Research

As a scholar, I work across disciplines to address how literary works and literary studies can contribute to difficult conversations about social and environmental justice, considering how form and genre allow stories to mediate between individual experience and systemic explanations of inequity.

My book in progress, "Genre Frictions: Structural Violence and Contemporary American Narratives," argues that contemporary American novels have been formally shaped by the effort to incorporate structural and environmental violence into literary narrative. Identifying structural violence as a defining feature of contemporary life, I argue that literature offers a kind of cultural “laboratory” in which techniques for narrating difficult knowledge can be honed. In four chapters, I explore how structural and environmental violence poses challenges to major elements of narrative form such as causality, agency, and relation. Novelists responded to these challenges through a literary phenomenon I call "genre friction," in which realistic and fantastical genres emerge into and interrupt each other. Some of the novelists whose work I engage across this project include Octavia Butler, Ana Castillo, Don DeLillo, Ruth Ozeki, Ishmael Reed, Leslie Marmon Silko, Helena María Viramontes, Jesmyn Ward, Colson Whitehead, and Karen Tei Yamashita.

The fourth chapter, for instance, begins by exploring how the infrastructural anti-Black violence that haunts former plantation spaces in the United States exceeds everyday understandings of agency, with violence enacted infrastructurally (not individually or directly) through the plantation-informed material and ideological design of prisons and the petrochemical industry. I then show how contemporary novels by Black writers layer Gothic tropes onto realist texts to imbue plantation landscapes with what I call "geo-memory," in which the nonhuman is granted agency such that the violent legacies of the plantation system emerge in fantastical ways from the environment itself. An article drawn from this chapter was recently published in American Literature.

I have also begun work on two future projects: one exploring how global Afrofuturist literature, film, and art mobilize affect to produce counterhegemonic forms of environmental citizenship; the other tracing how heteroglossia and polyphony mediate climate justice, migration, and geopolitics in global Anthropocene novels. Meanwhile, my work on contemporary SF and environmental humanities has appeared in ASAP/Journal, Science Fiction Studies, Resilience: A Journal of the Environmental Humanities, The Cambridge History of Science Fiction, An Ecotopian Lexicon, and Women's Studies Quarterly, and is forthcoming in The New Routledge Companion to Science Fiction. I have also contributed review essays to American Literature and Public Books and write regularly for the SF section of the Los Angeles Review of Books.