A beacon of light in an otherwise dark year~ AAAS 2021 where I chaired a roundtable on Mixed Race Asian America. I'm lucky to know Alexander Chee, Wei Ming Dariotis, Laura Kina, Bianca Nozaki-Nasser, Curtiss Takada Rooks, and Myra Washington. This star group of Asian Americans agreed to participate on this roundtable back in the summer of 2019. After last year's canceled Asian American Studies conference, we were finally able to discuss how our art, activism, and research reckons with and emboldens critical mixed race studies and the study of Asian America. A special shoutout to Laura Kina who allowed me to use her stunning artwork Gama: Acrylic on canvas for the flyer.
Feeling a little more full after speaking on this panel last night.
Thanks to The Capitol Pride Alliance and The DC Center for inviting me to be in conversation with La Sarmiento, Nick Hatcher, Dr. Noel Ramirez, and Rajani Gudlavalleti
This morning, I spent time chatting with SunAh Laybourn about Asian & Asian American women, racial fetish, and US empire. We got into the sexual preferences of white supremacy, the violent history of US militarism, and I ended with some suggestions for listeners who want to do something, anything to combat anti-Asian racism in America. Spoiler alert: read up on transformative justice, abolition, and sex work decriminalization.
SunAh and I know each other from grad school and it was both a privilege + a pleasure to be a guest on her radio show "Let's Grab Coffee" on WYXR Memphis. Tune in every Saturday morning to learn more about today's pressing social issues from experts across the US. Her show is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, online, and on 91.7 FM in Memphis, TN.
As we witness the rise in anti-Asian violence in the United States within the last year, we must also and always account for its continuities. There is a vicious specificity to the violence we see today--how it marks a broad racial figure of the “Chinese,” how it targets elder generations, and how it produces a violent metaphor between “Asian” and/as COVID-contagion. Yet, to imagine this recent rise in anti-Asian violence as exceptional or episodic dangerously discounts the continuous racist premise of US imperial and settler violence.
A hundred years ago (and still), Asian migrants suffered social violence and political exclusion through racial capitalist and immigration policies: After recruiting over a century of Asian migrant labor toward the disciplining of Black labor in the US, the Asiatic Barred Zone followed the heels of the Chinese Exclusion Act in order to limit immigration from Asian countries through racial categories of admissibility. Seven decades ago (and still), the US government interned “suspect” Japanese communities, while it pursued disastrous warfare in East Asia. Less than five decades ago (and still), Southeast Asian migrants of imperial wars experienced American nativist and border violence. In the first two decades of this century (and still), “Muslim-looking” populations have been targets of racial violence while a forever “war on terror” rages on in Asia and in Africa.
Anti-Asian racism—then and now—is an expansion of the foundational racisms of this country: slavery and anti-Black violence, settler colonialism, racial capitalism, and imperial warfare. The disturbing rise of anti-Asian violence must be reckoned with today, while ever clarifying our historical sight and rallying us further toward political solidarity.
Moving forward, our efforts to heal and protect require abolitionist principles. We must renounce, defund, and abolish the police, the military, ICE, and prisons. Neither structural transformation nor abolition, however, will occur without a collective consciousness. Given our location within the university, we seek to offer context and inspire questions that cycle back to the lessons we continue to learn from grassroots organizers: that a demand to end anti-Asian racism is ultimately a demand to end white supremacy; that our response to racist violence may be rooted in de-escalation; that our classrooms may function as sites of mutual aid, nonviolent conflict resolution, and transformative justice.
As we strive to build this world, we follow the lead of student activists—at Dartmouth and beyond—who call on us to declare our campuses as sanctuaries, and to envision cops off campus. Toward these abolitionist and transformative horizons, we follow the Dartmouth Student Union and the Cops Off Campus movement. We are also grateful for the communing and solidarity work of pan-AAPI organizers on campus including at the Asian Pacific Islander Caucus, the Office of Pluralism and Leadership, the Asian and Asian American Living Learning Community, and beyond.
Anna M. Storti, Najwa Mayer, Mingwei Huang, Carolyn Choi, and Yanyi, on behalf of the working group in Asia/America Studies and the Consortium of Studies in Race, Migration, and Sexuality at Dartmouth.
The above statement is published within RMS Publics, a newsletter of The Dartmouth Consortium of Studies in Race, Migration, and Sexuality
My article, "Scenes of Hope, Acts of Despair: Deidealizing Hybridity in Saya Woolfalk's World of the Empathics," is now live in Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies within their special issue "Staging Feminist Futures."
