In my time here, I have become deeply interested in contemporary engagement with the racialized development of capitalism, as well as the ways in which the privileged status of American citizenship is constantly defined against the material conditions of existence for those whose identities have been disallowed by the American national narrative. The readings and discussions from the seminars I’ve taken thus far have helped me pose central questions and lines of inquiry that I plan to pursue in my future study: namely, how does differentiated citizenship intersect with the regulatory apparatuses of capitalism, racism, imperialism, and nationalism to function as a racializing and gendering technology? In particular, I want to pay close attention to counter-narratives that envision potential sites of resistance and coalition in which non-normative identities can engage in epistemic disobedience and border thinking to allow for the emergence of an ethical and political imaginary that opens up possibilities of recovering and affirming their subjectivities while conceiving futures that go beyond the limits imposed by hegemonic abstract universals.
In the future, I would like to expand my understanding of historical, theoretical, and literary works on race, nationalism, citizenship, immigration, and other closely related subjects. I want to investigate critical modes of thinking that seek to address and acknowledge the materiality of race, gender, and sexuality often obscured by historical materialism. Literary narratives written by racial and sexual others, and migrant literature in particular, offer us the space to examine and question the process of immigration and citizenship—both of which serve as critical sites through which US interests have recruited and regulated labor and capital. I also wish to pose a more general and overarching inquiry about literature’s potential to challenge the national narrative that has sustained the white liberal citizen-subject in order to envision alternative political and economic arrangements that address the racialized violence and erasures such a narrative perpetuates. Ultimately, to engage with the cultural politics of race, racial genealogies, citizenship, and immigration in the context of American Studies is to question the power dynamics and the regulatory and disciplinary mechanisms of a nation that has long conceptualized itself as being democratic, racially diverse, and inclusive.
The seminars that I have taken during my fall and winter quarters here have been instrumental in developing and refining my modes of thinking. One seminar encouraged me to think critically about how the reproduction of the capitalist nation-state remains inextricably bound up with racial formations throughout different sociohistorical moments in the United States. Through this seminar, in which I read influential scholars such as Roderick Ferguson, Walter Mignolo, and Jodi Melamed, I advanced the argument that liberal ideologies and state-sponsored antiracisms extend the logic of chattel slavery, imperialism, and capitalism to exploit non-normative bodies that are disowned and deemed unworthy of citizenship. Ferguson’s investigation of how intersecting racial, gender, and sexual practices antagonize or conspire with the normative investment of nation-state and capital was particularly helpful in organizing my thinking about the ways in which non-normative racial formations can offer ruptural and critical possibilities to question the American national narrative.
In addition, I have discovered different approaches and methodologies through which I may engage with questions of racialized citizenship upon taking a seminar on affect theories and narratives. I want to find ways to deploy Sara Ahmed’s theorizations on melancholic migrants within American Studies to address racism in productive ways and create spaces in which the loss felt by those excluded from national belonging can be reworked as a potential site of new discoveries. I also want to investigate the productive and transgressive potentiality of unhappiness as a counter-narrative that offers a space for social and political mobilization and collectivity within migrant populations in the United States whose presence has been determined by a history of colonialism and capital investment in their countries of origin. With such goals in mind, I am looking forward to taking future seminars that will help me expand my ongoing engagement with postcolonial theory and Marxist historiographic and theoretic scholarship on nationalism and race, as well as refine my understanding of how race and associated cultural identities are narrated across different sociohistorical moments.