Last week my latest scholarly essay was published in College Literature: A Journal of Critical Literary Studies as part of a special double issue, "Genres of Empire" (Vol. 50, No. 2-3), which was guest edited by Alyssa Hunziker and Mitch Murray. The collection of essays in this special issue consider how the emerging canon of genre fiction engages with and problematizes contemporary matters of empire (such as colonization, settler colonialism, and neo-imperialism).
My essay, "(Mis)Reading in the Age of Terror: Promoting Racial Literacy through Counter-Colonial Narrative Resistance in the Post-9/11 Muslim Novel," examines two representative works of the post-9/11 Muslim novel, Laila Halaby's Once in a Promised Land (2007) and Mohsin Hamid's The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2007). I argue that these novels rewrite the history of the 9/11 tragedy from a position of counter-colonial resistance in order to denounce the post-9/11 US counterterror state's misinformed and damaging attempts to read the racialized Muslim body.
To learn more, you can access the full special issue here, as well as my specific essay here.
In a previous blog post, I wrote about my experience presenting at the 6th biennial meeting of the Critical Mixed Race Studies (CMRS) Association, which was held virtually from February 24-26, 2022. Over 400 scholars, artists, and activists convened under the conference theme "Ancestral Futurisms: Embodying Multiracialities Past, Present, and Future." I am pleased to share that my research essay, "Rewriting the Mixed Self: Narrative Resistance against the White Monoracial Imagination," was recently published in the conference proceedings for this meeting. To read my essay along with many other compelling articles about mixed race identity and experiences, you can download the 2022 conference proceedings from the CMRS Association website.
On Saturday April 1st, I had the great pleasure of participating in a roundtable discussion on "College Writing: What It Is and What It's Not" hosted by the San Jose Area Writing Project as part of their Super Saturdays series of pedagogy-building workshops for high school teachers. The goal of this event was to bring high school teachers and college instructors together to dispel myths about college writing and break down what actual college writing looks like (i.e. what skills are emphasized, what types of writing are expected, what work is actually assigned).
I co-facilitated this discussion with Hillary Walker, an adjunct professor of African American Studies and Ethnic Studies at the College of Alameda and the Director of the Bay Area Writing Project at the Berkeley School of Education. We opened the conversation by first providing an overview of how we design and teach our college writing classes. I greatly enjoyed hearing how our teaching priorities converge (for example, we both center critical race studies in our classrooms and design curricula that prioritize student agency and individual progress). It was also useful and informative to learn how our pedagogy differs given our different institutional contexts and resources.
We then opened up the conversation to the high school teachers in attendance, offering the following questions to guide us:
In the rich conversation that ensued, participants discussed these questions and raised additional questions relevant to their specific concerns. At one point, the conversation focused on whether teaching the novel in the English high school classroom is still a relevant practice, or whether it has become outdated given that many college writing programs de-prioritize literary analysis. At another point, the discussion centered on exploring the role of scaffolding activities in helping students grow as writers over time. A major highlight of the conversation was when we began discussing the important question of how we writing instructors can stop perpetuating white language supremacy, such as by implementing innovative curricular design and alternative evaluation methods. Everyone in attendance expressed a commitment to meeting this objective by honoring their students' diverse home languages and unique forms of expression. However, several participants also acknowledged that they face several constraints in achieving this goal. For example, they might be compelled by district-wide requirements to assign texts from the Western literary canon when designing their curricula. Or they might feel pressured to teach writing skills that are rewarded on college-entrance and college-readiness standardized tests (like the SAT and AP Literature exam). Or they might have limited time as instructors to evaluate forms of writing that deviate from non-traditional Western forms. It was highly encouraging to brainstorm strategies for overcoming these challenges so as to affirm the various language uses and habits of our diverse student bodies.
Overall, I am grateful to have had the opportunity to be in community with fellow writing educators and learn about the rewards and challenges that come with working in educational settings that differ from my own. It was inspiring to know that despite our differences, we all share a passion for helping students develop their unique voices.
