Downwardly Global examines the transnational labor migration of Pakistani Muslim women and explores how questions of unemployment are increasingly rationalized and understood by governmental bodies as questions of culture and racialized difference. Multiculturalism operates through a dual mode of interpellation whereby integration represents not the erasure of all differences, but the celebration of some differences and the eradication of others. Publicly, the multicultural nation-state has built a reputation of openly abdicating its right to impose a single culture on its citizens. However, culture is a primary domain of action. The state relinquishes cultural imperialism and celebrates multi-ness through state-sanctioned forms of difference, yet still uses semi-governmental agencies to impose a particular mode of bodily comportment on new immigrants. This dual mode of interpellation puts immigrants in an impossible situation in which they must sometimes suitably display their Otherness, but otherwise cannot be culturally different.
This proposal requests support for a three-quarter leave, from October 2016 – May 2017, to conduct archival research in Japan for my current book project, Playing in the Shadows: Fictions of Race and Blackness in Postwar Japanese Literature. Playing in the Shadows is the first book-length manuscript to explore the body of literature engendered by post-World War II Japanese authors’ robust cultural exchanges with African Americans and African Americana. By tracing the history of Afro-Japanese cultural and political exchange as it is written into Japanese literature, I argue that Japanese fictions of race provide visions of the way that postwar, “post-Occupied,” post-imperial Japanese authors reimagine the ascription of race to bodies—be they bodies of literature, the body politic, or the human body itself.
This project examines the prehistory of police power by tracing the rhetorical construction of vagrancy as its paradigmatic target. In the Atlantic world of the long eighteenth century, the catchall category of vagrancy marked a wide range of social and economic deviance, from homelessness to prostitution, public disorder, or the perceived refusal to work. "Vagrant Figures" argues that vagrancy, as it traversed Anglo-American law and literature, profoundly shaped the eighteenth-century emergence of police power as it achieved both legal codification and increasing cultural sanction. Across global circuits of empire and commerce, vagrancy figured protean capacity for future threat that cannot be fully imagined in advance, and thus called for equally flexible, discretionary police power to contain it. Through the mobile cultural category of the "suspicious person," I uncover interpretive logics whose legacies shape law and policing today.
My book explores the artistic output of Alaskan Inuit musicians in relation to the ongoing processes and effects of colonialism in America’s "Last Frontier." I consider how a number of interrelated scenes — rural, urban, virtual — and cross-cultural genres — from professionalized traditional drumsongs and folk hymnody to “Tribal Funk” and “Eskimo Flow” hip-hop — offer more nuanced accounts of the consonances and dissonances underpinning Indigenous self-determination movements from the mid-twentieth century to present day. I argue that an in-depth examination of Inuit sound relations unsettles colonial expectations by amplifying unexpected intellectual, historical, political, and kinship genealogies that illustrate both the diversity of contemporary Native American musical life and the fluidity of contemporary Native American identity formation more broadly. My research bridges music studies and Indigenous studies by asking: how can Indigenous epistemologies change music scholarship, and how can listening critically to music change Indigenous studies scholarship?
Histories of sexuality routinely mediate past(s) through archival forms of paucity, disenfranchisement and loss. Sexuality is rescued from the detritus of histories of colonialism and nationalism and placed within more reparative narratives of reform and rights. I challenge such a focus on loss as the structuring narrative for histories of sexuality. Instead, I explore the radical abundance of sexuality through historical archives in South Asia that are plentiful and quotidian, imaginative and ordinary. I engage the archives of a Devadasi (translated variously as courtesan, dancing girl, prostitute and sex-worker) diaspora, the Gomantak Maratha Samaj (Goan Maratha Society), in British and Portuguese India between 1865-1961. The book’s energies derive from my commitment to two entangled yet segregated historiographies: one in South Asian/area studies and the other in queer/sexuality studies. As such, the project is equally a broader meditation on the politics and poetics of sexuality, geopolitics and historiography.
The Virus Touch is a book on technical mediations that seek to intervene in human-virus relations under epidemic conditions. The HIV/AIDS crises of the last forty years exemplify premiere agonistic encounters. Framed against the late 20thC ecological conception of the pathogenic viruses as an emergent threat, I theorize a spectrum of epidemic media from high-tech "expert" scientific to low-tech "non-expert" collective-popular solutions to HIV/AIDS high crises in the United States, South Africa, and India. I argue that such technical mediations in virology, immunology, and epidemiology eschew the “war on germs”—premised on eternal antagonism between the virus and the human—and embrace cooperative modes of living in uneasy truce with the virus. The aim is to think of technical mediations of human-virus relations at global and ecological scales.
“Flight of the Metropolis” examines the history of San Francisco International Airport as a means of better understanding the Bay Area as a physical, social, and imagined urban space. Central to this narrative is how people, from low-wage laborers to municipal officials, to members of neighborhood associations, have interacted with the airport. These interactions, in turn, shed light on phenomena that have shaped the Bay Area since the early twentieth century: the effect of the Bay Area’s environment on its urbanization and vice versa; the impact of the military and militarism on the region; the changing nature of work for an increasingly diverse population; technology's role in facilitating social changes; evolving strategies for multi-racial political organizing; and the ways that these and other phenomena may be understood in relation to local manifestations of racial capitalism and the broader imperial formations with which it has developed.
The Guyanese author, Wilson Harris, once famously declared that a “philosophy of history may well lie buried in the arts of the imagination.” My book-in-progress derives from Caribbean art and literature a philosophy of history that addresses the problem of archival loss. The artist, poets, and fiction writers of my study embrace silences, non-verbal sounds, sacred visions, and dreamscapes as creative responses to a fragmented archive. Their creative works not only deploy intangible and invisible phenomena for revealing the limitations of a material archive in addressing a history of slavery and post-slavery; they also introduce new channels of connection with the past. This is the first book-length study to examine how Caribbean arts transform our understanding of archival materials—whether they are written records and history books, sound recordings of music and oral histories, or virtual files on a computer—to include what I am calling immaterial evidence.
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