My research is engaged with the fields of Asian American Studies; family and kinship; cultural studies of science and reproduction; visual culture and new media; and gender and sexuality studies. Much of my work has been drawn to critical analyses of multiculturalism, specifically focused on the mixed race family in North American culture.

My current book manuscript is titled Family Conceptions: Technologies of Asian American Family Formation. The project takes a case study approach to examine different formations of technology and non-biological forms of kinship to more deeply understand Asian American family formation as a site of racialization. I attempt to broaden the study of reproduction and ideas of what constitutes a “reproductive technology” to consider how historical and seemingly “non-scientific” systems like photography, government bureaucracy, and new media actively participate in the production of family and kinship in racialized and gendered ways.

I am also at work on a second long-term project that combines archival and ethnographic methods to examine the genealogy of the term “transracial” in United States adoption practices, commonly used to reference the adoption (both domestic and transnational) of children of a different race than their adoptive families.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles

Johnson, LiLi. 2021. “Transnational Family Photographs and Adoption from Asia.” Forthcoming in Trans-Asia Photography Review

Johnson, LiLi. 2018. “Searching in Photographs: Photography and the Chinese Birth Parent Search.” Adoption & Culture. Vol. 6, Iss. 1, 2018: 116-134.

Johnson, LiLi. 2017. “Paper Family Photography: Photography and the State in the Era of Chinese Exclusion (1882–1943),” Photography and Culture, Vol. 10, Iss. 2, 2017: 105-119.