I teach graduate and undergraduate classes primarily in critical Indigenous studies, Native American literature, critical and political theory, 19th–21st-century American literature, and topical courses in the environmental humanities.
I was honored to be the 2016-2017 recipient of the Thomas Jefferson Teaching Award at the College of William and Mary. To my incredible students: Thank you for your willingness to puzzle and strive.
Here are a few of the courses I have developed for the College of William & Mary.
Climate Change and the Practices of Everyday Life
A first-year seminar that examines the “big idea” of climate change from the scale of everyday life: our habits, rituals, desires, fears, and possessions. Students are challenged to think about the relationship of “everyday life” or the seemingly banal, to the deep spatial and temporal forces of climate change, such as capitalism and settler colonialism. In this course, we ask: How do our everyday lives comply with the forces that contribute to climate change? And how might our everyday lives creatively resist?
Reading list includes: Naomi Klein's This Changes Everything, Robin Wall Kimmerer's Braiding Sweetgrass, Nick Estes', "Fighting for Our Lives" and Kyle Powys Whyte's "Indigenous Climate Change."
For their final projects, students created 20-minute podcasts, adapted from original research and writing they completed during the semester. Their main charge was to create a "compelling narrative" about climate change for a wide--even slightly skeptical--audience. And that they did. Take a listen to two examples: Thomas Palazzo's exploration of oyster farming in the Chesapeake Bay, and Sarah Snipes' engaging study of ocean-level rise in Virginia Beach.
Contemporary Native/Indigenous Literature
As Choctaw writer LeAnne Howe puts it, “Native stories are power. They create people. They author tribes.” For this class, we read an assemblage of contemporary fiction, nonfiction, and poetry by Native/Indigenous writers of North America. But right away, I need to explain, backtrack, and rewrite that sentence because contemporary or genre distinctions such as fiction, nonfiction, and poetry limit and enclose what these texts have to teach us about time, space, and the profound and productive work of the imagination.
Sarah Deer visited my Native/Indigenous literature course in Fall 2017--a highlight of my teaching career to be sure. In a mere two hours, we discussed tribal court systems, federal and tribal jurisdiction, implicit divestiture, The Round House, and of course, her incredible book The Beginning and End of Rape.
Queer resists its own theory. And the course unravels before us.
This course examines the influence of psychoanalysis on queer theory; queerness and affect; and the implications of historiography--and temporality more generally--on the making of sexual subjects. Acknowledging that the terrain of queer studies is always shifting, we focus especially on scholars whose work concerns the relationship of sexuality to race, nationalism, globalization, colonialism, and the environment: José Esteban Muñoz, Jasbir Puar, Daniel Heath Justice, Bethany Schneider, Mark Rifkin, E. Patrick Johnson, Roderick Ferguson, Stacy Alaimo.
Spring 2017: Among other things, we thought about art.
American Indian Sovereignty: Land, Governance, Identity
This course offers a survey of federal Indian policy, including the Marshall trilogy, allotment, and the reservation system. We examine the paradox of sovereignty--that the settler nation "grants" sovereignty to Native Nations--against Native/Indigenous peoples' inherent sovereignty. We examine art, literature, and other cultural forms as exercises of sovereignty. Students conduct independent research on Native/Indigenous-centered economies and practices, such as seed preservation and cannabis cultivation, that counter settler colonial-capitalism.
A Matter of Time
A graduate-level critical theory seminar on temporality. Includes basic concepts in quantum physics, specifically how it is that time does not always pass identically for everyone; an introduction to the development of capital and labor time, and thus to the ways in which different bodies get to experience and occupy time differently; to what Elizabeth Freeman calls chrononormativity, or how sexual dissonance maps onto chronodissonance; and examinations of time in relation to nonhuman bodies, including object and nonhuman animal capacities, potentialities, and becomings. Readings include: Walter Benjamin, David Harvey, Elizabeth Grosz, E.P. Thompson, Jane Bennett, Rey Chow, and Dipesh Chakrabarty.