I critically analyze the stories white people tell about white families. And I specialize in white nightmares. That is, I’m interested in genres like horror, apocalypse, and the gothic, which I see as sites of interpretive struggle. Because even the most conservative story about an “innocent” white family menaced by monstrous Others is, itself, haunted by other storytelling possibilities. (I’m pretty sure this interest in alternative perspectives on nightmares goes back to the night terrors I experienced as a kid, which you can read about here if you like…)
From pop culture to politics, I analyze how fantasies about the white nuclear family organize culturally dominant ideas about who’s good/worthy/human and who’s bad/worthless/subhuman. I think, too, about the futures in which these stories ask us to invest — and the “bad” futures they caution us against. So my work explores the interplay between fantasy and fright to ask what these stories do in the world. How do they support white supremacy and other violent colonial logics? What makes them, for some of us, emotionally persuasive? And how can they be re-imagined? As Caribbean philosopher Sylvia Wynter argues, the stories we tell shape our sense of “we”—of who belongs, who survives, who’s dangerous, who’s expendable… who’s human. And since storytelling has life-and-death stakes, Wynter says, recognizing that we are the authors of these stories is crucial.
Because stories can change. And so, in turn, can our sense of “we.”
So I engage with black feminist thought, the black radical tradition, and postcolonial theory to hack the fantasies that white people spin about families and futures. Right now I’m writing a book—Undead Ends: On Survivalism and Apocalypse—that looks at this through the lens of contemporary apocalypse films like I Am Legend and Children of Men. And my new research builds on this thinking by attending to stories about creepy houses and the, uh, creepy kids they house… (For more on my research and writing, there’s this.)
I teach at the University of Toronto, where I’ve been recognized for the ways I try to support students’ mental health while we work on their academic skills.
I’m an NBA nerd. I love my (very willful) dogs. I only watch horror films during the day. And when I travel I like to take pictures of the weird and uncanny…