I'm thrilled to announce that today is the official publication date for Latino Literature: An Encyclopedia for Students (edited by Christina Soto van der Plas and Lacie Rae Buckwalter Cunningham, published by ABC-Clio), a new resource that provides an essential overview of the major literary works produced by Latinx authors alongside related thematic concepts. I contributed an entry to this encyclopedia in which I discuss the life and works of Los Angeles-based Chicano author/activist Luis Javier Rodriguez, whose memoir Always Running: La Vida Loca, Gang Days in L.A. (1993) was the focus of my first essay of literary criticism. If you would like to read more about how Rodriguez uses his writings (which include memoirs, poetry collections, and short stories) to reduce gang violence, build Chicanx community and identity, and support at-risk youth, click here to download the full copy of my entry.
I am thrilled to announce that my latest article has been published in the winter 2023 edition of College Literature: A Journal of Critical Literary Studies. I first presented the initial ideas for this essay at the 2018 American Literature Association Convention during a panel sponsored by the Circle of Asian American Literary Studies on "Refugee Counternarratives." It is particularly gratifying for me to see this article in print after spending many years developing and fine-tuning its central argument.
Titled "'A Man of Two Faces and Two Minds': Just Memory and Metatextuality in The Sympathizer's Rewriting of the Vietnam War," this essay considers how Viet Thanh Nguyen's Pulitzer Prize-winning debut novel The Sympathizer (2015) represents the history of the Vietnam War from an inclusive lens of remembrance that the author terms "just memory" in his book Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War, which was published shortly after The Sympathizer in 2016 and can be read as a scholarly companion to the novel. I argue that The Sympathizer employs several metatextual rhetorical techniques (such as characterizing the narrator as a figure of duality, featuring a nested narrative form, and self-referentially exploring the performativity of writing) in order to denounce the self-serving, one-sided rhetoric of "unjust memory." I show how the novel instead advocates for practicing a more ethical approach to the other that is rooted in recognizing the possibilities and limitations of narrative representation. You can read the abstract and download the full article with institutional access here.
This past week, I had the pleasure of attending and presenting at the 138th meeting of the Modern Language Association, which took place from June 5-8, 2023 in San Francisco. This annual gathering brought together thousands of teachers and scholars dedicated to the study of language and literature to share their ideas and research related to the presidential theme "Working Conditions." According to the conference organizers, this theme invited conversation about the following questions:
Throughout the convention, I participated in two sessions focused on exploring the various kinds of labor that I perform as a university writing instructor and literary scholar. First, I presented a talk entitled "Cultivating Antiracist Praxis in a First-Year English Writing Classroom" for a pedagogy-focused panel, "Teaching Identity and Anti-Racism in Global Modern Languages Classrooms." In this talk, I provided an overview of how I teach my first-year course, “Writing for Liberation: The Rhetoric of Antiracism," in the Program in Writing and Rhetoric at Stanford. I sought to answer the question of how instructors of English language and writing might cultivate a commitment to antiracist reading, writing, and research practices in undergraduate students through curricular content. I explained how I have designed my course with two critical goals in mind: first, to show students how white language supremacy dominates rhetorical production in U.S. society and second, to equip them with the critical frameworks necessary to challenge such white language supremacy in their own work as writers and researchers.
I encountered an unusual situation when I arrived to deliver this talk. Given the historic Bay Area storms taking place at the time of the conference, none of my fellow panelists were able to attend. This meant that I was the sole presenter in front of an audience of over 30 educators and scholars. Due to this unexpected format change, I ended up delivering a stand-alone talk and leading a dynamic Q&A that lasted over an hour. The audience asked powerful questions about how to dig deeper into the work of building inclusive and antiracist writing pedagogy, and I ended up having one of my most memorable and fun conferencing experiences.
