TransLit: Sustainable Trans/national Literacies: Ethics, Affect, Pedagogy
Used with permission from From the Stars in the Sky to the Fish in Sea, text by Kai Cheng Thom, illustrations by Kai Yun Ching and Wai-Yant Li (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2017).
This new line of research considers the understudied relationship between sustainability and literature, particularly transnational writing in English from feminist, queer, and transgender perspectives. The notion of sustainability runs the risk of becoming “another consumer desirable” (Saussy 2012). In turn, this study proposes an ethics of sustainability through the lens of transnational writers and poets such as Kai Cheng Thom, Emma Donoghue, Vivek Shraya, Shani Mootoo, and angela rawlings. In different but related ways, their work portrays how communities who are rendered unproductive and debilitated—migrants, refugees, transgender children and youth—are often relegated outside the script of sustainability by a dominant politics of indifference. Simultaneously, these narratives can be employed as valuable pedagogical resources, working as vehicles for inclusion from which to promote alternative modes of feeling, while simultaneously counteracting gender and racial discrimination in the classroom.
The methodology employed, which relays on qualitative analysis, crosses the borders of genre (children’s literature, young-adult fiction, poetry, and drama) and discipline (transnational literary studies, feminist environmental ethics, queer philosophy, and trans pedagogy). The study’s focus will be on three areas: ethics, affect, and pedagogy. First, I will examine how these transnational writers redefine ethics by proposing more sustainable ways to think about responsibility, hospitality, and difference. Then, I will analyze how the ethics of sustainability that they propose interrogates negative emotions such as fear and shame, transforming them into what I call “sustainable affects” (2017). In the third part of this study, I will consider the ways in which these authors are developing sustainable pedagogies by promoting inclusive ways to think about literacy, particularly through their emphasis on gender and racial issues.