My research and teaching focus on relational race studies and the literatures of Asian Americans and Latinxs. I follow an expansive idea of the Asian and Latinx United States as a specific nexus in global, multi-racial struggles with racial capitalism, empire, warfare, and extraction. In tandem, I pursue an expansive idea of imaginative culture as a powerful mode for grasping a multi-racial world and envisioning solidarities to transform it.
My first book, Giving Form to an Asian and Latinx America (Stanford 2020), follows a form of transfictional storytelling across the writings of Asian American and Latinx communities to reveal that the historical formations and social struggles of Asian Americans and Latinxs are linked. Together, Asian American and Latinx literatures show that we cannot understand the shape these communities take today unless we see how they formed in mutual relation. Their literary forms make aesthetically perceptible the Asian and Latinx America that the U.S is becoming. Literary aesthetics, I contend, offers modes of political imagination for envisioning cross-racial solidarities that could reshape the U.S. and its relations to the world.
I’m currently working on a new book project, Racial Entanglements: Racialization Across Groups, Species, Things, and Environments. This project strives to develop a fully relational race studies that grasps how groups, species, things, and environments are entangled agencies in the workings of race and empire. The imaginative cultures of Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, Latinxs, African Americans, and Indigenous Americans have pioneered languages to parse the knotted workings of racial injustice and to envision new forms of multi-racial and multi-species movements. I weave their entanglement aesthetics with entanglement concepts from multiple fields and knotty histories of multiracial, multispecies violence. The resulting racial entanglement theory expands race studies beyond its humanist boundaries. It traces links without limits on who, what, or where is involved in a racial injustice. And it overturns race relations common sense, which presumes distinct groups. Racial groups do not precede racial relations. They emerge within racial entanglements, configurations of the world binding people, species, things, and environments through which racial entities are activated. This vocabulary changes the design of race studies projects. Instead of taking distinct, given racial groups and discrete human struggles as the units of analysis, I argue that the basic unit is the multi-racial/species/site entanglement. This allows us to rethink racial justice struggles as struggles for vulnerable groups, species, and environments and a reshaped world allowing all to flourish.
I also work at the intersection of digital humanities and race studies. One project, The Asian American Literary Corpus, is the first to examine systematically the hundreds of texts in the Asian American literary corpus and the hundreds of scholarly publications that have defined it. The dataset built for this project reveals systemic inequities in the field’s scholarly attention.
I regularly teach courses on Asian American, Latinx, and multi-ethnic American literatures and cultures, race theory, relational race studies, migration, U.S. empire, social movements, and narrative forms. I see my courses as collaborations in which students and I work together to unpack questions of culture, literature, power, and race. To engage such difficult questions a class must collectively build a culture of support that helps each of us take intellectual risks. Recognizing our received answers about race as inadequate, we extend to each other the opportunity to make mistakes so that we can transgress established premises and find fresh possibilities.
Giving Form to an Asian and Latinx America, Stanford University Press 2020.
Honorable Mention in the 2022 Association for Asian American Studies Award for Best Book in Literary Studies
“Local Color to Multiculturalism: Minority Writers in the Short Story and Ethnographic Markets.” In The Cambridge Companion to the American Short Story, edited by Michael J. Collins and Gavin Jones, 174-88. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2023.
“#BLM Insurgent Discourse, White Structures of Feeling, and the Fate of the 2020 ‘Racial Awakening,’” with Richard Jean So and Maria Antoniak, New Literary History, 53, no. 4 / 54, no. 1 (Autumn 2022 /Winter 2023): 667-692.
“The Asian American Literature We’ve Constructed,” with Kate Hao, Post45 no. 7/ Journal of Cultural Analytics no. 4 (April 2021): 146-179.
“Narrating the Transnational: Refugee Routes, Communities of Shared Fate, and Transnarrative Form.” MELUS: Multi-Ethnic Literatures of the U.S. 43, no. 2 (Summer 2018): 106-128.
“Bildungsroman Hermeneutics in the Post-Civil Rights Era.” American Literature 90, no. 1 (March 2018): 141-170.
“A Quantitative Literary History of 2,958 Nineteenth-Century British Novels: The Semantic Cohort Method,” with Ryan Heuser. Pamphlets of the Stanford Literary Lab, 2012.
“Learning to Read Data: Bringing out the Humanistic in the Digital Humanities,” with Ryan Heuser, Victorian Studies 54, no. 1 (Autumn 2011): 79-86.