Fortunately, my second panel, "(Auto)biographies of/as Work," was attended by all of the expected participants, including a scholar who was videoconferencing in from Turkey. Organized by the MLA Life Writing division and presided over by Laurie McNeill (University of British Columbia), this panel sought to consider how forms of autobiography capture, create, and/or critique experiences and conditions of work and labor, as well as how authors view the work of memoir. I delivered a talk titled "Testifying, Witnessing, and Mourning: Care-Based Labor in the AIDS Memoir," which presented research from a chapter of my current book manuscript. In this talk, I read Dr. Abraham Verghese's memoir My Own Country: A Doctor’s Story (1994) as a critical work of care-based literary labor that chronicles his work as an infectious disease specialist in the U.S. South during the 1980s AIDS crisis and seeks to challenge damaging fear-based approaches to managing this epidemic by modeling a contrasting approach rooted in empathy.
I was joined by Rüstem Ertug Altinay (Kadir Has University), who presented on queer autobiographical Turkish literature, Deborah Cohler (San Francisco State University), who presented on memoirs written by military spouses, and Kimberly Hall (Wofford College), who presented on memoirs authored by women employees of Silicon Valley tech companies. Taken together, our talks painted a fascinating picture of the powerful work that autobiography can do to build community, expose damaging cultural practices, reclaim identity and agency, and deconstruct notions of what counts as "labor."
In addition to delivering these presentations, I enjoyed attending many other riveting panels, reconnecting with former colleagues from UC Santa Barbara and Cal Poly, SLO, and visiting with my book editor. After kicking off the new year in such an invigorating way, I am excited to bring back what I learned into my research and teaching this winter quarter.
I am delighted to share that my latest article has been published in the The Encyclopedia of Contemporary American Fiction, 1980-2020, which was recently published by Wiley-Blackwell. In this article, I provide an overview of the works of Celeste Ng, the author of bestselling novels Everything I Never Told You (2015) and Little Fires Everywhere (2017). I illustrate how throughout her literary career, Ng has sought to understand the motivations behind human behavior and how such behaviors are informed by intersecting systems of oppression like racism, sexism, and classism. You can read the abstract and download the full article with institutional access here.
This past week, I had the great pleasure of attending the latest meeting of the Critical Mixed Race Studies (CMRS) Association, which took place from February 24th to 26th. This conference revolved around the theme "Ancestral Futurisms: Embodying Multiracialities Past, Present, and Future." Over 400 scholars, educators, activists, and artists who think, teach, and organize around multiraciality gathered together virtually from all around the world to reflect on the question of time in relation to mixed race studies, challenge past conceptions of multiraciality dictated by white supremacy, and imagine new forms of multiraciality rooted in decolonization and radical hope.
Panels and workshops covered a range of exciting topics, such as the importance of connecting multiracial identity with ancestral knowledge, how to effectively support mixed race students at both the K-12 and university levels, challenges and rewards related to parenting multiracial children, and representations of multiraciality in popular media like speculative fiction, superhero comics, and television and theatrical productions. Educator, singer, and "RAPtivist" (rap activist) Aisha Fukushima delivered the keynote presentation, which powerfully integrated music, speech, and storytelling.
The conference theme was beautifully captured by the design pictured below, "Transition," which was created by Favianna Rodriguez, an interdisciplinary artist, cultural strategist, and social justice activist based in Oakland, CA. To see more of her art, please visit www.favianna.com.
On the second day of the conference, I presented on a panel titled "Toward a More 'Critical' Mixed Race Studies: Troubling Representations of Race and Gender" alongside fellow scholars Dr. Anna Storti (Duke University), Ph.D. candidate Alma Villanueva (Texas A&M University) and Dr. Corinne Collins (University of Southern California). Attracting over 80 attendees, our panel examined popular representations of multiraciality in media, narrative, and visual culture in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, with the goal of problematizing how progress narratives are often attached to mixed race bodies.
