My work is preoccupied with racial performativity, especially (though not exclusively) the ways that black Americans perform racial identity. What modes of embodiment assert belonging or dis-belonging, and how? When do racialized subjects confirm and when do they subvert the expectations of their identitarian positions, and to what end? How do other factors of embodiment (gender, dis/ability, hybridity, and so forth) color these performances? I approach such questions primarily through the lenses of affect and performance studies, using literature, visual culture, fine art, theater, and movement as examples and objects of study.
My current book project, Deadpan Aesthetics in Black Expressive Culture, charts the interplay between black performances of withholding and their interpellations by black, white, and Asian interlocutors. Correcting the persistent cast of African American aesthetics as colorful, loud, humorous, and excessive, I assert that the performance of purposeful withholding plays a critical role in the work of black culture makers throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, and I focus attention on when, how, and under what conditions artists find inexpression to be a useful tactic or desirable aesthetic approach. Deadpan, I find, is a malleable and capacious register—a surface quiet that marshals genre, material surroundings, and movement in order to affect its audience.
My creative writing preoccupations are similarly concerned with the effects of formal/performative decisions in communicating—or in failing to communicate—one’s position, identity, or view. I am particularly interested in nonfiction writers’ experimentation with nontraditional essay structure—that is, in the utilization of literary devices more commonly associated with poetic form.