20th and 21st century US novels; contemporary transnational novels; literature and finance, critical theory; girl studies.
My book manuscript entitled “Intimate Economies: Financial Citizenship and Literary Form in the Contemporary Novel” theorises the post-1970 ascendancy of global finance through the archive of the contemporary novel. I read of a range of genres (including the thriller, realism, and speculative fiction) in conjunction with archival and critical research into areas including the urban planning of financial districts, the creation of the culture of personal finance, and the history of nanotechnology. Contrary to the received narrative of finance as an unrepresentably abstract form of capital it emerges in my project as a thickly material concern.
My book’s larger contribution is its analysis of the ways that “the economy” almost always means the American economy in discussions of global finance. In contrast, my work draws on a comparative reading of texts set in cities such as New York, Washington D.C., Shanghai, Lahore, and Cape Town to refute this universalism by a close attention to the specificities of location. For example, Tash Aw’s Shanghai-set novel Five Star Billionaire is not American capitalism with a Chinese flavour, but provides an alternate theory of financial temporality: a form of capital created and experienced through nostalgia in contrast to the techno-futurity of finance’s theorisation in the US. Putting these texts in conversation, my work locates the economic cultures of the contemporary US in an inescapably transnational context. This work to broaden our theories of the economy continues beyond my writing both within the academy and beyond: the panel that I organised for the 2016 American Comparative Literature Conference brought together leading scholars from critical finance studies to reconsider the narrow scope of our field; and a curated exhibition of archival materials about the effects of the rhetoric of economic crisis on city planning was displayed in a public space in Philadelphia (“Geographies of Disaster” 2014).
Girlish: Empire, Capital and Impossible Subjects
My second project “Girlish: Empire, Capital, and Impossible Subjects” theorises the rise of “the Girl” as a new frontier of global investment. The 1992 annual meeting of the World Bank placed investment in global girls front and centre, marking her shift from over-shadowed object to economic subject in the neo-Imperial gaze of Western economies. My project reads this discourse of the girl of the global south as a safe investment vehicle alongside the narrative of white Western girlhood as product and producer of an irrational and violent social disorder. Theorising girlhood beyond the arid outlines of entrepreneur or victim prescribed for her by global finance, I triangulate these divergent narratives with girls of colour, trans-girls, and girls residing under conditions of settler colonialism who are written off as sunk costs within the domestic US economy.