My presentation, "Rewriting the Mixed Self: Narrative Resistance against the White Monoracial Imagination," was inspired by ongoing conversations that I have been having with my students in a new course on multiracial rhetorics that I am teaching this quarter at Stanford, "Not Part but Whole: Writing Mixed Race Identity." In this talk, I considered the tensions between popular discourses about multiraciality and narrative testimonials by mixed race authors. I demonstrated how works by Sui Sin Far, Gloria Anzaldúa, and Mary Hope Whitehead Lee challenge popular conceptions of mixed race people as figures of shame, tragedy, exoticism, and post-raciality. Ultimately, I concluded that these authors engage personal narrative as a life-sustaining platform for reimagining the mixed self beyond the limitations of the white monoracial imagination.
Over the past few months, I have had the great pleasure of helping launch and facilitate an inaugural book club hosted by the Asian Staff Forum (ASF), an organization for which I have been serving as a board volunteer since I began working at Stanford in September 2020. The goal of the book club is to create a space for members of our community to come together and discuss great works that are written by Asian American authors and/or feature themes related to Asian American histories, identities, and experiences. We designed the book club to feature two books a year, with meetings to discuss the first book taking place throughout the fall and winter quarters and meetings to discuss the second book spanning the spring and summer quarters.
We debuted our book club by reading and discussing award-winning author Chang-Rae Lee's most recent novel My Year Abroad (2021). From October 2021 to January 2022, we held three meetings to discuss the novel, which attracted a variety of interested parties, including Stanford faculty, staff, and community members. Discussions were consistently lively, with topics ranging from character development to the Cultural Revolution in China to representations of race and gender.
Our book club concluded with a capstone event that took place on January 31, 2022, a conversation about the novel with the author himself, which was facilitated by Dr. Rona Hu, a clinical professor of psychiatry at Stanford Hospital and active ASF member. Before the conversation began, I was asked to provide a brief synopsis of the novel for attendees. During the discussion, Lee shared many insights about the creation of the novel, such as how he came up with the ideas for his principle characters, why he chose to interject tragic moments with humor, and what motivated him to give the protagonist partial rather than full Asian ancestry. I was particularly struck by his comment at one point that first-person narration is "the language of the soul" and thus does not have to reflect the actual way that a character might speak in real conversations. Overall, the illuminating conversation served as the perfect ending to a highly successful first book club series.
The next book that the ASF book club will read is Chanel Miller's memoir Know My Name (2019), and meetings will take place throughout the 2022 spring and summer quarters.
This week I attended the 2021 American Studies Association Convention, which was held virtually from October 11-14, 2021. Organized around the presidential theme "Creativity within Revolt," this annual meeting sought to explore the following questions named in the convention program:
I contributed to these discussions by presenting my own research on a panel called "The Containment and Revolt of Antiracist Literature" on October 13th. This panel sought to examine how and why literature has been conceptualized as a vehicle through which to challenge white supremacy, as well as how authors and readers both creatively use narrative to advance antiracist goals and revolt against the constraints of feel-good liberal antiracism.
My fellow panelists (pictured above in our virtual conference room) included Nicole Dib, an assistant professor of English at Southern Utah University, who demonstrated how John Okada's 1957 novel No-No Boy employs the trope of automobility to critique Japanese incarceration during World War II; Joseph Darda, an assistant professor of English and comparative race and ethnic studies at Texas Christian University, who explored the development throughout the 1940s of so-called "race novels," such as Richard Wright's Native Son, Lillian Smith's Strange Fruit, and Willard Motley's Knock on Any Door; and Shane Hall, an assistant professor of environmental studies at Salisbury University, who demonstrated how Omar El Akkad's 2017 climate fiction novel American War reinforces racist ideologies under the guise of resource security. Our session chair was Jay Garcia, an associate professor of comparative literature at New York University, who responded to our papers with stimulating questions and commentary.
