Research

Following Wild Mushrooms: A Letter to Anna Tsing

Dear Anna,

I have been a fan of your work since I read Friction: An Ethnography of Global Connection (2005) at the beginning of my graduate studies, so I don’t know why it has taken me this long to pick up The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins (2015). But since I started reading it in late August, I can’t stop thinking about your project.

It offers such a captivating invitation- to follow the lifeways of matsutake, wild mushrooms, and the lives it assembles. Who would’ve thought that a project could be built around a single type of mushroom? …But you did. I’m sure there were and still are people who would dismiss a work like this for daring to focus on something so small and, some would say, insignificant. And yet, you elegantly show us how following matsutake opens up whole worlds.

Your work has attuned me to new ways of seeing and understanding received categories and concepts–capitalism, ecology, labor, freedom, precarity, and ruin. I am still in awe of how deftly you take readers from the day-to-day struggles of mushroom foragers searching for matsutake in the forests of Oregon and the complicated stories of how and why they began picking mushrooms for a living, to consider broad-scale questions about ecological devastation and forest renewal, to how matsutake enter capitalist markets and informal gift economies in Japan.

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Thoughts

2015 AAAS Conference Abstract

Jetting off to the 2015 Association for Asian American Studies Conference, “The Trans/National Imaginary: Global Cities and Racial Borderlands,” in Chicago/Evanston tomorrow! I’ll be presenting on an awesome panel, “Gender and the Aesthetics of Race.” Check out my abstract below and hope to see you there!

Female Coolies and Aesthetic Archives 

Re-configuring the Timespace of Asian America

Recent scholarship on the figure of the coolie has identified Latin America and the Caribbean as important components of the spatiotemporal imaginary of “Asian America.” Critics like Moon Ho Jung, Walton Look Lai, and Lisa Yun have pushed us to re-negotiate the borders of Asian American studies, not only by drawing attention to the space of the Americas writ broadly, but also by attuning us to temporalities that precede the field’s origins in the social movements of the 1960s and 70s. However, this research on the coolie has been largely historical, drawing on official archives to provide a broader conception of global economy and the distribution of colonial power during the nineteenth century. My paper contributes to such conversations by exploring how the literary enables us to negotiate gaps in colonial archives.

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Research

Writing about the Dissertation

As I prepare for dissertation workshops and fellowship applications in the fall, I am reminded of this important piece of mentoring advice:

Don’t just write your dissertation, but write about it and often.

Writing about your project can be frustrating, unnerving, and even painful, but I have found that it keeps me grounded- it forces me to think about the stakes of my work and reminds me of who I am speaking to, which can be incredibly energizing. In light of this, I have decided to share some of the writing “about” my  dissertation that Duncan Faherty (Associate Professor of English at Queens College and the Graduate Center, CUNY)  invited us to complete for the American Studies dissertation workshop I am taking this fall. As always, it took me longer than expected to complete (and is of course far from perfect), but it did get me thinking about my project and the challenge of communicating it to others who might not be familiar with my topic or areas of research.

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