Appointed As

Center for the Humanities in Practice/ Humanities Collaboratory Postdoctoral Fellow


ACLS Emerging Voices Fellowships program


The Ohio State University

PhD Field of Study

PhD, American Studies, Yale University

Dissertation Abstract

"The Utopics of Migrant Melancholia: Cultures and Practices of Memory in Contemporary Migrant Life"

The Utopics of Migrant Melancholia: Cultures and Practices of Memory in Contemporary Migrant Life explores emergent modes of migrant memory in contemporary culture and theorizes what I call “the utopics of migrant melancholia.” I explore allegories of unauthorized migrant boat crossings out of Vietnam, Haiti, and North Africa and bring together, for the first time, a multidisciplinary, cross-cultural, trans-historic, transoceanic archive of migrant culture. Entering through literature, art, music, and
spaces of labor, I underscore the work of memory and melancholia in migrant life and highlight how culture informs our critical understandings of diasporic memory, identity, and community. The work of memory in migrant life is intrinsically framed by our difficult crossings—the dangerous, unauthorized border crossings that impact embodied and emotional registers of life in diaspora, long after the crossing.
The ways in which we understand ourselves in diaspora, and in relation to others, are framed by a melancholic memory of the difficult ways in which we left. But the melancholia that pervades migrant memory is less focused on the people and places we have lost and is more focused on the ways in which we have lost. Migrant melancholia is not pathological. It is more dynamic than traditional definitions
allow and it moves beyond the isolated subject, revealing new dimensions of diasporic connection across time and space.
Migrant melancholia has a forward-facing, utopic impulse that has the potential to foster a sense of shared loss, across conventional categories of diaspora, propelling us towards new concepts of the diasporic self and connection rather than relying on any notion of return or reconnection to an idealized past. The utopic impulse is rooted in the everyday practice of survival, where the memory of loss drives a
sense of urgency in the work to build new forms of history, community, and imaginative life. A focus on the utopics of migrant melancholia reclaims our narratives of loss and reminds others that it was never easy to leave and it was even harder to arrive anywhere close to “home.” It catalyzes new critical
engagements with the affective registers of migrant life and opens up new understandings of connection and relation across difference, revealing the creativity and innovation intrinsic to migrant memory.