Greetings, “together we’ll make magic!”
Now that the fall semester is in full swing, I thought that I would finally write to introduce myself to the Futures Initiative’s virtual communities. My name is Frances Tran and this year I will be serving as a Postdoctoral Fellow and the Interim Associate Director of the Futures Initiative, while our Director of Administration and Programs, Katina Rogers, is on parental leave. Despite the volatility of our current political climate, it heartens me to be part of a program committed to advancing equity, inclusion, diversity, and innovation at all levels of higher education.
I am so grateful to have been involved in two important events already that affirm this mission. The first was the Undergraduate Leadership Institute on August 9th, welcoming the 2017-18 cohort of CUNY Undergraduate Leadership Fellows. This program, co-directed by Lauren Melendez, Mike Rifino, and Kashema Hutchinson aims to instill undergraduate students across CUNY with skills and experiences to enhance their understanding of leadership- not as a position of power, but as a practice of creating conditions of possibility for collaboration and solidarity. You can read Lauren’s welcome address to the leadership fellows here as well Mike and Kashema’s recap of the event, which includes gorgeous photos of our directors and fellows. Mike also wrote a thoughtful reflection on the “Resource Scavenger Hunt” activity he facilitated during the Institute that includes strategies for replicating this exercise as well as thoughts on how to improve it in the future.
The second event happened just yesterday on “Pedagogies of Dissent for Asian American Studies,” which I was lucky enough to organize and participate in. We had an amazing turnout and such an engaged conversation about institutional racism, the challenges and material costs of dissent, and the different forms and shapes dissent could take, both in and out of the classroom. I’ll be posting a fuller recapt of this event soon, so keep an eye out for that, but all in all, it was a wonderful way for us to kick-off our new Thursday Dialogues series, which are largely informal brownbag lunch conversations around topics of interest that have been selected by Futures Initiative staff and fellows. They are open to the public, so we hope to see you there. We have many other exciting events planned for the year as well, including one next Monday on September 11th, “Queer Pedagogies and Pedagogy for LGBTQ Instructors,” organized by FI Fellow, Kalle Westerling and cosponsored by CLAGS, which is part of our annual “University Worth Fighting For” series.
For now, I thought that I would close this post by telling you all a little bit about myself and the work that I do. My research focus is on Asian American and multiethnic cultural studies, with an emphasis on queer of color and feminist critique. I am especially inspired by science and speculative fictions–works by authors from underrepresented and underserved communities, from dispossessed, diasporic, and differently abled populations–for the ways in which they press us to consider new modes of seeing, knowing, and being in the world. I believe deeply in Walidah Imarisha and adrienne marie brown’s assertion that “all organizing is science fiction,” and that speculative aesthetics offer us not an escape from, but a way of re-approaching historical and persisting conditions of social and material inequity as well as envisioning the possibility for more equitable and just worlds.
Currently, I am in the process of revising my dissertation into a book manuscript, tentatively titled, “Aleatory Entanglements: On Minoritized Knowledges, Speculative Aesthetics, and Other Humanities.” This project posits entanglement as as a means of re-visioning our understanding of the relationship among minoritized fields of knowledge within the humanities. It calls attention to how interdisciplines like Asian American and Ethnic studies are trapped or ensnared within the academy’s value hierarchies, its systems of avowal and disavowal, while also underscoring how these fields are deeply involved, bound up, and entangled with each other in ways that challenge efforts to regulate and compartmentalize minority difference. Drawing on Asian American and multiethnic science and speculative fictions across a range of cultural media, this project explores how these texts enable the recognition of messy, unpredictable, aleatory entanglements among multiple times, spaces, and bodies in order to illuminate “other” humanities attuned to the continuing materiality of racial difference and social inequity.
This project aligns with the aims of the Futures Initiative in so many ways, which is all the more reason I am looking forward to learning from my colleagues and our program’s ever-expanding intellectual and social networks. Here’s to a year full of challenges, hard work, dedication, and dissent. As Nao, the protagonist of one of my favorite books to date, Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being, says, “together we’ll make magic!”