My presentation, titled "(Anti)Racist Reading Practices and the U.S. War on Terror in Mohsin Hamid's The Reluctant Fundamentalist," explored how Hamid's novel rewrites the history of the 9/11 tragedy from a position of counter-colonial resistance in order to denounce the post-9/11 U.S. counterterror state's misinformed, damaging, and racist attempts to read the racialized Muslim body. I argued that by exposing the challenges of reading and interpreting (racial) others in the post-9/11 U.S. counterterror state, The Reluctant Fundamentalist subverts the racist reading practices of the post-9/11 U.S. security state and destabilizes the binary frameworks of good/bad, us/them, Christian/Muslim that fuel the one-dimensional Islamophobic rhetoric used to justify the neo-imperial abuses of the U.S. War on Terror.
If you'd like to learn more about my remarks, you can check out a full recording of my presentation below.
Recently I was invited by the journal African American Review to provide a review of Candice Jenkins' book Black Bourgeois: Class & Sex in the Flesh (University of Minnesota Press, 2019). The latest edition of African American Review (Spring/Summer 2021) features my review, in which I discuss how Black Bourgeois examines a phenomenon that Jenkins calls "the black and bourgeois dilemma" (6), a conundrum that defines the lived experiences of the middle-class Black subject who enjoys the protection of material wealth while simultaneously enduring the precarity of blackness. To learn more about my thoughts on Jenkins' book, you can access my full review here.
This past Saturday May 22, 2021, I had the great honor of speaking to the Harker graduating class of 2021 at their commencement ceremony, which took place at the Mountain Winery in Saratoga, California. The last time I had been to the Mountain Winery was sixteen years ago, when I enjoyed my own commencement as a member of the Harker graduating class of 2005. I was thrilled to return for such an exciting purpose. Throughout the day, I was flooded by so many memories of my own high school experience, which marked a joyful time in my life, filled with discovery, growth, and friendship.
The day was absolutely beautiful. The sun was shining, and a feeling of accomplishment and celebration filled the air. The graduates and their parents were beaming. It felt extra special to be gathered together for this momentous occasion, especially after so many high school traditions had been canceled or altered due to the pandemic.
My speech was one of several planned for the day. For the first time in Harker history, there were two valedictorians, who both gave moving speeches. Remarks were also given by Jennifer Gargano (the Assistant Head of the Upper School), Brian Yager (the Head of the Upper School), and Samuel "Butch" Keller (the Upper School Division Head). Two senior student groups, a string quartet and a chorus, performed beautiful musical numbers, and each graduate had the opportunity to walk across the stage to receive a diploma to the sound of cheers and applause.
During my speech, I encouraged the graduating seniors to embrace the unknown and think creatively and courageously when striving to achieve their dreams. I also reminded them that as they go out to explore the world, they should never forget that they are part of the generation that came of age in a global pandemic, and that they have already proven their strength, adaptability, and resilience.
Check out the video below to watch the full recording of the ceremony. My speech takes place from 1:03-1:19.
I am delighted to share an exciting announcement: I have been invited to give the 2021 commencement speech for my high school alma mater, The Harker School. I have many fond memories of my time at Harker, which I attended from 2001 to 2005. During these four years, I developed lasting life-long friendships, cultivated my intellectual curiosity, and was actively involved in extracurricular activities like soccer, softball, dance, theater, newspaper, and the Junior Classical League (also known as the Latin club).
Last week I returned to campus to film a video introducing me to the graduating class of 2021. During my visit, I had a lot of fun seeing how the campus has changed over the years and reminiscing about my high school memories with the alumni director Kristina Alaniz. Check out the video below!
This past Tuesday, March 2nd, I had the great pleasure of speaking at a virtual event, “A Conversation on Anti-Asian American Sentiment and Violence,” which was sponsored by the Filipino American Community at Stanford and Stanford’s Asian Staff Forum (on whose board I serve as a volunteer). This conversation featured two standout guest speakers, San Francisco’s ABC7 News anchor Dion Lim and Fremont Mayor Lily Mei, who discussed the rise of anti-Asian American sentiment during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in the Bay Area. Over 400 participants tuned in to be a part of this conversation, showing that many members of the Stanford community and beyond view anti-Asian racism as a critical issue that needs to be addressed.
