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Keeping Tabs: Familiar Form

A return to ghosts, negotiating art and music, borders and bars, political aesthetics, and more.


Remember our first Keeping Tabs which spanned national histories and vampiric poetry? This week’s roundup brings us to an eerie return, starting off with haunting in Asian American poetry to ghosts of trauma through colonialism and war. Let’s get back into position with our favorite article apps, bookmarks folders, or papers and pens for these weekend reads!

Content warning for the last link for entomophobia.

The Poetics of Haunting by Jane Wong

Pulling together poets like Sally Wen Mao, Don Mee Choi, Monica Sok, and Bhanu Kapil, this digital project by Jane Wong creates a space for lingering with specters of/within/among Asian American poetry.

A poetics of haunting insists on invocation: a deliberate, powerful, and provocative move toward haunted places. How does history – particularly the history of war, colonialism, and marginalization – impact the work of Asian American poets across time and space? How does language act as a haunting space of intervention and activism?


Title TBD [Part I] by Eunsong Kim & Gelare Khoshgozaran

Eunsong Kim and Gelare Khoshgozaran —later pulling in Bhanu Kapil and Cauleen Smith!— wrangle with parameters and power vectors of "making art" and "the Artist" in this two-part piece for Contemptorary.

contemptorary: How are you able to construct a life where radicality is not a theorem, but a praxis of one’s politics and public life are aligned with the work? With contemptorary, we were thinking of moments of alienation that we experience due to our direct politics in different communities as valuable for critical coalition building and healing.

Bhanu: … Dear ones, I am not sure that I have constructed this life, it having been such a shit year. The Year of Shit and Magic, as I began to call it, at one point, not wanting to forget the parts where we lay down our heads on the same pillow together for a few hours, and wrote, while one of us dreamed, and vice versa.


EX.321 The Hour: Club music’s next generation by RA Exchange

In their first full audio documentary, Resident Advisor explores and converses with the spaces, players, and music of new club music, with particular emphasis on political and cultural frameworks of the ‘underground’.

Content warning for the following piece for anti-Blackness and violence.

A 2-Year-Old YG Track Is Under Fire for Encouraging Robberies Against Chinese Americans by Esther Wang

In a GQ report on recent outrage in Chinese and Chinese-American communities over rapper YG’s song “Meet the Flockers,” Esther Wang underscores a complex tangle of anti-Blackness and Asian American communities, censorship, and hip hop.

Hip hop is perhaps the only art form whose fictions are confused for truth, and not only charged with inciting violence, but criminalized. Few would accuse Vladimir Nabokov’s novel Lolita of being the prime driver of pedophilia (though it too has been the subject of misguided calls to ban it from distribution). It requires a considerable stretch of the imagination, as well as a certain amount of naivete, to believe that a song released in 2014 is what’s driving crimes against Chinese American immigrants in 2016.

Content warning for the following piece for anti-Black violence.

A Growing Asian-American Movement Calls for Prison Abolition by Andrew Szeto and Karyn Smoot

Karyn Smoot and Andrew Szeto in Truthout trace the layered and often contentious relationships of Asian American communities to prison abolition, and the status of Asian Americans in prison abolition movements now.

A complicating factor in organizing Asian Americans against the prison industrial complex has been an implicit investment that many have in the state — an investment that has often been at the expense of Black communities.

Whether through notions of personal safety, or capital accumulation, Asian Americans have a long history of participating in the prison industrial complex. Tamara Nopper has written about how many Asian Americans uphold structures of anti-Blackness in the everyday policing of Black people in the relationship between Asian business owners and Black customers. She argues that the racism and policing that Black people often experience while shopping in Asian-owned stores, for instance, is a fundamental component of anti-Blackness’s racial hierarchy.


Nothing Can Be Done: V. V. Ganeshananthan interviews Anuk Arudpragasam by V. V. Ganeshananthan

In a conversation with V. V. Ganeshananthan for the L.A. Review of Books, Anuk Arudpragasam discusses debut novel The Story of a Brief Marriage, sitting on the immediacy of the moment, the Sri Lankan Civil War, and the difficult nexus between care and action. (To note for your calendar, you can find Anuk reading at the Workshop with Nayomi Munaweera, Hasanthika Sirisena, Sunil Yapa, and Kitana Ananda next week, on October 21st!)

I knew what was going to happen: they are going to die and if they don’t die their lives are going to be different from this moment on. That is the condition of most of the people [involved in the final stages of the war], they have died or they continue living but have been ruined in various ways or in ways that a lot of them can’t return from. When I was writing it there was no question of redemption or coming back, there was no question of time after this time. If there is a plot, if there is suspense, if there is possibility, [then] there is the possibility of anything other than this. To pretend there was some way out of this would be dishonest. It was static and it was pervasive and it was inescapable.


Claudia Rankine on Black Glamour by Morgan Jerkins

Morgan Jerkins engages with poet Claudia Rankine in conversation about Black beauty, favorite lipsticks, and her penchant for colorful things for New York Magazine’s The Cut.(Check out past AAWW events these friends of the Workshop have been part of: Claudia Rankine’s poetry reading, and Morgan Jerkins’ event in April!)

The thing about the things that I choose — like my lipstick or what I eat for lunch or what pen I use when I write — is that once I find the thing that I like, the search is over. That is the thing I will have for many, many years, unless somehow something gets introduced to me and I’m like, “Oh that might be better.”


The Sad Attempt to Make Trumpism Cool by Hua Hsu

In the New Yorker, friend of the Workshop Hua Hsu reports on a recent conservative art show #DaddyWillSaveUs and the young-ish champions of the alt-right.

There was an interesting prank buried somewhere, about the limits of the freedom espoused by art spaces, about pushing the boundaries of taste and manners in a world where such things are meant to be contingent and flexible, and then pointing a finger at the hypocritical prudes who protest that someone has finally gone too far. But that assumes work interesting enough to press such questions. In practice, the show was like a parody of bad art. Walls were hung with Wintrich’s photographs, agitprop posters, an Apple logo with Trump’s silhouette in place of the familiar bite.