Primary Research Areas

20th and 21st century Irish literature and poetry; global/postcolonial literature and theory; body, disability, and fat studies; gender and sexuality studies; human rights and political theory

Secondary Research Areas

Science fiction; pop culture; media studies

Current Dissertation Abstract

“Disorder, Digestion, and Metabolic Futures: Disabled Bellies in Contemporary Global Fiction” examines the ongoing hardiness of a world that claims to be “postcolonial” via the transmission and generation of medical knowledge. Literature, as both a vehicle for pathological norms and a potential challenge to those norms, provides a crucial narrativization of illness and disability.

Supported by readings of Han Kang, Carmen Maria Machado, and J.M. Coetzee, I argue that the acquisition and production of medical knowledge is challenged by embodied displays of disordered eating and disrupted digestion, and that any future divorced from the violence inherent in medical logics of containment, knowability, and diagnosis is thus metabolically-determined; in different terms, the future is alimentary in that “the warm illumination of a horizon imbued with potentiality”[1] is warm because the viscera, when cut open and exposed to the world, is itself steaming.

Relying on Ann Laura Stoler’s theorization of “duress,” I emphasize that the accumulative nature of medical knowledge and the ongoing project of medical pathologization is not only a product of colonialism, but also a potent means by which bodies are currently marginalized and exposed to violence. Kang, Machado, and Coetzee resist the prevailing impulse to pathologize and enforce diagnoses (and thus also knowability) by staging resistance to these impulses via disordered eating, moments of digestive failure, and surgical interventions that purposefully target normal metabolic processes for permanent disruption. Each text, in showing the violence inherent in the acquisition and maintenance of “health,” also questions how current regimes of ableist violence are reinforced and supported by an apparatus that ostensibly claims to keep bodies safe, “whole,” and well. If the future is truly a liberatory one, it must emerge from revisiting the current overreliance on the assignation of positive morality to orderly, metabolically acceptable bodies.

[1] José Esteban Muñoz, Cruising Utopia: the Then and There of Queer Futurity, Durham: Duke UP, 2009, 1.