To provide some historical framing, I opened the discussion by giving a brief overview of the history of anti-Asian racism and violence in the United States. During my presentation, I discussed the origins of the coolie labor trade, the ideology of yellow peril, the myth of Asian Americans as the model minority, and the history of Asian American activism. Check out my full remarks below.
After I provided this overview, Dion Lim and Lily Mei began discussing how the long history of anti-Asian racism continues to influence the contemporary moment. We can see this legacy most notably in the upsurge of coronavirus-related hate that began with anti-Asian rhetoric in the early days of the pandemic and has escalated in recent months into tangible acts of violence, such as Asian Americans being physically assaulted and held at gunpoint. In one tragic incident, 84-year-old Thai American Vicha Ratanapakdee died after sustaining injuries from an attack.
During their conversation, Dion Lim and Lily Mei covered a variety of topics, such as what constitutes a hate crime and how the city of Fremont and ABC7 News have mobilized efforts to raise awareness about anti-Asian violence. They also offered some excellent suggestions for what community members can do to resist this upsurge in anti-Asian American sentiment, including using their voices and platforms to speak out against hate, providing opportunities for the next generation of Asian Americans to break into leadership roles, and engaging in interracial and cross-cultural efforts to combat racism.
To learn more about this event, check out The Stanford Daily’s coverage or visit the Asian Staff Forum’s website, where a recording of this webinar will be viewable for a limited time. You may also be interested in these additional resources:
I am thrilled to announce that this week I began a new appointment as a Career-Track Lecturer in the Program in Writing and Rhetoric at Stanford University. I am grateful to be joining such an intellectually dynamic program with an inspiring mission to support the development of all Stanford undergraduate students into ethically minded and critically thoughtful writers and speakers. I'm especially excited about the course I'll be teaching during the 2020-21 academic year, Writing for Liberation: The Rhetoric of Antiracism.
The most recent edition of the Program in Writing and Rhetoric's newsletter announces my addition to the program along with an incredible cohort of seven other Career-Track Lecturers. Check it out to read more!
Yesterday I participated in Cal Poly's 4th annual Inclusion Starts With Me Teach In, which is a day full of workshops, panels, and events related to diversity, inclusion, and social justice. Since coming to Cal Poly, I have participated in this event every year. (You can read about my experiences at the 3rd annual Teach In here and the 2nd annual Teach In here.)
I served on a panel called "Perspectives from Cal Poly's Multiracial Community," which brought together members of the Cal Poly community who identify as multiracial or multiethnic. I was joined by Dr. Jennifer Teramoto Pedrotti (Associate Dean for Diversity and Curriculum in the College of Liberal Arts), Kari Mansager (Director of Diversity, Inclusion, and Outreach at University Housing), Alyiah Gonzales (English student), and Ashley Calloway (biochemistry student). We enjoyed a robust conversation that covered a variety of topics, such as how our racial identities shift depending on time, space, and context; what assumptions people often make about our racial identities; how our family impacts the development of our multiracial identities; and what resources we have used to help with the development of our multiracial identities.
Update on 2/21/20: I'm delighted to share that our panel was featured in a Cal Poly News Report article about the Teach-In, which includes a quotation from me about the event.
For the past three weeks, I have had a severe case of laryngitis and have conducted all of my professional responsibilities, including teaching, holding office hours, and participating in meetings, in silence. This challenge has been deeply humbling and has made me highly aware of how much I depend on my voice. I thought I would take a moment to write about my endeavors over the past few weeks, particularly the experience of teaching in person without a voice.
I developed a sore throat and cough on January 13th that led me to lose my voice for three weeks due to severe inflammation of the vocal cords. During my recovery, it was necessary for me to modify my teaching strategies so that I could still deliver my curriculum.
