I’m an associate professor of English at Texas Christian University, where I teach twentieth- and twenty-first-century American literature, American cultural studies, and critical race and ethnic studies.
I’m the author of Empire of Defense: Race and the Cultural Politics of Permanent War (University of Chicago Press, 2019), a cultural history of race and national defense from the formation of the Department of Defense in the late 1940s to the long wars of the twenty-first century. When the Truman administration dissolved the Department of War and formed the DOD, it did not end war but rather, I argue, established new racial criteria for who could wage it, for which lives deserved defending. Historians have long studied “perpetual war.” Critical race theorists have long confronted “the permanence of racism.” Empire of Defense shows––through an investigation of state documents, fiction, film, memorials, and news media––how the two converged and endure through national defense. Amid the rise of anticolonial and antiracist movements the world over, defense secured the future of war and white supremacy.
My second book, How White Men Won the Culture Wars: A History of Veteran America (forthcoming from the University of California Press in spring 2021) shows how a broad contingent of white men––conservative and liberal, hawk and dove, vet and non-vet––transformed the Vietnam War into a staging ground for a post–civil rights white racial reunion. Conservatives could celebrate white vets as deracinated embodiments of the nation. Liberals could treat them as minoritized heroes whose voices must be heard. Erasing Americans of color, Southeast Asians, and women from the war, white men could agree that, whatever their differences, they had suffered and deserved more. From the POW/MIA and veterans’ mental health movements to Rambo and “Born in the U.S.A.,” I tell the story of how white men remade their racial identities for an age of color blindness and multiculturalism in the image of the Vietnam vet. No one wins in a culture war––except white men dressed in army green.
I’m currently completing a third book, The Strange Career of Racial Liberalism, which traces the rise and fall of racial liberalism, the dominant racial paradigm from the onset of the second world war to the civil rights legislation of the mid-1960s, showing how the racial liberal’s faith in time––in progress, in the moral arc of the universe––undercut future movements with the insistence that racism constituted a time-limited crisis to be addressed with time-limited remedies. From social science to civil rights to literature and law, this book reveals how Americans learned to wait on time for racial change, the enduring harm of that trust in the clock, and alternative theories of time and transformation that don’t count on the bend of the arc.
I have published articles in American Literature, American Quarterly, Contemporary Literature, Critical Inquiry, and Modern Fiction Studies, among other journals, and contributed essays to the Los Angeles Reviews of Books.
At TCU, I’m a core member of the Comparative Race and Ethnic Studies Department. I have received support for my research from a Mellon Sawyer Seminar Fellowship from the University of California, Irvine, a First Book Institute Fellowship from Pennsylvania State University, and an OpEd Project Fellowship from the University of California, Merced. I completed my PhD in 2015 at the University of Connecticut.