Ph.D., English, University of Pennsylvania, 2018
(Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies Certificate, Center for Teaching & Learning Certificate)
M.A., English, University of Pennsylvania, 2013
B.A., English with a Minor in Classical Civilization, University of California, Los Angeles, 2012
(Summa Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa, English Departmental Highest Honors, College Honors)
Research and Teaching Fields
Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century British Literature; Literature and Science; History of Medicine; Medical Humanities; Disability Studies; Gender and Sexuality Studies
Much of my interdisciplinary research and teaching has been informed by larger questions about embodiment, particularly the shifting ways in which bodily difference has been imagined, valued, and managed over time. This investment in how and why bodies matter is born out of my own lived experience as a queer, disabled person of color.
Prior to 1997, I had lived abroad in many different countries in Asia for most of my childhood. Having been raised in multicultural urban environments like Singapore, I was ultimately unprepared for my relocation to conservative, suburban Georgia. Over the course of a decade, I faced acute forms of homophobia and racism before I had even developed a vocabulary for identifying and grappling with either. Passing and identity erasure unfortunately became the means of surviving the hostility knitted into the daily fabric of my community. It is this experience that shapes how I approach student mentorship as a form of not only individual empowerment but witnessing and care.
When I moved to Los Angeles for my undergraduate studies, I immersed myself in community organizing at UCLA. My pedagogy draws from these formative experiences in student activism. I envision my classroom as a safe space for collective knowledge-making and debate. I want my students from different disciplinary and personal backgrounds to inhabit together the potential discomfort and disorientation of textual encounters with difference that can then generate unexpected moments of solidarity and connection. This necessarily involves experiences of vulnerability, risk, and insecurity. But this has also produced forms of pleasure and joy.
I later served as a Peer Learning Facilitator for UCLA’s Covel Peer Learning Labs. I worked with my primarily student athletes and international students, two student populations that have unique learning needs. At Covel, we emphasized peer learning. We facilitators worked to enable a collaborative learning environment otherwise unavailable to many undergraduates, many of whom often felt alienated in large lecture courses. Facilitating moves away from the top-down method of lecture-based teaching that frames student as passive consumers of knowledge toward a co-productive learning (between instructor and student, among students) that takes seriously how, not just what, students are learning. Our training also challenged us to think creatively about course design: we experimented with digital methods and flipped classrooms that encouraged multimodal learning for students with very different learning needs.
Discussions about inclusive course design and accessibility questioned the kinds of bodies and norms we privilege in academic contexts. Did my own classes have a place for a student like me struggling with brain fog and chronic pain? Disability thinkers like Eli Clare inspire me to do disability as both theory and praxis. My academic work has been inseparable from my own poetic practice, which tries to think through the complex entanglement of my own scoliosis-related disability, queerness, and Chinese heritage. My most recent project, Curvature, is a collaboration between myself and Philadelphia-based photographer, Den Sweeney. By putting poetry and photographic portraits together, Curvature asks whether or not the queer body in pain can be narrated. If “queer” simultaneously means “to estrange, to deviate, to twist,” Curvature turns to my scoliosis to speculate on what unexpected textures a queer body might have. I embrace disability thinking and art’s intertwining of meaning and making, and its unabashed theorizing from the embodied self.
I ultimately leave my classes wondering whether if I have made an impact on the way these students think about science and medicine’s relationship to society and culture. Yet, as Anne Hudson Jones reminds us, “these are changes that cannot be measured by statisticians looking at health outcomes zip code by zip code. They occur in individual lives one person at a time, on no predictable schedule or protocol, sometimes subtly, sometimes dramatically.”