During the week of January 20th, I canceled my classes and asked my students to participate in an online peer review activity, which involved giving and receiving feedback on their first paper drafts. When my voice had still not returned the following week, I knew I had to figure out a new way to hold classes. Starting the week of January 27th, I returned physically to the classroom and used a mixture of strategies to lead class without speaking. I'm pleased to share that these modifications were successful, and I have been able to keep my class on schedule, with no significant reduction to the material. Here is a brief catalogue of the techniques I used.
Prepared Messages on PowerPoint Slides
Before class, I decided on the key instructions and prompts I wanted to convey during class time and presented them in large text on PowerPoint slides. I used these PowerPoint messages to inform my students about the day's agenda, to explain instructions before new activities, and to provide transitions from one activity to the next. Here is the first slide from the PowerPoint I used on January 27th.
To get the attention of my students when they were engrossed in small group discussion, I would clap three times. When they heard me clap, they would clap three times in response. We would continue this back-and-forth until everyone was clapping and had quieted down, and then we would be able to resume as a large group. This strategy was highly effective in enabling me to get my students' attention and keep us on schedule as we moved from one activity to the next.
Online Lectures and Videos
During a typical class meeting, I usually spend some time providing a mini-lecture that offers historical context about a course text or explains some theoretical concepts to my students. Instead of delivering these lectures out loud, I posted written lectures on our course website. During class time, I asked students (through written directions on the PowerPoint) to access this written lecture material and read silently to themselves. Students could access the course website from a technological device (such as a smart phone, tablet, or laptop). If they did not have a device in class with them, they could pair up with a classmate to read together. My written lectures included text, images, and videos, so students could receive the information in a few different modalities.
Typing on Empty Slides during Q&A and Discussion
Whenever my students finished reviewing online lecture material, I displayed a blank PowerPoint slide on the projector and asked them if they had any questions. As students raised their hands and asked for clarification on specific concepts that had been introduced in the lecture material, I typed out my answers in a large font size so that the words were visible to all students. Although the pace of conversation was slower because I needed to type out all of my responses, we were still able to get through many robust Q&A sessions this way.
Small Group Work
At various moments during the class, I asked students to participate in a group activity or converse in small groups to explore a specific concept. I was able to indirectly lead discussion by preparing questions and prompts for my students to discuss in small groups. This allowed the students to take ownership over their learning by close reading passages together and collaboratively deepening their understanding of key concepts. As students discussed, they typed out their answers in a shared Google document, which we later reviewed as a large class while group representatives explained their answers and ideas.
While I still much prefer to vocalize my ideas rather than type them out, the experience of teaching without a voice was challenging but thrilling. Many of my students told me that they really appreciated my efforts to provide quality instruction despite my laryngitis. I am pleased that I was able to conduct class effectively despite the new challenges I faced and that my students were able to stay engaged in learning. I feel affirmed that I am innovative and flexible as an educator and am capable of teaching under rather unusual circumstances. Yesterday I entered the classroom with a voice, though not fully healed, for the first time in weeks, and it was an incredible feeling to be greeted by my students with cheers and applause and to be able to converse with them once again. I'm very grateful to them for showing me so much patience over the last few weeks and to have had this unusual experience, which taught me a lot about my own pedagogical abilities and about my students' deep commitment to learning.
Last week I attended the 2020 Modern Language Association Convention in Seattle, WA, which took place from January 9-12, 2020. The presidential theme was "Being Human," and scholars, educators, and activists from all over the world came together to reflect on the role of language and literature in defining what it means to be human. I presented on two panels. The first panel, which was entitled "Alternative Genealogies of the Speculative" and arranged by the Genre Studies Forum for Speculative Fiction, questioned U.S.- and Eurocentric frameworks of speculative fiction by considering the role of the speculative genre in non-U.S. and non-Western contexts. My paper, "Speculative Reimaginings of the Global Refugee Crisis in Mohsin Hamid's Exit West," explored how the Pakistani Muslim writer Mohsin Hamid uses cognitive estrangement in his most recent novel Exit West to disrupt white supremacist, Eurocentric, and neo-colonial forms of violence enacted on the Global South by the Global North.
