5/2021 | I am working on several projects at the moment. The long-haul, book-length project is called Precarious Ability, a literary, historical, and theoretical work on the rise of ablenationalism in seventeenth-century law and literature. While the project is in its early stages, I am already narrowing the focus to land law, property, inheritance, race, and disability. I’ve been thinking about the right to alienate (sell, grant) property and how that right acts as a marker of “ablenationalism,” a critical term invented by disability scholars David T. Mitchell and Sharon L. Snyder to explain how ableism and nationalism are “conjoin[ed]” such that the privileges of citizenship “appear naturally synonymous” with physical or intellectual ability (see their excellent book for more).
As an early modernist, I have to wonder, what’s the pre-history of ablenationalism? Scholars have long established that the seventeenth century was a watershed moment in English jurisprudence. This is the century when England began its imperial expansion and colonization in a sustained and programmatic way. It is also the century of spectacular civil strife, war, and partisanship. Out of the dust of the English Civil War(s) emerged a totalizing image of the ideal citizen as a propertied, land-owning, rational, reproductive white man. I see this jurisprudence, birthed from collective trauma and imperial ambition, as an ableist jurisprudence, one that structurally imposes disability on populations that don’t have land because of precarious circumstances, can’t alienate land because of gender or nationality, or won’t ascribe to the doctrine of English primogeniture because of a difference in legal tradition.
As an immigrant, my relationship to settler colonialism is complex. As an Asian-Canadian-American, my place in the racial schema of the United States is similarly complicated. (Cathy Hong Park’s Minor Feelings has become my touchstone on this issue.) And as an avid consumer of HGTV and the co-owner of a house in a state with one of the worst racial inequalities in home ownership (MN is ranked 48th in the nation in home ownership of white people versus Black people according to this Star Tribune article), I am aware of my complicity in the cult(ure) of property ownership. These are some of the intellectual, political, and personal motivators driving my research questions.
I’m just beginning this research. This is my favorite phase. I allow myself to dream, read capaciously, and dabble in outlines. My readings mix the familiar with the unfamiliar. I’m reading critical disability studies (usually with a present-day focus), disability pedagogy, Indigenous legal scholarship (especially stemming from and pertaining to Canada), comparative and international law, and (it goes without saying!) poems, plays, pamphlets, and other literary texts that paint a vivid portrait of inheritance, property, the house, disability, race, and law in the early modern period.
In addition, I’ve just completed two short encyclopedia essays on “Trial by Jury” and “The Inns of Court” for the Routledge Encyclopedia of the Renaissance World. I’m working on a more personal essay provisionally titled “Dressing to Transgress,” on teaching, race, and the community of historical costumers of color. I am also interested in challenges that ask me to think about research dissemination in ways that are more accessible and public-oriented. All of these projects stretch me in new ways, and I am happy to be ever learning and growing as writer, scholar, and teacher.