I research the hemispheric literatures and cultures of the Americas, principally of the twentieth century. My inquiries have taken place in the fields of indigenous and Latino studies, American poetics, and environmental criticism, with the following questions focusing my work: How are semiotics and aesthetics an interface for racial and national positionalities? And how do those positions—that is, social locations of identity, race, gender, kinship, and ecology—change when cast in the aesthetic forms that one finds in signs on the outside of normative semiotics, troping, and figuration?
My forthcoming book, Signs of the Americas: A Poetics of Pictographs, Hieroglyphs, and Khipu (University of Chicago Press, 2019), examines the ongoing ability of such seemingly antiquated sign systems as Puebloan pictographs, Anishinaabe petroglyphs, Mayan hieroglyphs, and Andean khipu, to express and shape contemporary experiences. Constellating such writers and artists—who engaged these signs—as Joaquín Torres-Garcia, Jaime de Anglo, Simon Ortiz, Gerald Vizenor, John Borrows, Louise Erdrich, Ed Dorn, Charles Olson, Robert Creeley, Cy Twombly, Alurista, Gloria Anzaldúa, William Burroughs, Michael Taussig, and Cecilia Vicuña, the conceptual questions at the heart of my work are: how are these signs subject to normative positions, spaces, ‘epistemic murks,’ and the distorted temporalities or allochronicities of history while they shape those positions, spaces, and timescapes as well? That is, how are signs technologies of the social body in both senses of the term, techne: subjectivizing the body while making available its discrepant fashionings? How are the signs of the Americas aesthetic thresholds in the fullest sense? And by what failure of the conception of the sign as Saussurean index of content do we strain to see history formed and transformed in semiotic and aesthetic thresholds? That is, to push still harder on a Benjaminian conception of form in history, his “eddy in the stream of becoming”: how is history more than an archive, more than its collected contents? How is it also a swirl of present making, a sign that signs—like people—are roiled and active at the scene of their becoming, then and now? And how does that mimetic reserve compel us because it constrains us: grounding us in material presences—visual, sonic, and tactile—that must signify the very material histories they wish to flip headways, into contemporary streams and unnatural becomings?
I co-edited American Literature in the World (Columbia UP, 2016), which examines the transnational contexts of a national literary tradition. My critical and creative writings have appeared in Antioch Review, Berkeley Poetry Review, Big Bridge, Damn the Caesars, Jacket2, Los Angeles Review of Books, Mandorla, Make: A Literary Magazine, Sous les Pavés, The Time We Share (Actes Sud and Yale UP), Those That This: Arts Journal, and Tzak: A Journal of Poetry and Poetics. I published my first book of poems, Boundary Loot, with Punch Press in 2013. Most recently, I published a portion of a new book-length collection of nonfiction and poetry writing, Skins of Columbus, in Make: A Literary Magazine (Spring 2018). Awarded the 2018 Fence Modern Poets Series Award, this work of poetry and anthropological essays--Skins of Columbus: A Dream Ethnography--will be published by Fence Books in March, 2019. I am also collaboratively coediting two special journal issues: 1) “Convoluting the Dialectical Image” on the creative praxis of the Benjaminian essay for an international journal of creative writing and 2) “Jaime de Angulo and West Coast Modernism” for Chicago Review (January 2019). My projects have been supported by a fellowship at the Yale Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, a fellowship at the Institute for Critical Social Inquiry at The New School, a two-year Provost’s Career Enhancement Postdoctoral Fellowship that I held at the University of Chicago (2015-17), and the Neubauer Family-endowed assistant professorship I currently hold.
My future work is emerging from the special issue that I am coediting on Walter Benjamin: in particular as an investigation of constellation, ‘convolution,’ montage, and assemblage as critical praxis. This work seeks to recover and amplify theories of constellating the dialectical image—as opposed to segmentation, breaking apart, rupture, or analysis—for literary interpretation. Benjamin is a special resource here, in that he offers a way of understanding the distances of mediation as nearness, the seeming rifts of analytical rupture points as points of constellation (even astrologization and divination), connectivity, and montage. In terms of an archive, this work seeks to organize and understand how different strategies of divining (hepatomancy, astrology, Tarot, chiromancy, sortilege, and even political polling) have constellated presences in literary works and life practices. How, in other words, do our futures foreseen make the noise of our embodied nows? And what about our presents, futures, and fractured pasts can we learn from that noise? My aim in this project, as well, is to continue to theorize on the transdisciplinary noise at the intersection of poetry and anthropology that sounds in my book on the signs of the Americas.
Sample of Courses Taught
Undergraduate: Ethnopoetics: Racism, Racialization; and Poetry; Migrations, Refugees, Races: Politics and Poetics of Statelessness; Poetic Voices: Manifestos, Movements, and Modes (Technical Seminar in Creative Writing); Poetry and the Human (PATH) Core, Parts I and II
Graduate: Anthropological Poetics: Transdisciplinary Noise and the Literary Object; Poetic Voices (Technical Seminar in Creative Writing); Anthropological Poetics
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)
- "Pictography, Law, and Earth: Gerald Vizenor, John Borrows, and Louise Erdrich," Publications of the Modern Language Association (PMLA) (accepted, forthcoming)
- American Literature in the World: An Anthology from Anne Bradstreet to Octavia Butler, ed. with Wai Chee Dimock et al. (Columbia UP, 2016)
- "Jaime de Angulo's Metamorphic Poetics" (forthcoming introduction to special issue of Chicago Review, 2019)
- "Justice of Indigenous Environments in Oscar Zeta Acosta's Autobiography" (in process, forthcoming)
- "Ethnopoetics Inside Out" (in process, 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.