In it, I observe the reproductive futurity embedded within discourses of racial mixing to scrutinize the racialized and redemptive logics which surround hybridity. Temporal framings (i.e. recuperating the past, celebrating the present, and idealizing the future) form the basis of this article, which brings together the nexus of hope and despair to analyze the oeuvre of contemporary mixed race artist Saya Woolfalk. In three multi-year, multimedia, and temporally overlapping projects, Woolfalk creates the world of the Empathics, a hybrid race of women able to alter their genetic make-up to fuse with plants. Woolfalk integrates feminist ethnography and Afro-futurism into mediums of video, dance, and textile to bear on the utopian potentials of hybridity. Throughout the piece, I draw on Kadji Amin’s heuristic of “deidealization” to reveal how the ideals of utopia, empathy, and shared ancestry emerge and collapse in the Empathics’ world.
The article includes three sections, each organized around one of Woolfalk’s projects and its associated ideal. The first section analyzes the ideal of utopia in The Ethnography of No Place, a series of videos Woolfalk produced with documentary filmmaker Rachel Lears. I analyze the videos alongside historical contextualization of Woolfalk’s multiracial background, specifically through her grandmother’s involvement in the International Peace Mission Movement, a utopian interracial commune led by Reverend Father Divine in New York during the Great Depression. The second section deidealizes empathy through a close-reading of Woolfalk’s second project, The Institute of Empathy, a non-profit research and development collective managed by the Empathics. The institute uses empathy as the source to produce rituals which transform humans into plant-human hybrids. Through feminist critiques of empathy, this section argues that empathy is less an affectively charged catalyst for utopia, but a technique of neoliberal governmentality appearing as a specific feminist quality. The final section contends with the ideal of shared ancestry through Woolfalk’s most recent project ChimaTEK, a corporation set in a dystopian future which reproduces and distributes the Institute of Empathy’s rituals for profit. By mass-producing hybridity with a number of chimeric products, ChimaTEK is well positioned to illuminate the ethical dilemmas surrounding the recent upsurge in DNA testing (i.e. Ancestry.com and 23andme). I examine the science, politics, and commerce of the ancestry industry suggesting that the notion of shared ancestry (i.e. one human race, or “we are all mixed”) continues to suture empathy and hybridity to utopia, thus foreclosing the capacity to imagine alternative, and less violent, feminist futures.
You can find it here. I'd also be happy to message you a PDF.
In May 2012, I was selected to be a McNair Scholar at Cal Poly Pomona. As a 4th year studying Gender & Ethnic Studies and Non-Profit Management, I created an IRB-approved research project on queer femininity. Through weekly seminars, workshops, conferences, and mentorship, McNair demystified research and doctoral study, allowing me to view the pursuit of a PhD as both viable and necessary. The intellectual curiosity I developed in McNair rerouted my life for the better. Less than a decade later, CPP's McNair Scholars Program featured me in their annual newsletter. In a calendar year that saw me complete the PhD, their invitation brought me to reminisce on the journey I've ventured on. In seeing the feature in print, in the midst of our ongoing suffering, I'm overcome with what feels like a rare feeling nowadays: joy.
My profile can be found on page 7.
I’m always touched by Jennifer Ling Datchuk's ceramic work, so much so that a collection of her pieces inspired me to write an essay, “Half and Both: On Color and Subject/Object Tactility,” which was just published in “Performances of Contingency: Feminist Relationality and Asian American Studies After the Institution,” a special issue of Women & Performance: a journal of feminist theory. I'm so grateful to Summer Kim Lee and Vivian Huang, the issue's editors who handled my piece with tremendous vision and generosity.
In the essay, I use Datchuk's work on porcelain as a touchstone to think about Asian femininity, the subject/object "divide," mixed race subjectivity, touch, and color. I consider Datchuk's racially motivated pieces with my own mixed race in mind, which is to say, the piece interweaves theories of object life and ornamentalism with intimate relation to my life. I ask us to pay special attention to the "and" in subject and object. Rather that the "or," and inhabits a tactile and adhesive quality that comes close to the way I understand racial mixture.
If you’d like to read it, contact me and I'll be happy to send you a pdf.
Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (APAHM) is nearing an end. The various months dedicated to the heritage and history of racial, gender, and sexual minorities are, for many, life-sustaining bursts of representation; they not only offer an increase in visibility, telling the stories of minoritized communities, but they also evidence the deep legacies of violence and inequity that continue to penetrate our times. This APAHM saw the premiere of the PBS original "Asian Americans," a 5-hour film series documenting the history of the fastest growing racial group in the nation. A thorough and unparalleled documentary, "Asian Americans" is a crucial addition to the archive of ethnic studies. Nevertheless, it is imperative we pay attention to the project's governing statistic; deeming Asian Americans as "the fastest growing population" is a piece of data not to take lightly. In our efforts to build and imagine a world without racism, we must understand the foundational tenet that racialized groups are not treated equally within white supremacy. That Asian Americans are the fastest growing population in America means, simply, that other racialized groups are dying at an exorbitant rate. [And no, I am not including white people here. The decrease in white Americans can be traced to an increase in interracial relationships; a history of racial mixture in which I just completed a dissertation on].
One need not look further than our current crisis -- COVID-19 -- to observe how death has racist preferences. Due to the long legacy of slavery, mass incarceration, and health and economic disparities, Black people in particular are the most vulnerable to dying from coronavirus complications. What's worse is that while the world seems to be operating on pause, the police have only carried on with their targeted violence against Black people. We are now months into the global pandemic, and while the virus still infects at an unprecedented rate, many are unwisely removing their masks and protesting for the reopening of the economy. Others are rightfully protesting the stolen life of Black people. The recent murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, as well as the recording of Amy Cooper threatening the life of Chris Cooper, are, unfortunately, not unprecedented. We are too familiar with this violence. Why then is there a surge to condemn anti-Asian racism?
It is true that the past few months have shown an increase in hate crimes against Asian Americans. On the one hand, the increase in anti-Asian racism demonstrates the fragility of the model minority myth. Asian Americans -- primarily those with class privilege -- are often designated as “honorary whites” or as people who occupy a close proximity to whiteness despite not being white. The pandemic has been swift to remind us of how exclusionary and conniving whiteness can be. To regard Asian Americans as model minorities is to disregard the historical and contemporary dangers of yellow peril, orientalism, and xenophobia. On the other hand, the COVID-19 pandemic presents an opportunity to remember the long history that connects Asians to disease. The racialized charge against Asian Americans that we are seeing currently stems from a moment long before the novel coronavirus emerged in Wuhan, China and well before western leaders weaponized rhetoric of “Chinese virus” or “kung flu.” We must remember that the first race-based immigration bans -- the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and the Asiatic Barred Zone Act of 1917 -- both suggested Asians are more likely to carry and bring disease, and thus should be prohibited from entering the country. The racist myth that Asians host and disseminate disease and illness conveniently conceals the nation’s practice of white supremacy and, with it, the exclusion of certain immigrants.
Last month, Rachel Chang interviewed me for a piece on Anti-Asian racism in the context of the pandemic. Today, I find myself reiterating my point on
“thinking creatively” about more effective ways to report incidents and learning from Black community organizers “who have built alternative models of safety, support, and healing.”
I was asked about how traditional Asian cultures grapple with the politics of reporting hate crimes. The numbers show how Asian Americans are less likely to report harassment. Shame, citizenship status, and a distrust in or fear of law enforcement may impact whether an Asian person feels inclined to report a hate crime. Of course, the degree of the attack matters. We must recognize how violence functions on scales - stabbing, acid attacks, verbal assaults, the petrifying stares. While we may attempt to look past the microaggressions, they still bear a burden. The more explicit attacks are almost impossible to ignore. Calling the police very rarely results in rescue, and often only perpetuates violence. Police brutality persists even during quarantine. Asian Americans can learn a lot from those who organize against anti-Black racism. Community organizers in the transformative and restorative justice movements have built alternative models of safety, support, and healing. Anti-Asian racism is experiencing a devastating surge, but calling the police does more harm than good.
As APAHM comes to a close, the work to hold each other accountable continues. The celebration of culture and identity need not mean denying our complicity in systemic violence. We can begin by acknowledging the culpability of the unnamed Asian cop who watched as George Floyd died from being pinned to the ground by a white cop's knee. There is space for an understanding of anti-Blackness even as we are attacked for being Asian. The common enemy is white supremacy. So, for those like me - both Asian and queer - there is more work to be done in June *Pride month* when so much attention will be on celebration, I hope we make room for criticism: against white supremacy and its disproportionate targeting of Black life.
