the natural world.

An interest in the documentary power of photography and writing began before I'd finished high school, when I took night photo lab sessions at the coastal campus of the local community college, edited the Features section of our burgeoning school newspaper, and worked as photographer and section editor for the high school yearbook.


I studied European History and German- and English-language Literature[s] at the University of California: Santa Cruz, graduating with Honors in both majors while continuing to pursue my interests in both publishing and the natural world. My photography and poetry were featured in a number of local zines and journals throughout my studies, and I'd advanced from a recreational SCUBA enthusiast to a NAUI-certified Divemaster [#49341] before my graduation in 2008. It was during this time that I also experienced my first extended stay abroad, participating in an intensive summer language course from the Goethe Institut in Bremen and a UC EAP-facilitated semester abroad at University of Warwick in England.

My experience guiding in the turbid waters of the North Pacific revealed early on an aptitude for differentiated instruction, providing me with a practical and sometimes profoundly critical introduction to the unique learning processes of each individual student.

After a year working and traveling through Latin America and the US-American South following my graduation, I returned to Europe in the summer of 2009. Working full-time for three years teaching English as a foreign language at Heidelberg's F + U Academy of Languages in picturesque southwestern Germany, I also successfully completed a post-baccalaureate certificate at the Latin Summer School at University College Cork in Ireland. Alongside my employment, I received an MA in Übersetzungswissenschaft [Translation Studies] from Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg in 2012.

These at times difficult years abroad helped codify my abilities as a highly successful multitasker, as well as provided me with both a practical and theoretical background in the intricacies of language [and cultural] acquisition.

Following another half year of work and travel across Southeast Asia, as well as a final extended stay in Heidelberg, I returned full-time to California in the summer of 2013, joining the Department of German at the University of California, Berkeley, as an aspiring PhD student. During my initial years in the Department, I also became active in Berkeley's Program in Folklore, as well as its Institute of European Studies. I received an additional MA in German in 2014. Pursuing a concurrent PhD with the Program in Medieval Studies, I successfully advanced to Doctoral Candidacy after the completion of my oral Qualifying Exams in 2016, having completed the necessary written-language and translation courses and exams in Latin, Old Norse, and modern Dutch.

From 2014 through 2018, I was managing editor for the Department of German's online TRANSIT Journal, where I oversaw the complete publication process of two journal volumes encompassing issues 10.1, 10.211.1, and 11.2 in cooperation with TRANSIT's Concept Coordinator, Professor Deniz Göktürk. I remain active in the journal's editorial staff, and have also guest edited translations for 12.2 as well as the essay collection Your Homeland is our Nightmare (a first for TRANSIT Journal). 

I received my PhD from the Department of German and Program in Medieval Studies in Spring 2020, with an additional Designated Emphasis (minor) in Folklore. My dissertation, A Different (German) Village, explores the intersection of rural life, migration, and identity constructs in the German-language literary tradition--from the nascent stages of late-18th century German national thought to the contemporary rise of neo-nationalism. My research and practical interests include translation theory, migration, poetry, cultural history, and decolonial anthropology, complimented by a more-traditional philological background rooted in my studies of Medieval history and literature.

From Fall 2020 through Winter 2021, I taught English language and literature at the East Bay German International School, a hybrid classroom environment with both in-person and remote students.

In addition to my work as an LSA Collegiate Fellow and Assistant Professor of German at the University of Michigan, I am also a freelance literary translator. I co-edited the translated essay collection Your Homeland is Our Nightmare with Fatma Aydemir and Hengameh Yaghoobifarah, and have also translated Sharon Dodua Otoo's Adas Raum [Ada's Room/ Ada's Realm] and Max Czollek's Desintegriert Euch! [De-Integrate! A Jewish Survival Guide for the 21st Century]. In the spring of 2023, I was a translator-in-residence at the Literarisches Colloquium Berlin, sponsored by the TOLEDO-Programm's Mobility Fund, while working on my forthcoming translation of Fatma Aydemir's Dschinns. I divide my time between Ann Arbor, Northern California, and Berlin.

I continue to moonlight as a literary and academic translator, a public speaker, as well as travel writer
and professional photographer. If you'd like more information, don't be afraid
to ask...

Land of Medicine Buddha, Santa Cruz, CA
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