It's been a busy few months since I became a candidate: I taught an online course on LGBT Film and Video, conducted research at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, attended a week-long summer institute in Performance Studies at Northwestern University, and I presented at the Affect Theory Conference in Lancaster, PA this past weekend.
While much of the research conducted in studies on multiraciality utilize qualitative and quantitative methods such as ethnography, data analysis on the census, observation of media, or journalism, this project examines art and embodied performances as sites where the convergence of racial histories linger both in the body and outside the bounds of linear straight time. Drawing from queer theory’s perspective on temporality, its critique of reproductive futurity, and its historical speculation into undocumented moments of queer desire, this dissertation considers the racialized, gendered, affective, and temporal projects of mixed-race Asian art and performance. The ultimate goal of this project is to envision a methodology of memory that tracks historical silences through the body.
My use of the term “bad” raises a critical eye towards multiracialism’s reparative and celebratory stance as well as its reification of interpersonal and systemic racial violence. Badness at once denounces the well-held notion that mixed-race citizens will cure America from its racist past and muses over how mixed-race people may actually be bad themselves. I locate badness, then, in various colonial afterlives - the enduring restraint of linear straight time, the shifting terrains yet lasting presence of toxic white masculinity, hidden, shameful, or untranslatable narratives of war and exile, and growing levels of environmental decay. Each chapter is an attempt to trace how and at what consequence the mixed-Asian body confronts these colonial afterlives. I argue throughout the dissertation that a focus on colonial afterlives in studies on Asian multiraciality in particular unearths elusive, corroded, and queer lineages of transpacific history.
The first chapter I’ll write is the dissertation’s last. Chapter 4, "Transpacific Collapse, Apocalyptic Aesthetics, and Bad Futures of Multiraciality," engages new materialist thought in order to ask the following question: What remains concealed if the politics of multiracialism is not examined with a thorough attention to accelerated environmental decay? I examine Jenifer Wofford’s 2016 solo exhibition “Collapse” and Saya Woolfalk’s multi-year and mixed-media project “The Institute of Empathy.” Wofford’s “Collapse” is a collection of paintings featuring roads destroyed by seismic rupture across the Pacific Rim; Woolfalk’s “Institute of Empathy” creates a fictional race of women able to alter their genetic make-up to fuse with plants. Where Wofford’s work draws our attention to the earth’s deterioration and demise, Woolfalk’s project imagines a feminist praxis of hybridity in a post-apocalyptic world. By placing “Collapse” against “The Institute of Empathy” I juxtapose two historical events: seismic rupture and the looming multiracial majority in order to exhibit utopian performatives and multispecies possibilities of biocultural hope.
In the winter I'll begin writing Chapter 1 “White Residue.” This chapter features a comparative case study on mixed-Asian and white monsters: serial killer Andrew Cunanan, mass murderer Elliot Rodgers, and serial rapist Daniel Holtzclaw. I bring together the cases of these three mixed-Asian and white men in order to explore the ways in which their proximity to whiteness breeds a legacy of mass violence. Quite opposite from the figure fastened to multiracialism’s often exemplary depictions of mixed-Asian and white bodies, Cunanan’s, Rodgers’, and Holtzclaw’s deviations from this tenet of multiracialism demand an interrogation of the shifting terrains of white masculinity. Set against both the historical interpretation of mixed-race monstrosity (Nakashima, 1992) and the contemporary celebration of growing numbers of mixed-race citizens, this chapter articulates what I name to be "white residue."
Chapter 2 “How To Be a Monster” analyzes performance artist Chanel Matsunami Govreau and her evil alter-ego Queen Gidrea and feminist artist Maya Mackrandilal and her photography project “How To Be a Monster.” Both Govreau and Mackrandilal’s project’s illuminate a relationship to femininity that merges the desire to kill with the desire to seduce. Through these artists’ projects, I document the aesthetics of mixed-race Asian monstrosity as I argue that a queer femme positionality reverts the narrative of violence to reveal the lasting presence of coloniality through a queer articulation of femininity.
The 3rd chapter, "Muscle Memory," continues my project’s focus on the body as a site of imperial debris by exploring the performative ways the mixed-Asian body remembers and relays colonial trauma. I trace the intersections of affect studies, critical trauma studies, and performance studies’ theories on hybridity and cultural memory in order to articulate the ways the mixed-Asian body houses afterlives of conquest and memories of migration and exile. I highlight the performance art of Zave´ Martohardjono. I read Martohardjono’s work outside linear time thus situating the enigmatic figure of the queer mixed-Asian body as one that emerges and fades beyond the frequency of straight time.