What is your primary research interest?
Right now, I have multiple areas of research interest and no areas of research interest. On the one hand, my research interest is on Japanese film and media and visual culture of different kinds, and a lot of that is tied to other kinds of questions of war, security, violence, and so on. And I think more broadly my interests revolve in my other classes and writings around some of those issues between war and technology, ecology and aesthetics. So I’m just sort of more broadly trying to think through these things and define threads in and out of them.
Are you working on any specific projects right now?
At the moment, I’m working on a project on love in relationship to cinema, media, and sovereignty, and part of that is through Japanese film and part of that is through a kind of broader sense of questions. But in the most immediate sense, it’s looking at contemporary media in relationship to those issues.
Can you tell us a little bit about your new position that you're starting in September?
The new position is a tenure track position at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, and it's in the Department of Languages and Culture there. I'll be teaching classes on Japanese media, film, animation, and stuff like that on one hand, and then, at least initially, classes on translation.
What experience, having been both a student and a professor at NYU, will be beneficial to your new position?
I think both as a student and working as a faculty member in this department at NYU in a lot of ways has been-- its best sort of preparatory work is not in terms of area studies in it's kind of conventional sense, but in trying to have conversations across and beyond disciplinary boundaries, and to think more broadly. My experience has not been terribly geared towards professionalization and narrowing of intellectual interests, and it has its faults and drawbacks but I think that it’s been also helpful for me in preparing me to have conversations with other people, explore other kind of traditions, other kinds of art, and so on and so forth.
What recommendations would you give a graduate student at NYU focusing in East Asian Studies?
Along the same lines, I think it's super unlikely that people will get jobs and I think the situation is getting worse and worse, so the first thing is to sort of keep in mind the realistic possibility of not getting a job and therefore not dedicating your studies to that end. I think, sometimes I wish people had been more direct with me about that kind of thing-- some people were, some people weren't, and also things change over time— but I think I still hold value very much in study and in conversation and a lot of the ideals that education affords. It has a lot of problems as well, but I think that I do see value in that, and I do think that that is, to me at least, still remains something important for me to do. I can't imagine anybody doing this who is sort of not already committed and has questions about arts and philosophy and that kind of thing, but if they are somehow motivated by the desire to get a job, they should probably not be, and continue to pursue, in spite of all institutional imperatives to the contrary, those things they feel passionate about.
Why did you choose East Asian Studies and NYU for your graduate work?
My position is a little bit peculiar in that I was already studying East Asian Studies at the University of Washington in Seattle. I had gone there to study Modern Japanese Literature. It's a much more conventional area studies department with historical divisions and all of that kind of stuff, and frames and histories that you learn little by little. The focus is on language in close connection to, for example, classical Chinese and tradition. But the problem was that, when I went there, the main faculty I went to work with were not there and I wound up taking classes in Comparative Literature and Film and Philosophy and that sort of thing. I got really interested and I wanted to continue to pursue that and I couldn't do it there, and NYU was a brand new department and that was oriented towards what they called “Critical Asian Studies.” The classes were primarily theoretical, and it was organized like a Comparative Literature department; there was much more attention to other kinds of media, and there was also a pretty direct confrontation with the history and legacy of area studies as something that emerged out of, in response to, and in support of American power during the Cold War. I think that for me initially I was very much attracted to just reading Japanese Literature and that was my primary goal. I wanted to be able to read, and I think that a traditional department is really great for that because it emphasizes it a lot and I don't think I would have gotten that if I had come straight to NYU. On the other hand, the frustrations that I had with that model were also really apparent to me, and I think NYU allowed for me to explore those things that I had studied in very different kinds of contexts and, again, to have different kinds of conversations with people to study in different departments. This department was not initially set up as a very self contained department— it was a very wide open department, so I could take classes in history, in film studies, in comparative literature and other places, and I think all of that was really good.
Interviewed April 2017