What I have cared about from the beginning of my scholarly work, both as an intellectual and political matter, is the productivity of questions of race and place for feminist thought. Most recently, Indigenous Studies and my colleagues and friends there have been transforming all ways of understanding histories of race, land, place, and political futures.
My first book, Landscapes of the New West: Gender and Geography in Contemporary Women’s Writing (1999) sought to enter and alter the field of US Western literary and culture study. The terrain for that challenge was landscape study since landscape is understood in cinematic, literary, and historical Wests to be a marker of indisputable “westness.” The book used feminist theoretical geography as its frame for literary criticism, and acknowledged a huge debt to the New Western History for its conceptualization of critical race and feminist issues in the contact zones and border spaces of the West.
My second book, Surfer Girls in the New World Order (2010) again worked with the concept of region, but now in the context of globalization which mapped regions away from their historic relations of national centers/metropoles to peripheries, into new postregional blocs and political economies – i.e. NAFTA, CAFTA, MERCOSUR, and the EEC. The choice of surfing as an object of study grew out of my own history, and my surprise to see surfing emerge suddenly as no longer a “local” subcultural phenomenon belonging to a place like southern California, but suddenly in the 1990s a “global” mass culture story, a supposedly environmentalist girl-friendly story, moreover, that doubled for an argument about globalization itself.
Most of my scholarship including the current book in progress and public humanities project have been centered on a few recurrent queries: 1) the ongoing condition of women’s and girls’ lives in the contemporary period and the relation of feminism to diagnosing female precarity. I have not been willing to give up on “women” as a research category or site of situated knowledge even as the field of feminist theory has often distanced itself from “women” in favor of ostensibly more sophisticated and new/better formulations of gender and gender performance. 2) questions and concepts of place and the relation of gender and women to inhabitation, mobility, and feminist political thought. 3) issues of representation, genre/form, and the relation of social life and imaginings to them. Tensions between the material and discursive are rich and productive for my work, entwining with politics but not in any final way.