Research

Finally in Print! — “Time Traveling with Care: On Female Coolies and Archival Speculations”

I received my copy of the June 2018 American Quarterly last week and I couldn’t be more thrilled to see my essay, “Time Traveling with Care: On Female Coolies and Archival Speculations,” in print at last in a journal that I’ve been following since I began my graduate studies. That it appears alongside the words of Kandice Chuh, Jodi Melamed, Douglas Ishii, and other scholars who have been vital mentors and interlocutors for my research over the years is all the more reason why I will hold this AQ issue close.

The essay itself has gone through numerous revisions, from its early beginnings as a term paper for Robert Reid-Pharr’s seminar on “African American/Africana Literature and Culture,” as an ASA conference presentation, and dissertation chapter, which is also to say that many people contributed their time, energy, and wisdom to supporting its realization in this current form. Any remaining shortcomings are of course mine but I wanted to share my acknowledgments again here to make visible the often unseen, unpaid labor that goes into the life of a publication like this:

This essay benefitted from the insights of many eyes. I would like to thank Kandice Chuh, Duncan Faherty, the members of my dissertation writing group, and my colleagues on the Committee on Globalization and Social Change at the Graduate Center, CUNY, for their generous feedback on earlier drafts. Many thanks also to Cathy N. Davidson, the two anonymous reviewers, and the Board of Managing Editors at American Quarterly for sharing the critical insights that helped me realize my vision for this piece in its final stages. Lastly, I want to thank my sister, Sharon Tran, for her unflagging support; the meditations on what it means to approach an archive with care in this essay are, in part, indebted to her always careful reading of my work.

There are many others who haven’t been mentioned here by name, including an entire class of students that I taught at Queens College who challenged and deepened my thinking about Patricia Powell’s The Pagoda more than I could have ever anticipated; their questions and energy animates this essay as well. I look forward too to the ways in which future readers will take up and give continued life to this work in the years to come.

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Conferences

Some Reflections on HASTAC 2017: The Possible Worlds of Digital Humanities

This is a long long overdue post… Having the HASTAC and ASA conferences back-to-back weekends this year was more than a little chaotic, but it also meant that I had a chance to be part of a series of thoughtful, engaged conversations with people working on amazing and varied projects- on technology, critical university studies, feminist pedagogy, race and the digital humanities, and more. Even now, over a month after both conferences, I find myself returning to the threads of those conversations to think through how I might integrate the ideas and practices I learned from attending panels and speaking to other faculty and students into my scholarly work.

For the time being, this post will be about HASTAC 2017, not least because it was my first time attending and also the first time I’ve ever been to a conference that welcomed such a range of experimental panels. You would think because I’d been in bi-weekly virtual meetings with the local organizers in Orlando, Bruce Janz and Amy Giroux, for months in advance that I would have a better sense of what to anticipate, but I really didn’t… This just goes to show that for all of the things the digital enables, it cannot capture the feeling of what it means to be together in a shared space, in real-time.

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Conferences

Let’s Talk about “Pedagogies of (Resistance to) Neoliberalism” and “Unruly Animations” at ASA!

I am feeling invigorated after HASTAC 2017: The Possible Worlds of Digital Humanities– my very first HASTAC conference (hopefully of many more to come). Everyone was so welcoming, even to someone who feels like an interloper in the DH world, and it was comforting to realize that a good number of people there also see themselves on the peripheries of this field. We had great conversations, both in person and on Twitter, about using technology to do social justice work,  disciplinary anxieties, feminist pedagogy, and cultivating new communities on and offline. There is so much to reflect on, so stay tuned for a fuller (and more coherent) reflection.

But for now, I am hoping to take the energy from this conference to the upcoming American Studies Association conference, “Pedagogies of Dissent.” I am presenting on the panel, “Pedagogies of (Resistance to) Neoliberalism” (Thursday, Nov. 9, 12-1:45 PM, Hyatt Regency Chicago, McCormick, Third Floor West Tower), along with Derek DiMatteo, Funie Hsu, and Emily Raymundo. Krista Benson, Assistant Professor of Liberal Studies at Grand Valley State University, will be chairing and offering comments on our work. I am looking forward to this exciting conversation and hope to see you there!

If you’re interested, here is the abstract for my paper:

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Thoughts

2015 ASA Conference Abstract

Excited to present at the 2015 ASA Conference tomorrow! Our panel, “Disorganizing Knowledge,” is going to be awesome- check out my abstract below and hope to see you there!

Time Travel (De)collage

on Female Coolies, Archival Knowledge and Speculative Aesthetics

Researchers working in and with colonial archives, grappling with the historical legacies of transatlantic slavery, imperial conquest, and genocide, consistently confront the immiserating sense that the past cannot be changed. The concept of time travel is captivating precisely because it suggests the possibility of altering the course of history, of avoiding violence and injury, to access other futures. However, if the dilemma remains that futuristic machinery cannot help us rectify past wrongs, in this presentation I explore how the concept of time travel can still function as a mode of confronting loss and doing justice. Engaging the figure of the Asian coolie and the history of the coolie trade in particular, I posit time travel as an alternative practice for relating to archives and archival materials, one that is necessarily aesthetic and speculative.

Archives as both institutional and epistemological formations are intimately associated with legacies of colonialism, with processes of documenting, categorizing, and objectifying difference that establish certain groups as knowable “others.” As Foucault demonstrates, archives figure as sites for the management of bodies, in which living bodies are transformed into quantifiable statistics, concrete measures of value, loss and profit. I argue that attending to time travel as a process that emphasizes encounter and embodiment, the ways in which our bodies impact other bodies as we do archival research, disorganizes the hegemonic time-space of “the archive” and what constitutes as legitimate knowledge.

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