The second panel I presented on, which was a special session entitled "Being Human in Contemporary Arab Writing," considered how contemporary Arab literature complicates the question of the human and post-human due to diaspora, postcolonial migration, civil wars, and regional border crossings. My paper, "(Mis)Reading the Arab Body as (Non)Human in Laila Halaby's Once in a Promised Land," explored how Halaby's novel critiques the post-9/11 U.S. security state’s misinformed practices of reading the racialized Arab body as non- or subhuman and offers an alternative model for reading Arabs that asserts their humanity.
In addition to presenting on these two panels, I had a great time reuniting with old friends from my graduate program, engaging in stimulating conversation with other scholars, and exploring the dynamic city of Seattle.
This past week I attended the 2019 American Studies Association Convention in Honolulu, HI, where I had a wonderful time engaging in stimulating conversation with other scholars, activists, and educators. The theme of the conference was "Build As We Fight," and all of the panels, roundtables, and talks were focused on thinking about how we scholars and educators might resist the oppressive and genocidal effects of white supremacy and create alternative means of survival and community building.
Along with Nicole Dib, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), I helped organize a panel entitled "Imagining the Future of Resistance: Speculative Fiction and the Aesthetics of Social Transformation." This panel turned a critical lens toward speculative fiction to ask how activist writers of color use this genre to challenge the violence of a U.S. state that routinely attempts to erase native communities, exacerbate climate change, and exclude immigrants from civic belonging. In her paper, Nicole explored how two contemporary Native American authors, Louise Erdrich and Rebecca Roanhorse, build new ways of imagining community in speculative fiction novels that feature characters on the run from world-ending catastrophes. In my paper, entitled "Imagining the Dystopian Future of U.S. Immigration in Sabrina Vourvoulias’ Ink," I considered how Sabrina Vourvoulias' speculative fiction novel Ink warns about the current path of U.S. immigration policy and raise questions about the economic, social, political, and spiritual costs of allowing xenophobic sentiment and practices to continue to escalate in this nation. Our third panelist, Elizabeth Callaway, an assistant professor of English at the University of Utah, took our discussion beyond the world as we know it by discussing how an Afrofuturist novel set in an alternate universe, N. K. Jemisin's The Fifth Season, models climate change and urges new engagements with environmental crisis. Chairing and commenting on these individual papers was Ruth Hsu, a professor at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa who specializes in Asian American and African American literary and cultural studies and whose research examines the intersection of nation, gender, and ethnicity. Here is a picture of the entire panel posing after our session.
In addition to presenting on this panel and listening to other talks, I was delighted to attend the launch party for the recently published edited collection Antiracism Inc.: Why the Way We Talk about Racial Justice Matters (2019, co-edited by Felice Blake, Paula Ioanide, and Alison Reed). I am especially excited about the publication of this collection, as I helped organize many of the conferences and conversations that gave rise to this publication when I served as a Graduate Fellow for the "Antiracism Inc." program (2013-2016) sponsored by UCSB's American Cultures and Global Contexts Center under the direction of Felice Blake, one of my dissertation advisors. This launch party was truly an occasion of fellowship and celebration. Here is a picture of Felice and me posing together with a copy of the book.
I am delighted to share that my latest research article, "Race Leaders, Race Traitors, and the Necropolitics of Black Exceptionalism in Paul Beatty's Fiction," was published today in the scholarly journal American Literature (volume 91, issue 3). This article was published as part of a special topic issue on "The Plantation, the Postplantation, and the Afterlives of Slavery," which was guest edited by Gwen Bergner (Associate Professor, West Virginia University) and Zita Cristina Nunes (Associate Professor, University of Maryland). You can read the abstract and download the full article with institutional access here.
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