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.
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