My research centers on contemporary literature, cultural and media studies, and the digital humanities. I am currently working on a book manuscript on national security and fiction as an epistemology. I am also working on a large-scale computational text analysis project engaged in collecting and analyzing public statements about the humanities.
Training for Catastrophe: National Security and the Fictions of the Future
Training for Catastrophe investigates the use of fiction as a mode of knowledge production within contemporary US national security discourse, arguing that this dependence on fiction – at once strange, remarkable, and unsettling – is a political tool for shaping how we imagine and respond to catastrophe today. The book focuses specifically on preparedness, a national security paradigm that moved to the center of US policy after September 11, 2001 and that simulates future catastrophic threats in order to plan for their emergence. I examine a rich archive of preparedness materials, including policy documents, workplace disaster training materials, emergency management textbooks, simulation exercises, and preparedness plans, paying particular attention to how these materials use fictionality, or the concept of fiction, to produce a certain experience of future catastrophe in the present. This experience is a form of management: preparedness trains people to accept catastrophe as part of everyday life and to expect its perpetual re-emergence.
At the core of this project is a desire to rethink what fiction does in the world and how it matters, especially in contexts where we might least expect it to be operating. Preparedness may seem to center on possible future threats, but it is in fact relentlessly focused on the present. It tells us the future is already here, that it is catastrophic, and that we can do nothing to change it. A literary studies of preparedness – one that takes the affects and effects of fiction seriously – seeks to make change possible by resuscitating the futures preparedness materials produce, allowing us to reimagine the different forms preparedness might take.
WhatEvery1Says is a large-scale computational text analysis project initiated by 4Humanities and including participants from the University of California, Santa Barbara, California State University, Northridge, and the University of Miami. We are collecting tens of thousands of online articles from newspapers, magazines, and blogs to form a corpus of public discourse on the humanities. By analyzing the corpus using a variety of statistical methods, we aim to explore the shape of contemporary discourse on the value of the humanities, both to debunk myths about the “uselessness” of the humanities and to discover new ways to communicate their value.