Remembering Dr. Y-Dang Troeung

November 30, 2022

It is with great sadness that we share the news of the death of our colleague and friend, Dr. Y-Dang Troeung. Y-Dang passed away early Sunday morning, Nov. 26, surrounded by her loved ones. Our heart-felt condolences to her family, friends, and everyone grieving her passing. Dr. Y-Dang Troeung will be deeply missed.

Y-Dang was a passionate and talented critical scholar, writer and advocate. Her academic accomplishments were many, but what shines through from talking with friends and colleagues across the University, is her ability to make deep and personal connections with everyone she worked with.

Read the messages from her colleagues at English Language and Literatures, Canadian Literature, Asian Canadian and Asian Migration Studies and the Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice.

I first met Dr. Troeung in 2019 as a member of the selection committee for the 2020/21 PWIAS Wall Scholars cohort. From her application and interview, it was clear that apart from her top-tier critical scholarship, she was also a natural community-builder, whose genuine and open presence helped shape the Wall Scholar program in 2020, as the comments below illustrate.  

“Y-Dang was a vital part of the PWIAS 2020 cohort, impressing one and all with her intellectual curiosity and her capacity for clear articulation of complex ideas. Her personal warmth, sense of humour, and generosity were exemplary. We shared an office, and our long conversations always left me stimulated. She was key to a writers group that some of us formed, and her feedback greatly helped me develop a successful book proposal. Y-Dang leaves behind a void that can’t be filled. I will cherish the time I spent with this wonderful human being.
– M.V. Ramana, 2020 Wall Scholar

“Y-Dang had a gift for bringing people to conversations while challenging them to expand their ways of being in the world. Her energy, brilliance, and generosity were integral to the cohesive and generative 2020 PWIAS cohort that developed. Y-Dang was a gifted, courageous scholar and educator, and she left a legacy of work that will benefit many fields, including critical disability and refugee studies. Being in a writing group with Y-Dang was a truly transformative experience because of her ability to deeply listen and provide insightful feedback. Like the many people Y-Dang touched, I am sad today, but I am also forever grateful for her teaching, her friendship, her warmth, her scholarship, her humour and her generosity.”
– Michelle Stack, 2020 Wall Scholar

“Y-Dang taught me so much. She had this remarkable skill of thinking and feeling through the most challenging subjects gently but without compromise. We could be moved to tears by her descriptions of Cambodian bomb ponds or we could be snickering together about Tinder Marxists … Y-Dang entered easily into the kind of intellectual friendship most people only dream of. I feel the loss of that connection deeply”. 
– Carrie Jenkins, 2020 Wall Scholar

“It is hard to even know where to start but I will try my best to describe my friendship with Y-Dang.  In summary, it was unexpected – what could a neuroscientist and English professor have in common?  I will always recall listening to her in our first scholar meeting talking about “aphasia” as the loss of ability to speak about traumatic events in individuals who had to flee their homes during war.  In medicine we talk about aphasia as it relates to brain injury and the resulting inability to speak or understand speech.  I had never considered that trauma could inflict a virtual lesion to the brain and result in the same phenomena.  This was actually the beginning of our group’s discussion and fascination with “holes” – holes in the brain, holes in our ability to communicate, and now with the loss of Y-Dang, we have an enormous hole in our community.  This last hole will never be able to be filled in. I am incredibly saddened that we will never get to finish the essay on aphasia that we outlined during our time and the Peter Wall.  I simply cannot do it without her. She will be deeply missed.”
– Lara Boyd, 2020 Wall Scholar

“Getting to know Y-Dang was one of the greatest privileges of my career.  I was so touched by her warmth, her ideas, her incredible writing, the generosity of her time and support for others, her courage, and her care and commitment to her students, her family, our community, history, language and to using her many gifts to make the world better.  I am a better person for having had the chance to meet Y-Dang and am forever grateful for the opportunity to have known her and learned from her”.   
– Jennifer Black, 2020 Wall Scholar

“Y-Dang will remain with me for the rest of my life. Although I knew her for only 2 short years, she changed me enormously, through her kindness, thoughtfulness, and joy for life at the face of overwhelming challenges she faced throughout her path. I will always remember her for her compassion and wisdom, for her ability to capture complex topics with quiet eloquence, and for the way she brought light to everyone around her, in the midst of pandemic darkness, in the midst of a world in crisis. From her I learned that there is a great strength that comes from trauma, a strength in survival. From her I learned that even when the worst atrocities are perpetrated upon humans, our power is in surviving – surviving as a form of resistance. Thank you, Y-Dang, for creating ripples in so many minds. With gratitude.”
– Kalina Christoff, PWIAS Interim Director (2019-2021)

During her time at PWIAS, Y-Dang also completed her book “Refugee Lifeworlds: The Afterlife of the Cold War in Cambodia” which was published in August 2022.  

Dr. Y-Dang Troeung will be deeply missed by all her Wall Scholar colleagues.

Dr. Vanessa Andreotti
Interim Director, Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies

While in residency at the Institute, Y-Dang generously shared insights into her work in conversation with past PWIAS Interim Director Kalina Christoff for the Ways of Knowing podcast. Listen to Y-Dang in her own voice as she discusses bringing her personal history into her scholarship and upending conventional academic expectations.