A few years ago, my dissertation advisor--the inimitable Alexis Lothian-- invited me to collaborate on the keyword entry on “Sexuality” for the MLA’s online volume Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities. It was a joy to co-write with Alexis, an invaluable lesson in collaborative writing. In light of the global pandemic, the volume's editors decided to expedite the publication in an effort to provide a resource for professors who were forced to transition into online teaching in a pinch. The volume is one of a kind and is an excellent resource for those interested in learning about or teaching on the number of topics that makes the humanities such a vital means in which we can construct a more equitable and life-sustaining world. A complete list of the keywords is available here.
“During the course of your research, was there any finding or revelation that you did not expect or challenged your preconceptions?” This was what my mom was going to ask me during the q&a portion of my dissertation defense. As soon as I finished my 20-minute presentation, my mother raised her hand (on Zoom) and prepared to ask me what would’ve been the most difficult question I’d have to answer. Instead, while holding back tears she told me how proud she was of me. When we Facetimed afterwards, mom said she wanted to ask a question that would stump me, but her emotions took over. Leading up to the day, I was nervous to see how my family would receive my work. In spite of the jargon and the content on racial fetish, they felt only joy for me. I’m happy to report, also, that I passed with flying colors and have only very minor revisions to complete.
Soon after I finished writing my dissertation, the president deemed the novel coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic. This official designation was unsurprising news to me as I had been following the COVID-19 headlines for some time. It was, nonetheless, a crushing reality to accept. In a matter of days, I had to cancel my travel plans to DC, where I was to defend my dissertation in person, and quickly prepare to host the event on Zoom. After coping with the disappointment that my 6 years of doctoral training would culminate in my Vermont apartment, I settled into a comfort knowing that there was a silver lining to defending online: my family could tune in. And that they did. In addition to sharing the experience with some of my favorite colleagues and best friends, I had fam Zoom in from Manila, Vancouver, and all over my home state of California.
After the fact, I celebrated with a handful of patient friends who stayed online throughout. We raised a glass together. My advisor sent me a gift basket with champagne and snacks. My partner had a funfetti cake delivered from Milk Bar in DC and surprised me with flowers. The plan, before the pandemic, was to splurge at the LINE Hotel in DC. We scored reservations at Bad Saint, a celebrated Filipino restaurant with a notoriously long line. We’d take a trip over the summer, but for the time being we’d celebrate in the city we called home for 5 years.
I’m still reeling from it all; there is no replacement for liveness, but in its place the internet facilitated something I’ll never forget. As I settle into the moment, one that finds me now a Dr., I do so with an air of self-confidence - knowing I did it, I finished my PhD - as well as a more complicated feeling of somber gratitude - we are enduring so much loss, and yet, there is still much left to embrace.
For the sake of archiving, I’m posting the abstract to my dissertation here:
A Host of Memories: Mixed Race Subjection and Asian American Performances Against Disavowal
This dissertation develops the concept of racial hosting to conceptualize mixed-raceness as an embodied palimpsest of past, present, and future. A Host of Memories: Mixed Race Subjection and Asian American Performances Against Disavowal argues for the importance of uncovering the disavowed, residual, and violent conditions of racial mixture. The project situates queer theories of temporality and feminist theories of situated knowledge in relation to Asian Americanist critiques of memory. I contend that the Asian/white subject is both an index to track the colonial condition across time, and a host that harbors the colonial desires we have come to name as hybridity, multiracialism, and post-racism.
Each chapter builds towards a methodology of memory to, on the one hand, track the sensorial life of mixed-raceness, and on the other hand, document how the discourse of multiracialism obscures mass violence and the colonial ideology of racial purity. Chapter one advances the framework of white residue through an examination of the case of Daniel Holtzclaw, the Japanese/white police officer serving 263 years in prison for assaulting 13 Black women. I then narrate the life of Elliot Rodger, the Chinese/white mass shooter and involuntary celibate. Opening the study in this way dispels the notion that racial mixture renders racism’s past obsolete. I then shift to mixed race artists whose performances of desire, memory, and time include a fervent belief in queer and feminist possibility. Chapter two illuminates how a femme aesthetic of retribution surfaces as a response to racial fetish. This chapter spotlights performances by Chanel Matsunami Govreau and Maya Mackrandilal. Chapter three forwards the concept of muscle memory to study how the accumulation of history is deposited into the body and enacted through movement. Here, I contemplate the queer and trans dance of Zave´ Martohardjono. Chapter four de-idealizes hybridity through the oeuvre of contemporary artist Saya Woolfalk. To end, I refer to the photography of Gina Osterloh to force a reckoning with the pressures to remember and claim ancestry. Mixed race subjection, I conclude, is an embodied phenomenon with reverberating implications for the structure of racial form writ large.