Texas Tech University

Featured Scholar - November 2020

Wolff Featured Scholar

What are you watching/streaming?
I just watched The Last Dance on Netflix. I'm horribly unathletic and know little about sports, but I lived in Chicago during the era of Michael Jordan, so it was a nostalgic indulgence.

What games are you playing?
I lack the patience for gameplay with two notable exceptions: MarioKart and Connect Four.

What are you listening to?
I will admit to obsessively listening to public radio most days, but when I pry myself away I often turn to jazz. Thelonious Monk is a key companion, especially when I'm trying to write. Lately, I find myself hooked on his recording Live in Paris (1964). I also keep coming back to Thelonious Alone in San Francisco (1959), which resonates in a new way for me during our current moment.

What are you reading?
I don't know where to start! An abbreviated list: I'm currently immersed in Katherine McKittrick's edited volume, Sylvia Wynter: On Being Human as Praxis; Ashanté M. Reese's Black Food Geographies; and Ariella Aïsha Azoulay's Potential History: Unlearning Imperialism. I'm also eager to delve into Arlene Dávila's newest book, Latinx Art: Artists, Markets, Politics. And I have a healthy stack of beautiful exhibition catalogues from this past year that I'm enjoying, including The Other Side of Now: Foresight in Contemporary Caribbean Art; Scherezade García: From This Side of the Atlantic; and InterSectionality: Diaspora Art from the Creole City.

What are you writing/thinking about?
So much of what I write these days is informed by the strange warping of time and (dis)embodiment that the pandemic has ushered in and by the heightened sense of urgency and possibility that recent cries for racial and civic justice for Black lives have foregrounded in US politics and culture. As I revise my book manuscript on food and art in 20th century Mexico City, I find myself returning to a central aspect of the book, namely the relationships among capital, labor, nationalism and racial anxieties. These issues, which I discuss in a historical context, also pervade our current moment, in which we in the US are wholly reliant on essential workers to grow, harvest, and package our food supply, yet so many of these individuals labor on our behalf neither protected from the dangers of their home countries nor from the threats of COVID-19. The ways in which COVID reveals the inequities of our supply chain echoes the historical circumstances I have been researching for years, a fact that leaves me feeling both reinvigorated to write but also disheartened by the continuity of these issues. My writing, therefore, often circles back to the undeniable legibility of the past in our present—a product of the stubbornly persistent legacy of colonial injustices across the Américas—and to how our ever-expanding visual world is rapidly contending with the realities and fictions of our past that have led us to this moment. There are many great artists I have been writing about of late who dealt with these issues historically, like the Mexican modernist Rufino Tamayo, and today, like the interdisciplinary artists Scherezade Garcia, Leah Gordon, and Edouard Duval-Carrié. I feel privileged to be able to navigate these difficult issues through the beauty of their works.