8/2022 | I am working on several projects at the moment. The long-haul, book-length project is called “Disabled by Law: Literature, Property, and Ablenationalism in the Age of Empire,” a literary, historical, and theoretical work on the rise of ablenationalism in seventeenth-century law and literature. The project argues for the need to read property law through a disability lens, paying attention in particular to how early modern jurists idealized the English citizen along the axis of race, citizenship, and heredity (the ability to inherit real property/land). At the same time, it examines the ways literature (especially drama) interrupts, if not outright rejects, legal norming and disabling force of law. In summer 2022, I completed an initial round of archival research supported by a Paul O. Kristeller Fellowship from the Renaissance Society of America and I am using my sabbatical year (2022-23) to further develop the project. For more on “ablenationalism,” a critical term coined by disability scholars David T. Mitchell and Sharon L. Snyder, read their excellent book.
As an early modernist, I’m fascinated by the prehistory 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. And as a 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), not to mention an avid consumer of house-related TV, I’m 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 putting the final touches on a more personal essay provisionally titled “Dressing to Transgress: Aesthetic Matching, Historical Costumers of Color, and the Restorying of Institutional Spaces.” I’m also working on several presentations related to the new project. My co-organizing for the Uncommon Bodies group is ongoing–we have some exciting things planned for the next couple of years. All of these projects stretch me in new ways, and I am happy to be ever learning and growing as writer, scholar, and teacher.