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.

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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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Events

Event Announcement: Pedagogies of Dissent for Asian American Studies

I’m organizing the first of the Futures Initiative‘s new Thursday Dialogues series, a roundtable discussion on “Pedagogies of Dissent for Asian American Studies,” which takes inspiration from the theme of this year’s American Studies Association conference, “Pedagogies of Dissent” (November 9-12; Chicago, IL).

I am so excited to be in conversation with Kandice Chuh (Professor of English and American Studies, The Graduate Center, CUNY; President, American Studies Association) and Dorothy Wang (Associate Professor of American Studies and Faculty Affiliate in English, Williams College). See the flyer below for the full event description and hope to see you there!

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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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