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.