Thoughts

To the Futures Initiative,

This year has passed by in a whirlwind of emails and events, planning sessions, meetings, and conferences, interviews, sudden trips, and all of those big and small life moments in between. Still, with summer right around the corner and the promise of lazy beach days to come, I want to press pause to reflect and take in what this year, what being a part of this program, has meant. I’ve already written my letters to CUNY and FSU but this one needs its own space in part to recognize the importance of the space you’ve given me.

The opportunity to join the Futures Initiative came just at the right moment when I was nearing the end of an exhilarating and exhausting year teaching at Fordham, wondering what my next step should be. The idea of taking a breather from the classroom to take on a leadership role in running and building a program was daunting and unfamiliar but also exciting, challenging, and, if I’m honest, a relief after a long year of too much teaching and grading and not enough time to think and do my own research. You caught me, in short, at a moment of awkward and uncertain transition and for that I need to say thank you, even though this year has felt like a long drawn-out series of thank you’s that can never possibly capture the complicated emotions and depths of my appreciation. But let me try anyway.

I could list the big public-facing events that you gave me space to organize, including that one in September on “Pedagogies of Dissent for Asian American Studies” that allowed me to bring my questions, work, and myself into the program. This and the other events we organized this year created room for ongoing conversations about the stakes of higher education, pedagogy, politics, aesthetics, and what we as scholars, teachers, and students could do to materialize a university worth fighting for. But while these were occasions to assemble the different publics and communities we serve, to clear space for precisely those vital, timely dialogues, I am perhaps most grateful for the internal, invisible things that this program accomplishes that do not fit neatly into event recaps.

So, let me say thanks by bringing to light some of this invisible stuff that too often escapes notice because it happens during quiet meetings, on frantic phone calls, endless email loops, and–perhaps unique to this program–on giant post-it notes and in ever-expanding collections of collaborative Google Docs. Thank you for teaching me about the tremendous amount of labor involved in running a vibrant, multi-faceted program that cuts across CUNY, New York City, and beyond. I had a small taste of this behind-the-scenes work this year; the relentless energy it takes to track down answers and resources, to wrestle with fickle budgets and deal with inevitable technical glitches, to lay the groundwork, devise back-up plans, and carve out spaces and opportunities for creativity, mentorship, community, and conversation that are so vital–in short, the work that Lauren, Celi, Cathy, and Katina model daily with grace, passion, and dedication. I have learned from all of you what it means to be a fierce administrator and leader, to embody a willingness to listen, learn, stand up, give time, fight for, and defend, all at once, a practice of inhabiting institutions that I take with me.

Read the full post on the Futures Initiative blog.


Photo by myersalex216 on Pixabay.

Thoughts

Two Letters, to Where I have Been and Where I am Going

Dear CUNY,

I’ve been holding my breath, holding myself back from writing this letter because I know that it can never encompass all I want to say about what being in and of you has meant. And/but I am taking the advice that a CUNY mentor once gave me when I was floundering during the dissertation process, to start writing before you are ready, because I know this letter is one that I’ll never be fully ready to write.

In many ways, it was growing up in and with you that helped me find community, direction, purpose, a voice, myself. So, there is much I want and need to say:

The first is thank you. Thank you for giving me opportunities that I know I haven’t always appreciated. Thank you for the people you brought into my life–friends, teachers, mentors, allies, leaders, students, strangers–people who have been variously kind, strong, loving, hurtful, generous, difficult, inspirational. Thank you for the way you forced me to get to know this city, to move out of the sheltered corner of Little Neck, Queens where I grew up to traverse its sprawling landscape, to walk across bridges, to find other sites of belonging. You taught me how to feel at home in this city. Thank you for the skills you helped me develop while I was learning and working as a CUNY student and teacher: the ability to read, write, and grade papers standing on public buses and trains, a dexterity honed during long commutes and all-too-frequent MTA delays; a knack for finding windows in stuffy, claustrophobic buildings, to look for spaces to let light in when the weight of the work feels especially heavy; a know-how for tracking down resources, opportunities, and pockets of funding, which you haven’t always made easy to find, but it’s because of that that I learned to ask questions and to make demands, to realize the sound and worth of my own voice; an eye for recognizing people who are similarly lost and out of place, who are also driven by questions, ideas, and a refusal to accept things as they are; an intuition for making community out of commuter campuses, to find people and causes worth showing up and fighting for. This list could go on and on.

