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.
This 2018-19 academic year, I have been serving as one of 22 faculty mentors in the BEACoN (Believe, Educate & Empower, Advocate, Collaborate, Nurture) Research and Mentorship Program, which pairs students from underrepresented backgrounds with faculty researchers to conduct research in their field of interest. The goal of this program is to teach underrepresented students about the process of conducting research while also giving faculty critical support to achieve their research goals.
In Fall 2018, I selected Mustafa Siddiqui, a second-year student in the comparative ethnic studies major, out of a competitive applicant pool to be my student research assistant. Throughout the winter and spring quarters, Mustafa has provided me with invaluable research support as I worked on several writing projects, including an article for an academic journal, a conference paper, and my current book manuscript. Mustafa has helped me by conducting literature searches to find relevant sources, reading selected sources and compiling annotated bibliographies, and reviewing drafts of my writing.
Yesterday Mustafa and I attended the annual BEACoN Research Symposium, where we presented a poster summarizing our research. This event provided us with the opportunity not only to share our research, but also to learn about the many other exciting and inspiring projects being conducted by other faculty-student research pairs across campus. I was impressed to see that these projects reflect cutting-edge research from a variety of different disciplines, including architecture, biological sciences, civil and environmental engineering, communication studies, English, ethnic studies, industry management, history, kinesiology and public health, landscape architecture, marketing, physics, psychology and child development, education, and social sciences. I feel grateful to be a part of this inspiring community of faculty and student researchers.
I just got back from the 2019 Association for Asian American Studies Convention (AAAS) in Madison, WI, where I had an incredible time engaging in stimulating conversation with other scholars and activists. I organized a panel titled "The Mixed Race Asian American Literary Imagination" sponsored by the Circle for Asian American Literary Studies (CAALS). Here is a poster announcing the two panels sponsored by CAALS this year:
In my paper titled "Passing Away and Racial Passing in Celeste Ng's Everything I Never Told You," I considered how Ng's novel employs the trope of the tragic mulatta figure to establish the mixed race subject as a figure of ungovernability. I was joined on the panel by Sara Lee (English Ph.D. student at SUNY Binghamton University), who considered the representation of racial ambiguity in Chang-Rae Lee's Aloft; Elizabeth Moser (English Ph.D. student at George Washington University), who explored mixed race counter-histories in Viet Thanh Nguyen's The Sympathizer; and Heejoo Park (English Ph.D student at UC Riverside), who discussed the genre of the mixed race bildungsroman in Asian American and Latinx young adult fiction. Here is a picture of us after the panel.
On my last day of the conference, I attended the section meeting for the Critical Mixed Race Studies caucus of the AAAS, where I met many other scholars engaged in Asian American critical mixed race studies. During this section meeting, we held leadership position elections, and I am excited to share that I was selected to be the next secretary of the CMRS-AAAS caucus, a position that I will hold until next year's AAAS conference in April 2020 in Washington, D.C. In my role as secretary, I will attend CMRS meetings and maintain records, as well as work with the newly appointed president Anna Storti to ensure that CMRS sponsors a couple panels at next year's AAAS conference. I am looking forward to taking on this new leadership position!
I just returned from the 2018 Association for Asian American Studies Convention in San Francisco, CA, where I had a very exciting experience. As I was presenting my paper, "'We Lacked Allies': Searching for Cross-Cultural Solidarity in May-lee Chai's Hapa Girl," I looked out into the audience and saw none other than the very author whose work I was presenting on, May-lee Chai herself! Her presence struck me as a gift, as it was incredibly humbling and exciting to meet and chat with the brilliant mind who created Hapa Girl.
After the panel was over, May-lee and I talked for quite a while; I was delighted to discover that she is not only intelligent and talented, but also warm and friendly. I know that we will continue to stay in touch, and I hope to invite her to Cal Poly to meet with my students when I teach one of her books in the future.
I am delighted to share that my latest research article, "Chicano Gang Members at Risk: Containment, Flight, and an Alternative Vision of Sociality in Luis J. Rodriguez's Always Running," was published today in the Spring 2018 issue of MELUS: Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States (volume 43, issue 1). You can read the abstract and download the full article with institutional access here.