I teach, research, and write about hemispheric literatures and cultures of the Americas, principally of the twentieth century. My inquiries have mostly taken place in the fields of indigenous and Latino studies, American literature, poetry and poetics, and environmental criticism, with the following questions focusing my work: How is it that conceptions of difference mediated by literary form(s) create feelings of belonging outside of national paradigms, particularly in kinship networks of race and ethnicity? And how do these values (values of what my colleague at Chicago Marshall Sahlins has sharply termed "cosmographies of difference") shape contestations for power? That is, how does power differentiate bodies and conversely how can this power be seized (in poetry, narrative, arts, etc.) as a mode of social and environmental agency? I am, to put it another way, extremely interested in how kinship works; what its constituting forms are, what its deepest content signifies, and to what extent poetics animate and are animated by these forms and content.
The book that I am currently working on, Deep Land: Hemispheric Modernisms and Indigenous Media, explores the reception of indigenous cultures of the Americas by Anglo and Latino modernists of the twentieth century as their attempt to forge poetic communities alternative to national paradigms. Focusing on the media of indigenous cultures—including Ojibwe and Plains pictography, Mayan glyphs and maps, Zuñi migration sagas, and Amazonian shamanic theatrics—I trace the textual relationships between native poetics and modernist practices. Authors such as Jaime de Angulo, Ezra Pound, Robert Duncan, Charles Olson, Oscar Zeta Acosta, Miguel Méndez, and Gloria Anzaldúa are indebted to cultural interconnections that extend (either through ethnographic fieldwork or through participation in anthropological discourses--Morgan onward--that involve such figures as Émile Durkheim, Marcel Mauss, Zitkala-Ša, George Hunt, Franz Boas, Alfred Kroeber, Ella Cara Deloria, Max Weber, and Margaret Mead...) into North American, Central American, and South American indigenous communities. To recover this hemispheric network, I translate the indigenous languages and media that interconnect it and, in so doing, reveal a shared poetic engagement with indigenous conceptions of ecological kinship.
This scholarly work-in-progress has its wandering doppelgänger in a long-form fictional post-apocalyptic ethnography on the subject of the anthropogenic climate crisis. Titled Partial Animals: A Collection of Stories, Songs, Artifacts, Images, and Poems Documenting the Anthropogenic Climate Interference, this ongoing creative work investigates in practice the poetic forms whose critical tensions animate my scholarly work, arguing ultimately for the concepts of interference and miscommunication as viable hermeneutics for understanding the climate crisis.
The research that I am in the process of developing for a subsequent scholarly book further investigates conceptions of planetarity but with attention to how environments get under the skin via culture-specific conceptions of health and care. This project emerges from collaborative translations with anthropologist Dennis Tedlock of densely verbally artistic K'iche' healing ceremonies. Due to this collaboration, I became interested in the poetic bases of ethnoscientific veridiction; how, for instance, poetry is physicalized in malady and healing in such phenomena as susto, curanderismo, charisma, and so forth. And, in turn, I am curious as to how such an epistemological orientation to literary performance as a type of medical equipment might help us rethink the utopic claims of such figures such as Maria Montessori, Edgar Cayce, Ursula Le Guin, Rudolfo Anaya, Leslie Marmon Silko, Tony Shearer, Gregory Canajete, Gerald Vizenor, and Luis Alberto Urrea.
Much of my scholarship cooks in the athanors of collaboration and curation. Most recently, Ben Glaser and I have been developing an annotated digital bibliography on race and poetics that aggregates works of ethnomusicology from the eighteenth century onward, works whose impact on American poetics was felt but has been forgotten. My collaboration with Wai Chee Dimock on a conference series and web-and-print anthology, American Literature in the World (Columbia UP), examined the transnational contexts of a national literary tradition. And my research on the indigenous contexts of American and Latin American cultures is documented on nagualli.blogspot.com, a blog that I co-curate with Jose-Luis Moctezuma.
I am also deeply interested in pedagogical theory and involved with the development of alternative practices of teaching and learning at all educational levels. Having graduated high school through an alternative education program--a program for at-risk students--I've spoken as an informant-scholar to educators at national conferences on the subjects of spontaneous and collaborative learning, as well as student-directed, culturally embedded, and non-disciplinary approaches to teaching, at the primary and secondary levels of schooling.
2016-17 courses: Spring 2017, Migrations, Refugees, Races (graduate & undergraduate).
Cover art by me (based on the iconography of K’inich Janaab’ Pakal’s sarcophagus lid) for my collection of poems (Punch Press, 2012)
Manuscript page from Jaime de Angulo’s Indian Tales (UCLA Special Collections)
Precolonial ecotopia depicted in the Codex Azcatitlan (Bibliothèque Nationale de France)
- American Literature in the World, ed. with Wai Chee Dimock et al. (Columbia UP, 2016)
- "Jaime de Angulo's Metamorphic Poetics of Kinship" (forthcoming)
- "Justice of Indigenous Environments in Oscar Zeta Acosta's Autobiography" (forthcoming)
- "Ethnopoetics Inside Out" (forthcoming)
- “Introduction: Remembering Mor," in Barbara Mor, The Victory of Sex And Metal (The Oliver Arts and Open Press, 2016)
- “Scenes from an Occupation,” in The Time We Share (Actes Sud and Yale UP, 2015)
- “Barbara Mor’s Blue Rental: Rooms Outside Hollywood, Hell, USA,” Los Angeles Review of Books (2014)
- “The Soft Machine: The Linguistic Anthropology of Science Fiction,” Exit 9: The Rutgers Journal of Comparative Literature (2013)
- “The ‘I’ in the Pyramid is Outside: Heriberto Yépez and the Antihybrid,” Los Angeles Review of Books (2013)
- Boundary Loot/OHMAXAC (Punch Press, 2012)
- “Twentieth-Century Heresies: Robert Duncan’s The H.D. Book and Ezra Pound’s New Selected Poems and Translations,” MAKE Literary Magazine (2011/2013)
- “Apocalypse and/or Poiesis: Dennis Tedlock’s 2000 Years of Mayan Literature,” Jacket2 (2011)
- Poems and translations in Antioch Review, Alteration of Silence (Dialogos, 2013), Berkeley Poetry Review, Big Bridge, Damn The Caesars, Mandorla, Sous les Pavés, and Those That This: Arts Journal.