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Events

Event Recap: Futures Initiative Spring Forum–“Publics, Politics, and Pedagogy: Remaking Higher Education for Turbulent Times”

On Wednesday, March 28, 2018, the Futures Initiative hosted a daylong forum on “Publics, Politics, and Pedagogy: Remaking Higher Education for Turbulent Times.” Part of our University Worth Fighting For series, this event was an occasion to foster interdisciplinary conversation on the relationship between pedagogy, equity, and institutional change. It was also an opportunity for the people involved in the many areas of our program–from our graduate fellows and the students and faculty involved in F.I. team-taught courses to our undergraduate leadership fellows and colleagues in the Humanities Alliance–to share their knowledge and experiences in a public setting, to engage precisely the different publics our work serves. We were joined by faculty, staff, students, administrators, and activists both in person and online (via Twitter and livestream) from across CUNY, New York City, and beyond. During the event, we collectively contemplated the current state and stakes of higher education, the challenges of being both a teacher and student in today’s turbulent sociopolitical climate, and the possibilities that might arise from and through our pedagogy, creative work, political commitments, and public encounters, which the day’s activities and conversations only affirmed are not separate endeavors.

It was a pleasure for me to shape this event and then to watch it unfold, to listen and learn from old and new allies, and to revel in the ways that the Futures Initiative’s mission to advance innovation and equity in higher education resonated across the dialogues, workshops, presentations, and bodies assembled in the room.

Read the full event recap on the Futures Initiative blog.

Conferences

Join Us for “Entangled Ecologies: Transpacific Alliances and Resistance in a More Than Human World” at AAAS!

I am so excited to be presenting at the 2018 Association for Asian American Studies conference: “Solidarity and Resistance: Toward Asian American Commitment to Fierce Alliances” (March 29-31).

Our panel, “Entangled Ecologies: Transpacific Alliances and Resistance in a More Than Human World” (Friday, March 30; 8:00AM – 9:30AM; Yorkshire) explores the contributions Asian American studies and Asian Americanist critique can offer to unfolding discourses on ecological crisis and the anthropocene. I am thrilled to be in conversation with a brilliant cast of thinkers, teachers, artists, and activists: Chad Shomura (University of Colorado Denver), Jess X. Snow (New York University Tisch School of Arts), and Heidi Hong (University of Southern California). Please join us tomorrow as we think together about aesthetics, culture, entanglement, resistance, survival, temporality, space, and super pigs.

You can find our full panel description and the abstract for my paper on Bong Joon Ho’s urgent and beautifully executed film Okja below. Hope to see you bright and early at our session!


Panel: Entangled Ecologies: Transpacific Alliances and Resistance in a More Than Human World

Session Abstract: In our contemporary moment, human-driven climate change continues to disproportionately affect working class communities of color, devastate animal and plant life, and threaten indigenous ways of life. This panel explores Asian American and Pacific Islander strategies of resistance against imperialism and militarization that also attends to our entanglements with nonhuman ecologies and organisms. It acknowledges that lands, oceans, and organisms not only witness colonial violence, but also produce vibrant materialities and connections in its aftermath. Our panel asks: What resistant strategies and tactics form alliances between seemingly disparate geographies, populations, and species? How can we develop alternative ways of being that recognize the knowledge, resilience, and resistance of landscapes, oceans, and non-human animals? In what ways can Asian American studies align itself with struggles against ecological destruction and dreams of sustainable futures?

Continue reading “Join Us for “Entangled Ecologies: Transpacific Alliances and Resistance in a More Than Human World” at AAAS!”

Thoughts

On Beginnings

This is a post that I was planning to write in January at the start of the new year, but I am glad that life and work got in the way because beginnings have taken on a sharper, more intense meaning for me these last few weeks. And, for once, the timing feels just right that I’m getting this writing in on the eve of Lunar New Year.

It would be wrong, of course, to say that beginnings are a new preoccupation of mine. Much of my scholarly work has been a meditation on and an effort to articulate other beginnings for Asian American studies and Asian Americanist critique. Thinking through the historic establishment of the field, the constraints of identitarian epistemologies, and other geographies for Asian America are some ways I’ve confronted questions around the objects and objectives, the scope, scales, and stakes of Asian American studies.

At the same time, beginning the dissertation that would become my current book project was a struggle. I have written elsewhere about the anxiety of embarking on an Asian American cultural studies project, about fears that it would delimit the possibilities and audiences for my research and confine me to  what is natural, expected, and known–an Asian American woman who would, of course, study Asian American literatures and cultures. And yet, recognizing that these concerns, which I’ve come to describe as the feeling of being minor, are not personal or individual, but rather structural and systemic–evidence of institutional racism and the effects of compartmentalizing minoritized knowledges–was a pivotal moment in my academic career and intellectual life.

Continue reading “On Beginnings”