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 Friction and Environmental Violence in the Contemporary American Novel," 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: causality; tempo; scale; and agency. 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. Tracing genre friction through the contemporary period, I show how it manifested as the subversion of genre in postmodern fiction, then shifted with the "post-postmodern" turn toward the accumulation or layering of genres. Some of the novelists whose work I engage across this project include Rumaan Alam, Octavia Butler, Ana Castillo, Junot Díaz, Louise Erdrich, Ruth Ozeki, Richard Powers, Ishmael Reed, Leslie Marmon Silko, Jeff VanderMeer, Helena María Viramontes, Gerald Vizenor, 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 is forthcoming in American Literature.

I'm also developing a second project that engages global Afro-, Latinx, and indigenous futurisms across media and environmental and social movements through the lens of affect. My work on environmental SF and environmental justice 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 Routledge Companion to Science Fiction. I have also contributed review essays to American Literature and Public Books and write for the SF section of the Los Angeles Review of Books.