Ph.D. University of Memphis (1996); A.B. Seattle University (1991)
My research and teaching is quite varied and draws on the complex intersection of Europe and the Americas. I am generally interested in what could be called "the problem of difference," which I take to be the problem of how any theorizing of the human person, culture, history, or politics is interrupted - perhaps endlessly - by the differences that cluster to whatever we are theorizing. Putting difference at the center of our thinking works against the solipsism and authoritarianism of so much work in the history of philosophy, social theory, and related stuff. Rather than seeing ourselves in what we theorize and subsequently asserting it as universal, difference affirms the diversity of historical experience. There is no single story to be told. There are instead multiple stories, entangled and estranged at one and the same time.
The result is what can be called "an ethics of suspicion." That is, a given story about a culture, a history, or even the saliency of a concept must be met with a question generated by suspicion. Who or what remains unspoken for? While at times disconcerting, this question also liberates us in a way that makes theoretical investigations so valuable: a better account of our world and of ourselves by always complicating and questioning that account.
I am interested in how the experience of the Americas - conquest, slavery, and colonialism, but also contact, mystery, and beauty - transforms traditional ideas of time, space, subjectivity, collectivity, creativity, and so on. The Americas, after all, are an intimate experience of difference. In particular, I am interested in how difference emerges as a feature of survival in the Americas, and so something quite different than the often (and always interesting) playful notion of difference discussed in a European context. In the Americas, the positivity of difference has an urgent character, an expression of what Martinican theorist Édouard Glissant describes as "the urge for each group to assert itself: that is, the need not to disappear from the world scene and on the contrary to share in its diversification." This urgency and urge utterly transforms our sense of the world of ideas.
To this end, my current reading and writing is primarily focused on Caribbean theorists from Aime Césaire and Frantz Fanon to Glissant to Raphael Confiant and Patrick Chamoiseau. More broadly, my intellectual work is informed by European theorists Jacques Derrida and Emmanuel Levinas, as well as Latin American writers Gustavo Gutiérrez and Enrique Dussel.
I am currently completing a book-length study of Glissant's poetics entitled Abyssal Beginnings: Glissant, Philosophy, and the Middle Passage, which pays special attention to how his poetics revises and transforms contemporary notions of language, subjectivity, time, space, and memory.