Frances Tran

undisciplined Asian Americanist | teacher | artist | nerd


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Upcoming Events: October 2015

The Hand that Feeds: Migrant Workers’ Poetry, Performance, and Film

Join us for a poetry reading and performance by worker writers Christine Lewis and Samantha Lee , followed by a screening of The Hand That Feeds, a documentary about the behind the scenes world of an Upper East Side bagel shop, where undocumented immigrant workers face sub-legal wages, dangerous machinery, and abusive managers who will fire them for calling in sick.

The screening will be followed by a question and answer session with stars from the film and Mahoma López, a worker featured in the film who galvanized his co-workers to form an independent union.

  • When: Oct. 30th; 6:30pm
  • Where: The Graduate Center, CUNY (Martin E. Segal Theater)
  • Co-sponsored by the Center for Place, Culture, and Politics (CPCP) and the Narrating Change, Changing Narratives Mellon Seminar in Public Engagement and Collaborative Research in the Humanities. This event is free and open to public.

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2015 ASA Conference Abstract

Excited to present at the 2015 ASA Conference tomorrow! Our panel, “Disorganizing Knowledge,” is going to be awesome- check out my abstract below and hope to see you there!

Time Travel (De)collage

on Female Coolies, Archival Knowledge and Speculative Aesthetics

Researchers working in and with colonial archives, grappling with the historical legacies of transatlantic slavery, imperial conquest, and genocide, consistently confront the immiserating sense that the past cannot be changed. The concept of time travel is captivating precisely because it suggests the possibility of altering the course of history, of avoiding violence and injury, to access other futures. However, if the dilemma remains that futuristic machinery cannot help us rectify past wrongs, in this presentation I explore how the concept of time travel can still function as a mode of confronting loss and doing justice. Engaging the figure of the Asian coolie and the history of the coolie trade in particular, I posit time travel as an alternative practice for relating to archives and archival materials, one that is necessarily aesthetic and speculative.

Archives as both institutional and epistemological formations are intimately associated with legacies of colonialism, with processes of documenting, categorizing, and objectifying difference that establish certain groups as knowable “others.” As Foucault demonstrates, archives figure as sites for the management of bodies, in which living bodies are transformed into quantifiable statistics, concrete measures of value, loss and profit. I argue that attending to time travel as a process that emphasizes encounter and embodiment, the ways in which our bodies impact other bodies as we do archival research, disorganizes the hegemonic time-space of “the archive” and what constitutes as legitimate knowledge.

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May 2015 Events

Embedded in American Studies: on Formulating Research Questions and Methods
Christina Hanhardt (Associate Professor of American Studies, University of Maryland, College Park); Allan Punzalan Isaac (Associate Professor of American Studies, Rutgers University)

This event is designed to reflect critically on the ways and means of Americanist scholarship and teaching. How does one formulate research in ways that address the interdisciplinary field of American studies? What distinguishes an American studies project from one framed in terms of a traditional discipline? With opening remarks by Professor Christina Hanhardt (University of Maryland, College Park) and Professor Allan Punzalan Isaac (Rutgers University), this session offers the opportunity for us to consider the relationship among research questions, methods, and the multi-faceted field of American studies. All are welcome, and graduate students are especially encouraged to attend!

  • When: May 5th; 4:00pm-6:00pm
  • Where: The Graduate Center, CUNY (Room C-204)

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2015 AAAS Conference Abstract

Jetting off to the 2015 Association for Asian American Studies Conference, “The Trans/National Imaginary: Global Cities and Racial Borderlands,” in Chicago/Evanston tomorrow! I’ll be presenting on an awesome panel, “Gender and the Aesthetics of Race.” Check out my abstract below and hope to see you there!

Female Coolies and Aesthetic Archives 

Re-configuring the Timespace of Asian America

Recent scholarship on the figure of the coolie has identified Latin America and the Caribbean as important components of the spatiotemporal imaginary of “Asian America.” Critics like Moon Ho Jung, Walton Look Lai, and Lisa Yun have pushed us to re-negotiate the borders of Asian American studies, not only by drawing attention to the space of the Americas writ broadly, but also by attuning us to temporalities that precede the field’s origins in the social movements of the 1960s and 70s. However, this research on the coolie has been largely historical, drawing on official archives to provide a broader conception of global economy and the distribution of colonial power during the nineteenth century. My paper contributes to such conversations by exploring how the literary enables us to negotiate gaps in colonial archives.

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April 2015 Events

Publishing Scholarly Essays: What, Where, When, and How
Gordon Hutner, joined by Duncan Faherty and Eric Lott

Gordon Hutner, editor of American Literary History, will be discussing the entire process of shaping essays into articles and describing how students can enhance their chances of getting their work accepted. We will be talking about what kinds of essays students should be publishing at various points in their careers, how much they might want to publish, and where they might send their articles for their various purposes. Professor Hutner will also talk about the protocols of editorial review and correspondence with journal editors. His talk is for grad students at any stage of their careers.

After Hutner’s talk, Professors Duncan Faherty and Eric Lott will be joining in for a larger roundtable discussion on publishing.

  • When: April 7th; 2:00pm-4:00pm
  • Where: The Graduate Center, CUNY (Room 9204)

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